The good of other times let people state; I think it lucky I was born so late.
—Ovid, who said that twenty centuries ago, though we still find the sentiment everywhere and no doubt consider it at least every once in awhile when some catastrophe threatens to engulf the world in fire or when we become convinced that the burden of modernity is far too much for individuals to bear—nonetheless there is one benefit (at least!) to life this very second, and that’s the overwhelming source of great works of art built up and left for us by the past. Who can even say how many classics there are to read, how many great paintings, sculptures, songs—movies? Go back to ancient Athens and you’ve lost most of them. Even a century deprives you of a lot of good stuff.
Now this here is an aside that’s stuck with me: I’ve never been able to find it, but I remember reading a great short story about time travel when I was younger, basically taking the form of a letter someone had left in a train station for someone else to find much, much later—one or two centuries. The first guy, the time traveler, had gone back to Kansas (let’s say…) and decided to stay there, citing two reasons: no nuclear weapons and tasty lemonade. The unprovable idea that in the past tastes were somehow tastier, colors more luscious, curves more sensuous, has stuck with me ever since.