Presumably, in it’s decline a society still has the remnants of what it achieved: art, culture, technology, infrastructure etc. Things are slipping- upkeep, resources, social fabric etc, but the heights achieved still impact society.
The early days of space exploration, the space race, the lunar landings, Skylab, Apollo-Soyuz, and the early days of the space shuttle. Things were exciting, anything was possible and things were just getting more amazing and better.
The latter days of manned space exploration. This shit is hard, we can’t even do what we USED to be able do. What we are doing is a pale comparision and seems to have no point because at this rate we will barely doing anything at all and finally won’t be doing it at all period.
The early days were inspirational. The latter days have almost been soul sucking.
I’ll take the rise over the fall any day, even if technically the absolute “level” of the fall is higher than the “level” of the rise, assuming you kinda know where you are in relation to the peak.
Decline, obviously. If you buy the maunderings of an earlier generation of moralistic historians that linked political decline to moral decline*, then obviously the best time to be alive is when everything is sinking into wretched wallow of hedonism and excess. Because who doesn’t love hedonism and excess?
Intellectually I’d recommend you NOT buy into that hypothesis. But, you know, if you do ;).