Spoiler alert—this is how Ian Mortimer concludes MILLENNIUM, his history of change over the past thousand years:
Outside the sun is shining. As I sit here I can hear the bells of Moretonhampstead church ringing, as they have done for centuries. I can hear a motorbike, its throttle twisted hard as the rider comes out of a corner on the road from Exeter. My mind goes back to the priests who came here on foot a thousand years ago, and stood near the cross outside this house, preaching the Word of God that would eventually bind this small place into the vast network of the human race. Tomorrow the newspapers will be filled with the flotsam and jetsam of modern life—international crises, stock market reports, murder trials, sex scandals, and an aircraft lost without trace in the South China Sea. And at the end of it all, I find myself wondering what hasn’t changed over the last thousand years, and what won’t change over the next. At first those questions seem vast, and overwhelming. But then I think about them again. I picture a troubadour singing in the shadows of a hall fire. I imagine thousands of people walking beneath the overhanging eaves of narrow streets to see Shakespeare’s plays. I hear the shouts of drunken farm workers in the candlelit gloom of a seventeenth-century inn as Jan Steen studies their ruddy faces, preparing to paint them.
The simplicity of the answer makes me smile. What doesn’t change is that we find so many things in life worthwhile—love, beauty, children, the comfort of friends, telling jokes, the joy of eating and drinking together, storytelling, wit, laughter, music, the sound of the sea, the warmth of the sun, looking at the Moon and stars, singing and dancing…
What won’t change? Everything that allows us to lose ourselves in the moment.
Everything that is worth dreaming about.
Everything that is without price.