How little we have, I thought, between us and the waiting cold, the mystery, death--a strip of beach, a hill, a few walls of wood or stone, a little fire--and tomorrow's sun, rising and warming us, tomorrow's hope of peace and better weather . . . What if tomorrow vanished in the storm? What if time stood still? And yesterday--if once we lost our way, blundered in the storm--would we find yesterday again ahead of us, where we had thought tomorrow's sun would rise?
?W. H. Auden once suggested that to understand your own country you need to have lived in at least two others. One can say something similar for periods of time: to understand your own century you need to have come to terms with at least two others. The key to learning something about the past might be a ruin or an archive but the means whereby we may understand it is--and always will be--ourselves.
Past and future are the same, and we cannot change either, only know them more fully. My journey to the past had changed nothing, but what I had learned had changed everything, and I understood that it could not have been otherwise. If our lives are tales that Allah tells, then we are the audience as well as the players, and it is by living these tales that we receive their lessons.