This is a quote from author John Banville,* and it makes pretty good sense. Modern western society values fresh discovery and independent thought, but that needs to be balanced with a memory of truths already learned.
This is one of the difficulties that British society has right now, which are spoken of as a need to describe (or invent) what 'being British' is all about. To what extent is being British about (say) a culture of discovery, tolerance, and openness to new ideas and cultural values; and to what extent is it to do with a common story?
I agree with John: building society is not about reinventing what it means to be British, but is about being able to tell our story – a story which is of course added to day by day.
The British story is in part a Christian story. One of the strengths of the Christian Bible as a religious text it is that it is largely story. Its narrative brings cohesion to those who see it as 'their book.' While all stories are told from the point of view of the story teller, the Bible has the integrity to convey its story 'warts and all.' It tells not only of success and good deeds but of mistakes and failure as well. We need to have the courage to do the same with our own (British) story.
*According to The Week 4th December 2010, quoting the Independent.