I managed to miss the opening session of the Communications Conference in Rome by missing a bus. How embarrassing is that? Anyway, I will simply say that I decided to stay back at the conference hotel in order that somebody would be here to welcome everyone when they arrive en masse. They’ll never believe me.

While looking at some notes I made at the Colisseum the other day, my mind (or what passes for a mind, at least) rambled back towards pedantry. I keep reading in guide books and other literature in this wonderful city phrases such as ‘the Middle Ages’ or ‘the early Middle Ages’ and I wondered what they were the middle of? Presumably, whoever first thought of them as the ‘middle’ must have thought of some ‘beginning’ and considered his ‘now’ to be the ‘end’.

I guess every generation thinks of itself as the ultimate – the end of history, as it were – because we never know what will come next. But, just as every generation has among it those who think it will be the last – just look at Christian groups who always think the world is about to end … but it doesn’t – every generation sees itself as the only one from which to measure the past.

Rome 3 001But, what if (for example) the 16th to the 21st centuries prove to be the ‘middle ages’ when seen from further down the line? Will future generations have to invent new language to describe which generation falls into which ‘age’? And how confusing will that be for the poor kids who have to learn history? It’ll be almost as bad as having to learn French politics … where all the parties seem to have the same names but in different orders and change them after every election they either win or lose.

I saw a plaque today that pointed to the ‘old’ something-or-other church and one that pointed to the ‘new’ church. The ‘new’ church was five hundred years old.

Funny old world.