Letters to the Future: 1

Letters to the Future: 1 August 21, 2008

lttf.jpgHello to the year 3008!

I was thinking about my life a few days ago, the things I’ve lived through, and I’m writing to tell you some of what I was thinking.

In my time, we have the musical scores of greats such as Ludwig von Beethoven and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart – I do hope you still remember them – but we don’t have any actual recordings of their own original performances.

On the other hand, musicians such as Elvis Presley, The Beatles and Bob Dylan were all alive in my lifetime, and I can listen to their actual performances any day.

I can hear the music of Beethoven, but I can hear the music of Elvis as performed by Elvis. I can see it too, some of it, through film and video.

Recording – something more than just musical scores written down on paper –came along in time to capture the man himself performing his own musical creations.

I’m assuming it will be saved indefinitely, and some of you in your distant future may just possibly see and hear it.

It’s the same with movies, isn’t it? Though we have the works of William Shakespeare, we have no hint of what they looked like as first performed in Shakespeare’s own time. On the other hand, I got to see the movie Citizen Kane within Orson Welles’ own lifetime.

Weird to think that music or movies I can see and hear right here tonight in my own home, on my primitive computer, is the exact same music and movies you might see and hear, only a thousand years older. Just as I know what the voice of John Lennon of the Beatles sounds like, you too know exactly what it sounds like.

From your perspective, it must seem like I live in the dawn of recorded history, that era when magnetic tape, motion picture film, video and digital recordings were invented. If I was to appear in a movie, you could even see me as I was, the way I looked and sounded when I was alive.

I try to imagine that moment in history a thousand years earlier than my life, and I fail. Looking it up on the Internet, I find that these people were born in that year of 1008: Al-Muizz ibn Badis, Anselm of Liege, Emperor Go-Ichijo, Henry I of France, Sugawara no Takasue no musume, and Wulfstan, Bishop of Worcester. I have not the slightest idea who any of these people were, and I don’t much care.

You, on the other hand, will have vast amounts of detailed data over the next thousand years. That may not include much about me, of course — surely almost all records of me have vanished by the time you read this. We all of us consider ourselves immensely important in the span of our own lives, but being realistic, I know I made not a blip on the radar of history.

Yet in a way, I have hopes that that’s one reason why there might be a chance that you’ll actually get to read this. I’m not a president or renowned religious leader, passed through the glowing filter of history and turned into some sort of legend — like another figure who lived in my time, United States President John F. Kennedy.

At 55, somewhere well over halfway through my life, I already know I left no descendants, and my accomplishments, though satisfying to me personally, are not the kind that get recorded as important.

I’m a small, real person, someone the transformative engines of history will probably completely ignore. Which means, if you find me at all, it will be me you find and not a historical legend.

(By the way, I speak — write — in the colloquial speech of my time, and hopefully you’ll find it easy to understand, rather than quirky and difficult to translate.)

Speaking of legends, if you there in the future have any records of the U.S. president currently in office, George W. Bush, the 43rd president of the United States, and especially if history remembers him as some sort of great man, I’d like you to know that that part of history is untrustworthy nonsense. Bush was (and is) an incredibly stupid man, a ridiculous posturing little puppet who caused immense human suffering by starting a needless war, killing more than 4,000 Americans and possibly hundreds of thousands of people of the country of Iraq. He also helped spread discord and division in our own nation through lies and attack rhetoric. A serious drug user and alcoholic in his youth, he grew up to ignore critical environmental issues long after they needed to be addressed, helping cause damage the world of your time is probably still suffering. Behind him, pulling his strings were a couple of smug, wicked fools who got rich and famous by leaching on Bush’s power and renown.

Yet if my own history is any judge, despite the fact of their power projected through President Bush, their names are half-forgotten footnotes to Bush’s own in only 50 years or so. Should I tell you their names? Actually, I think I’d rather not. I sort of hope they’ve been lost in time, vanished in the noise of history, making their hateful little lives relatively meaningless in the long term.

Bush will be voted out of office in only a few more months, and celebrations will be held worldwide on the day he leaves the White House. I myself plan to eat sushi and drink single-malt scotch on the day the little prick packs up his human snake collection and goes home.

Well, getting back to my original point, hello from the dawn of digitally recorded history! I’m torn between hoping you’re still human enough to enjoy our music and movies, and different enough that you see it all as somewhat childish.

Mostly, I guess, I actually hope you’re not much like us. My own private theory is that we of this time, and probably all previous times, are really too stupid to survive. If we didn’t wise up and make radical changes in ourselves, turning us into the smarter, stronger, more compassionate and wise people I imagine you to be, you’re probably not reading this right now because none of our descendants made it that far. Either that, or you live in a much-impoverished world, and none of our recordings, including what I’m writing here, survived for you to be reading it.

I’m writing in a spirit of blind optimism, really, the hope that humans transformed ourselves into something more and better than human, so that you exist, and that it happened soon enough after my time for my words to survive for you to read.

I’m yawning as I write this. Right now, I’m sitting at my desk at 1:00 a.m., and — merely human — I’m tired. Forgive me if I cut this off and go to bed.

I’ll write again soon.

PS: Did you finally get rid of religion? Man, I hope so! That’s a huge part of the merely-human stupidity I was talking about. I hope you’re completely free of it, and can’t even imagine why anybody would want to do such a thing. THAT would be a future I’d be proud to have had a part in building.


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