Was life better in the past?

As everyone knows I’ve spent quite a bit of time over the past four years reading about neuroscience and psychology. Occasionally I’ll see some comment made about how some buddhist monk in 2300 B.C or a Christian philosopher in 1200 A.D. made an observation that is now supported by science. I would often think, “Wow, that’s pretty impressive. Even though these guys didn’t have the advantages of the modern era—M.R.I.s and peer reviewed research etc.—they were able to get to some core truths about the nature of existence.”

I now wonder if I have this backwards. I’m presuming modern humans have the advantage and people in the past were disadvantaged. But, frankly, if you lived in 2300 B.C. and your day consisted of catching some fish and then staring at clouds for 6 hours, how could you not make knowledgeable observations about existence? And, if you live in our era with the endless onslaught of meaningless bullshit, how can you really have the time to simply exist?

I’m aware that not everyone in the past sat around staring at clouds all day – there were wars, pestilence, starvation etc. But some folks did, for decades perhaps. And they probably led richer lives (if you’ll allow me a value judgement) than we do now.

2 Responses to “Was life better in the past?”


  1. deborah forbis

    In 2300 B.C.E. the Sumerians were too occupied with learning 2000 plus cuneiform symbols to pay attention to the clouds. Buddha didn’t begin meditating until the early 5th century B.C.E. I don’t know if he paid attention to the clouds, maybe…

  2. Wil

    Did Buddha have Twitter?