"The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there."
A quote that is attributed to a British novel, but I don't know which novel.
In my own personal life experience, I can certainly attest to that. As a small child, we had black window shades so that enemy bombers could not see lights and easily bomb our town. Food was rationed and there were air raid sirens. Before I was 12, there was no television of which I was aware. We "watched" the radio. The phone was a black thing that was attached to the wall and had a circular dial. I didn't know anyone who had flown on an airplane. The cars didn't have air conditioning, power steering, power brakes or anything power. Everyone I knew went to church every Sunday. We wore hats and gloves on special Sundays, such as Easter. Girls wore skirts and dresses to school as no jeans or slacks were allowed. Most women did not work outside of the home. There were very few out-of-wedlock babies, and when there were, it was considered a very bad thing. We were to be virgins when we wed. etc etc etc...
A young person of today can read that, but still not quite understand how life felt and was experienced in the United States in the 1940's and 1950's.
Often, when people read history, it is seen through the distortion of how life is nowadays, or through the eyes of someone else who tells their version of the distortion. This is often extreme distortion when looking way back, say the 1st century c.e. For example, Jesus was not a blond, blue-eyed, tall caucasian. He was a Middle Easterner with dark or olive skin, black hair, and the typical height of a male peasant then was 5' tall. There were 2 classes: the peasants and the rulers. He was born into a social world order in which Rome was the conqueror and ruler so that he lived under a domination system. Just about anyone who had any power at all was a collaborator with Rome - including the high priests of Judaism. During his childhood, there had been a rebellion and thousands of people were crucified. Jesus was a peasant. He became a disciple of John the Baptizer for a time. John was an anti-Rome, pro-Judaism prophet who eventually was beheaded for his rabble rousing.
Marcus Borg said
"The social world is what makes a time and place that time and that place... The social world in which we live pervasively shapes us. Growing up, socialization, means internalizing the understandings of life operative in our world. It means being sufficiently shaped by our social world so that we know how to live in it."As a student of history, I endeavor to understand what life was like in whatever time I am studying. I do my best to take off my biases and pre-conceived notions in order to approximate what it was like for the people of the day. In that way I can more fully understand and appreciate the life lived at the time. So for Hildegard of Bingen. for example, her feats were all the more stunning because she lived in a time when women couldn't ___________, you fill in the blank.
As a lifelong student of all things spiritual, I have studied a great deal about the 1st century in order to understand Jesus and the others of his day. I seek what the original message was, what his life was like, how his message was shaped by the times, what he wanted us to know so many years down the road. I don't know if it is possible to know all the answers, yet I continue. I know a lot more than if I'd never tried, that is certain. I encourage all seekers of truth and understanding to join me on the quest.