Is History the Opposite of Reality?

I’ve been thinking a lot about history lately. If you’d told highschool Salil that as an adult his favorite thing to study would be history, he’d have told you to fuck off. He’d probably have done that regardless of what you said, but that’s not important.

So my question to you is: is History the opposite of Reality?

What’s got me thinking is the weird relationship between reality and history. Superficially, we pretend like history is just writing down reality.

But reality isn’t anything like history. As a friend put it, reality has no through-lines. Reality is infinite in every direction. It’s messy, it’s fractal, it’s micro- and macro- at impossible-to-comprehend levels of detail, and it’s constantly unfolding around us, at incredibly small quanta of time, too.

History, on the other hand, is ultimately just a belief in narratives. Every single person who is capable of committing to a narrative structure in some way is responsible for history. History is both personal and consensus-based. It’s like a bundle of yarn, consisting of lots and lots of threads of personal narratives. It’s not anything like reality. It’s human-scale, and basically a way for our human minds to process and digest reality.

And that, my friends, is nothing like reality.

So this is what I’m thinking about the last few days.

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