History always begins in the middle of things. It doesn't matter where you choose to start the story; there is always something essential that came before, some prior context that is assumed. This is why the past can't be divided up into convenient self-contained units, with clear and distinct beginnings and endings, much as we might wish it were otherwise. Instead, the spectacle that lies before us when we gaze backward is more like a sprawling, limitless river with countless mingling branches and tributaries, stretching back to the horizon. Like a river, time's restless force pushes ever forward, but its beginnings lie far back, extending far beyond what we can see, fading into the mists of time at the edges of lands beyond our knowing.
- From Land of Hope: An Invitation to the Great American Story by Wilfred M. McClay