If you imagine the history of life on earth as the Empire State Building, all of recorded human history is only a dime on top. Human history is astonishingly short and our nation’s history is too; you’re no more than three lifetimes away from a world before the US existed.
It’s only five lifespans to Shakespeare. Two more and the only Europeans to see America sailed from Greenland. You’re ten lifetimes from the fifth crusade. Twenty from the Visigoth sack of Rome. Make it forty, and the Olmecs are building the first cities in Mexico, while the New Kingdom collapses in Egypt.
Sixty life times ago, or about 4,100 years ago, Abraham shows up in the Bible. A few lifetimes before that, and you’ve come out the bottom of that dime.
All this was excerpted from an earlier post about how short history seems when following a chain linking the death of one long life to a birth of another person who also lives a long time.
I came across more interesting examples of time perceptions we don’t normally think about. Think about these:
Most Americans will now live to around 80. But it took only 66 years to go from the Wright brothers first flight, in 1903, to men landing on the moon.
The first moon landing was in 1969.
The great pyramid was built around 2560 BC.
Cleopatra died around 30 BC.
That means Cleopatra lived closer in time to us than to the Egyptians who built the great pyramid.
Things in the far past get so compressed in our imagination it seems that everything happened close together in time. But consider this: the great pyramid was as old to the Romans as the Romans are to us.
And speaking of us, John Tyler, the President of the United States in 1841, has a grandson living today. When John Tyler was 63 he had a son, Lyon. And at 75, Lyon had a son named Harrison Tyler who’s alive today.