A thing of the past

RPR in 1st car – 1917

Why do people chase down their ancestors, pouring through letters and documents with frayed edges, faded ink on sheets of paper which crumble in your hands  and between your fingers?  I guess the answer is in the question.  As we strive  for a paperless society, documents become exceedingly inaccessible, buried in forgotten computer files, the World Wide Web, the Cloud, or Google docs and PhotoShop.  Our memory is also buried in these files – gone! – and the danger of obliterating the personal handwritten accounts which affirm the history of our ancestry, becomes more and more imminent.  Long gone is the autograph book and rapidly disappearing is the hand written letter and journal as witnesses of times past. Whatever primary sources resurface in twenty-five, fifty or seventy five years, will certainly be an anomaly, if they exist at all.

Our pursuit of knowledge and wonder are no longer driven by hiking on trails through wooded hills, along running brooks, or on cobblestone streets in historic towns, villages and countries, but rather, through endless hours with our eyes pasted to a computer screen.  Perhaps the advent of the iThis and iThat, and the capability to transmit and receive information instantly through time and space is our way of staying in tune as we are constantly on the move, whether it’s sitting in a chair in our living room or in the seat of a train.  Yet we need not remember a thing, because all information is at our fingertips through technology, and although we are seemingly more cerebral and introverted in our social exchanges, we pursue, record and process information at a faster pace than we ever did before – only to be forgotten.

We are living in an era of heightened individualism and guarded privacy which has made us less sociable face to face, more suspicious, paranoid and worried about what one knows about us and if it is really an apt description of who we are.  In this state of agitation we are unable  to shift our consciousness into a true state of Carp Diem, or in other words, lose ourselves completely in a moment  of time, in the beauty of a poem, the shapes and forms of a painting, or in the seconds at dusk and dawn when the buds of a flower open and close.

As the Age of Technology spins out of control what legacy will we be leaving for our children which our foremothers and fathers have left for us?  I for one find myself sucked into this technology and forever striving to keep up and constantly learning how to use it – dependent  on the keyboard for my social interaction and to satisfy my wonder and pursuit of information. Yet, I am weary and discerning of the lack of reality and authenticity of technology and unsatisfied with the information it has to offer. I am afraid the layers of facts, or facts posing as the truth which are deeply buried in my computer will be quickly forgotten when I turn off the switch. Yet I am happy to know that this information will never compare with the real photographs, authentic documents and letters which I hold in my hand.  I consider myself fortunate and at the same time saddened to have these papers at my fingertips because I realize that their production is a thing of the past.

6 thoughts on “A thing of the past

  1. It is wonderful to read those ‘bits and pieces’, written in a loved one’s hand writing. We also try to read between the lines into the mind and hearts of those who wrote them. I will always guard those shards.

    1. Yes, it came and thank you. I’m glad you were able to take something away from it. I feel the same way as I read Dad’s war diary. I actually found “a thing of the past” stored away in a file. I had written it a while back. Interesting how it re-surfaced given the topic of the story. Now I must get away from my computer and get back to cleaning out my closets:) hahaha!

      1. I see you have inherited your father’s gift of inspired writing. I am in the midst of cleaning out my first husband’s family home which I am also now living in. Grandpa is alive, but not able to be alone > he will be 90 in November. Today I “cleaned” out the not needed clothing closet, preparing to take shirts to Salvation Army. Since moving in I have been reading WWII magazines and books which has become a huge part of the world he is living in right now. Have had many reminders of when I cleaned out my own mother’s things from her home when she went into assisted living. It is much less painful this time, but he was much more prepared than she and I am not feeling the senses of loss or needs to keep so much. Thanks for sharing. D.Jones

      2. Thank you Diane for the compliment. I do enjoy the writing but I don’t think I can compare with my Dad. I wish you luck with moving your father. So much is accumulated over time sometimes I wonder if it isn’t a good idea to be a minimalist. Hope the packing goes smoothly.

  2. Rooter, I too must admit to a bit of a “screen addiction.” Living,writing and thinking in the virtual world takes a different kind of intelligence. This new reality opens much more information available for us, but it sadly leaves little or no paper trail and being social and tactile creatures it somehow changes us and as you say makes us less connected. Or not as whole? Loved the article.

    1. Glad you loved the article Bongo. It came from the gut. Social networking and the sources of info on the internet are a great thing and maybe are turning people into better or at least more avid readers than before – I question what am I doing however, when it replaces the face to face social interaction I could be having, or enjoying a beautiful sunny day. The other day we had a friend for dinner. At one moment we found ourselves all clicking away on our phones – it must have been that moment of silence one has in a group conversation – we used it for texting:) Thanks you for sharing your view. Now I am going for a walk in the woods! – with a friend:)

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