A foreign country

子曰:「吾猶及史之闕文也。有馬者,借人乘之,今亡已夫!」
Confucius said: “Even when I was young scribes would leave a blank space if they were unsure of what to write and people who owned horses would lend them to others to ride. Nowadays such practices have disappeared.”

For Confucius, the past was a foreign country: they did things differently there. Rather than risk screwing up an important manuscript by writing down the wrong character, young scribes were always sure to check with someone who knew better before committing brush to bamboo strip; and rather than let their unused mount while away its time in a field, people offered it to their friends and neighbors to carry out productive labor.

Such were the good old days when men were men and you could leave home without having to lock your door and, well… you get the point. Why is it that, like Confucius, we tend to believe that human civilization has always been in decline?

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