a world on the wane

I wished I had lived in the days of real journeys, when it was still possible to see the full splendor of a spectacle that had not yet been blighted, polluted and spoiled. When was the best time to see India? At what time would the study of Brazilian savages have afforded the purest satisfaction, and revealed them in their least adulterated state? I have only two possibilities: either I can be like some traveler of the olden days, who was faced with a stupendous spectacle, almost all of which eluded him, or worse still, filled him with scorn and disgust; or I can be a modern traveler, chasing after vestiges of a vanished reality. I lose on both counts, and more seriously than may at first appear, for, while I complain of being able to glimpse no more than the shadow of the past, I may be insensitive to reality as it is taking shape at this very moment, since I have not reached the stage of development at which I would be capable of perceiving it. A few hundred years hence, in this same place, another traveler, as despairing as myself, will mourn the disappearance of what I might have seen, but failed to see. I am subject to a double infirmity: all that I perceive offends me, and I constantly reproach myself for not seeing as much as I should.

Claude Levi-Strauss, Tristes Tropiques (1955)

Photo from here.