A lot of us in the Pagan and related communities like to immerse ourselves in the past, in order to figure out the ancient versions of our religions and practices. Looking into the past isn’t always easy, so much is lost to us, so much has been destroyed whether naturally over time or deliberately at the hands of those who would keep our religions down.
Looking into the past, we often lament over how much is gone, how much we don’t know. And yet, I have to wonder, what are we doing to make sure that the future will not lose what we are learning, doing and creating right now? We sit here creating or re-creating our religions, but are we leaving enough evidence of what we’re doing for the future?
Nothing Lasts Forever
Are we so self-assured that we truly think our modern technological society is going to last forever? Do we really think this is going to last forever? Looking into the past we can see, everything falls, nothing lasts forever. One day, what we have built will be gone. We cannot last forever.
There will come a time when we will fall too, it may be a long time away, decades, centuries, millennia – but it will happen. And what are we leaving behind of ourselves? What greatness, what records, what anything?
Our stone tablets are plastic and metal usb drives, CD discs and black boxes of “cloud storage”. What future society will be able to crack the code of our language when they won’t even be able to see our language? More of our art is created and stored online than it is in print. More of our writings are stored in the cloud and on shiny little circles and boxes than they are on dead trees. And in the struggle to preserve our world, to combat the damage we have caused, everything is becoming biodegradable. Or if not that, disposable in our disposable society.
What will be left of us when we are gone?
Fiction or Non-Fiction
One of the ways we learn about our religions is to look at ancient texts, and we have to be honest about these texts – a whole chunk of them are or are very likely to be, fiction. We look at poems, plays, comedies and tragedies and we consider them to be almost verified gnosis. But who is to say? We are careful when taking lore from plays and other theatric materials, but still, we take them as truth or a semblance of truth nonetheless.And maybe not all of it was intended to be that way.
So we look to the future again, and what we have right now. How many books are written, that are loosely based on our, or the original versions of our, religions? How many of them are so close to being like the real mythology and lore that they could be mistaken for being actual myths of our times by future generations?
In a few hundred years will people think we believed that Percy Jackson was a real kid and that we believe in his exploits? Especially when we take pop culture Paganism into account, it’s entirely possible that future Pagans will have some new myths to work with, myths that were intended to be entirely fictional. Myths, written by people who are not even of our religions.
It’s a bit of a scary thought to be honest.
What to do About it?
If we look too deeply into the past, we run the risk of not creating a future. The question becomes, what do we do about it? How can we make sure that what we learn, from the past and in our own time, what we create and re-create, what we do is preserved for the future?
To be honest I don’t really know. I think we need to be sure to keep good, clear and long lasting records of what we do – offline, in hardcopy dead tree format. Or in a format even stronger if possible.
I know many of us keep our little journals, books of shadows and the like, but we can perhaps do better. How much have I written online that is only online and nowhere else? How much of life in general is stored electronically, but not backed up in hardcopy? Too much, a lot of it. I have already lost irreplaceable photos of my children and my father, because of a stupid burned out hard drive. The possibility exists that I could lose a whole lot more than that.
And I think too that maybe we need to stop being so immersed in the past. For those who are pure recon, fair enough dig away. But for the rest of us, those of us who are in essence creating brand new traditions – we maybe need to spend more time in the now and looking to what we leave for the future than in figuring out what came before.
History and the past is great and there is much we can learn from it. But it means nothing if we don’t learn the most important lesson history can teach us.
Nothing lasts forever. So figure out some ways to preserve the things that matter for as long as you possibly can.