Note: I cut and pasted the segment staring with "As Voltaire memorably remarked". The underlined pieces of text from that point on are therefore not live links.
Richard Feynman, mentioned below, was a theoretical physicist. Look him up in Wikipedia via this link. Not only should he not be forgotten, he should be enjoyed. And while you're at it, do lookup Brainpickings.
In the wonderful newsletter called Brainpickings(www.brainpickings.org) there appeared today an article called Big Thinkers on the Only Things Worth Worrying About. There are snippets from a variety of Big Thinkers", and much presented ruefully, because worry is endemic to our species. One particular segment caught my eye because the writer talks passionately about the importance of reading about HISTORY which of course I agree with. She talks about 'presentism', the tendency these days to dismiss the past as irrelevant and the consequences, grave indeed, of doing so. She includes a quote from Noga Arikha.
"As Voltaire memorably remarked, “Appreciation is a wonderful thing: It makes what is excellent in others belong to us as well.” Without appreciation for the Feynmans of the past we duly don our presentism blinders and refuse to acknowledge the fact that genius is a timeless quality that belongs to all ages, not a cultural commodity of the present. Many of our present concerns have been addressed with enormous prescience in the past, often providing more thoughtful and richer answers than we are able to today, whether it comes to the value of space exploration or the economics of media or the essence of creativity or even the grand question of how to live. Having “living heroes” is an admirable aspiration, but they should never replace — only enhance and complement — the legacy and learnings of those who came before. Below is a tiny piece
"Indeed, this presentism bias is precisely what Noga Arikha, historian of ideas and author of Passions and Tempers: A History of the Humours, points to as her greatest worry in one of the most compelling answers. It’s something I’ve voiced as well in a recent interview with the Guardian. Arikha writes:
´I worry about the prospect of collective amnesia.While access to information has never been so universal as it is now — thanks to the Internet — the total sum of knowledge of anything beyond the present seems to be dwindling among those people who came of age with the Internet. Anything beyond 1945, if then, is a messy, remote landscape; the centuries melt into each other in an insignificant magma. Famous names are flickers on a screen, their dates irrelevant, their epochs dusty. Everything is equalized.'
"She points to a necessary antidote to this shallowing of our cultural hindsight:"
'There is a way out: by integrating the teaching of history within the curricula of all subjects—using whatever digital or other means we have to redirect attention to slow reading and old sources. Otherwise we will be condemned to living without perspective, robbed of the wisdom and experience with which to build for the future, confined by the arrogance of our presentism to repeating history without noticing it.'