Monday, September 9, 2013

Yesterdays of Tomorrows.....or something like that

I spent yesterday touring a historic house and last night watching a movie about a dystopian future. 

The tour was of the Bayard-Cutting Arboretum on Long Island. It is a "cottage" built in the late 1800s. You know, just one of those little summer getaways with a measly sixty-three rooms. 

It wasn't a planned outing. Just ended up there on a whim, paid eight dollars and took an hour long tour of the home. I listened to stories of the family shopping for entire rooms over in Europe and installing hoses around the inside of the house as an early fire safety system. Walking through the servants quarters and seeing the men's hall and the women's hall, both with locks on the doors at the end of them, I felt a bit like I was on the Downton Abbey set. 

As someone who writes, even though my stories don't tend to be focused on that time period, walking around the house was inspiring. It's more than just seeing original furniture or the old photographs that, from the lack of smiles, folks took slightly more seriously than our recent selfies.

Places of history have power. 

It's hard to feel alone when you're standing in one. I'm not talking about being surrounded by the ghosts of those who died there, though I'd be lying if I said I didn't wish a little that I was talking about exactly that. More, it's hard to feel alone when you're surrounded by proof that we last. 

As individuals we all have expiration dates, but together, we last. 

That house wasn't even old in the grand scheme of human existence. We have so many examples of our staying power all over the world. And I have no doubt that in each of these dwellings, people lived their lives with some worry as to the changes happening in the world around them. 

So, despite the popularity of movies with dystopian futures where it rains all the time and people have done away with dressing in anything but neutrals (watched Total Recall last night) or the fact that the 24 hour news cycle sometimes makes me feel like we're approaching the end times, historic sites give me hope. 

It's hard not to marvel at all the ways the world has changed when listening to stories of the past, but the more important thing may be what hasn't. We're still around and we're still interested in where we've been and where we're going. 

I'm sure a hundred years from now some kid will be saying, "They seriously drove on the ground?" - that's right, flying cars, haven't given up on you yet - but I'm not ready to assume he'll be saying that from Drab City, built in the rain clouds because the Earth is now just a mass of craters. 

We can't change that the past happened or that the future's coming, but perhaps the reminder that our only real legacy will be left by the whole rather than the individual will make present interactions with the world more important. 

After all, hundreds of years from now, Federation students may be learning about the peculiarities do twenty-first century life (you know, twerking and what not), but it's not like they'll know my name. Whatever I leave the world will be a group effort. 

Unless maybe I write a real universe changing tome. 

You know, I should really get back to work. 

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