Something that often striked me is that we, in todays era, are all so incredibly wealthy.
I don't mean anything specific to me or the US. If you live in a developed country, and chances are that you do, then all of this applies to you to. Now a whole discussion could be had about having to work 40 hours a week to sustain this life and whether quality of life has actually changed since the past; just stepping back and taking it all in, however, can be quite startling.
Consider a shower. Think of how nice it feels, to have hot water streaming all over your body. Especially after a tough workout or a long day - the relaxing sensation of letting it all wash away. Now consider the fact that thousands of years, basically for most of human history, nobody could experience that same feeling.
Sure, we could heat up water with fire and pour it over ourselves. If we were lucky perhaps there might have been a hot spring nearby. But having truely unlimited water at a consistently perfect temperature, along with all the soaps and shampoos and creams and cleansers you could want, is essentially a 20th century invention.
Or as another example, take flying in an airplane. This has a lot of obvious utility, but I don't just mean being able to get to faw away places quickly (though this is another obvious benefit). Specifically, it's the way that so many of us (anyone who's ever been on a place) have had the beautiful chance to view the world from a bird's perspective. To look down on towering cities and rolling countryside and have none of it look larger than your thumb.
Do you know long humanity has dreamed of flight. From the ancient Greek legends on Icarus flying to close to the sun, to Leonardo da Vinci's idea to construct massive fabric wings to allow humans to fly like birds. I've seen children so amazed by this that they spend the entire flight looking out the window and seeing the earth turn slowly below. And now the sight is so common for so many that it's often not even worth opening the window shade. No emperor with all the treasures in his empire could have even glimpsed such a view, and to some of us seeing this consitutes a typical Tuesday.
Of course, don't forget the other flight like experiences like skydiving or paragliding that airplanes have enabled. I wonder what a medieval scientist would give for a single experience like that. I wonder about all those people who dreamed of having the freedom of a bird to soar into the sky; what would they think if we put them into an electric glider and let them soar too.
Mundane things too, have gotten so much incredibly better than they used to be. Like washing clothes. I think it's funny how dishwashers are often optional because washing dishes by hand isn't so bad, but nobody would even dream of doing so for clothing. No seriously, go look up how they used to wash clothes before the washing machine was invented. Soap wasn't even widely made available until the 1800s! No wonder men desired housewives - doing this in addition to a full job seems impossible.
Clothing as well has drastically changed. We have access to so much cheap clothing of such high quality. Can you believe we have the option to color coordinate a wedding by purchasing outfits for all the important friends and family involved? Clothing in the past was much more of a luxury item - from what I understand, people used to only own a handful of outfits and maybe only 1 or 2 that were truly nice. These would have been kept safe, perhaps only for religious sermons at the end of the week. And now we have clothing of uninmaginably high quality (relative to back then), and enough that we can get custom outfits for single events.
I'm not even going to start on modern day plumbing. Just consider that toilets weren't truly commonplace until about a hundred years ago. I live in a clean, well kept city today where I don't really have to concern myself with bad smells. Imagine the state of hygiene in the past - it makes me wonder if similar levels of cleanliness would have even been possible.
Ok - let's hold on a second. Where am I going with this. My thesis is clearly that modern technologies and abundance have made the world much nicer and more livable compared to the past. Is it possible I'm missing something or unintentionally exaggerating here? That while my point is roughly true, life in the past isn't nearly as bad as I imagine? Perhaps it's all just an expression of my overall optimism and affection for technology and futurism?
I admit that it's possible some of these stories aren't entirely one hundred percent fully accurate. As much as I enjoy history, I'm not a historian. I'm also not even really saying that our quality of life is better than theirs. Nicer things and better technology doesn't necessarily make you happy. But then again, the same could be said about today's ultra wealthy billionaires; they may not necessarily be happier but who wouldn't want to try a private jet or ultra fine dining.
Humans can't help but compare their lives to others, and if you compare your life with those who lived hundreds or thousands of years ago I think you'll find that we're living their dream. More than a dream actually - I'm sure people of that era might not have even concieved of some of the things we have at our fingertips today. The internet for one - an endless library where you can learn literally anything, speak to literally anyone, consume any media - I could write 10 word vomits on the power of that alone.
Just try thinking about that every once in a while. Those whose lives are so incomprehensibly different to ours, and all the cool stuff we have today. It might feel good.