A number of months ago I published a post about the purpose of time capsules. I attempted, in that vague sort of way I attempt most things in my writing, to argue one purpose of time capsules as a way of offering us a pespective on our reality larger than ourselves. That is to say, they give value to spans of time larger than us by incorporating a marginally larger sense of time on our second-by-second, moment-by-moment lives. They remind us that some things have value only — or moreso, at least — when theyare propped up by age.
But what is the value of thinking about the past. It’s over, right? Isn’t it better to grab onto concepts like “in the moment” or “forward thinking” and discard those that brand us as “backwards” or “living in the past?”
I could probably quote sound proverbial sayings or clever business-school-esque philosophies here all day, but metaphors for the value of time — past, present, or future — are more likely to get our heads spinning and leave us standing right where we left off.
Instead, I’d like to suggest that a stronger value of the past is not in so much in antiquity of ideas themselves nor in any kind of concrete lesson learned, though both of these have value, too. Rather, the past has a more abstract value.
Take this post, for example, which is much older than you might think. Sure, it was published on the date listed, but that is far from the date when it was written (I’ll leave you to math it out.) Now, a few years from now — or a few years from then, whenever — is probably inconsequential. But the reason for the publishing gap now is to provide two very subtle bits of perspective that will hopefully add to your sense of “longer-ness” on this blog, or online in general. First, as I write this I need to think about the future. If you do the math on this gap, you might figure out that the span between when I wrote this and when you will first have the chance to read this is fairly big — or it might seem that way online, at least, where we are peppered with impatient live blogs, status updates, and instant delivery of ideas. Instead, this has been a simple idea — one about the value of old things in the present (because if you’re still reading obviously there is some value in these words) — shared across a gap of time we don’t normally consider kosher on the web.
The second bit of perspective is for me, the writer, alone. You can think about it, but unless you actually sit in a cafe tapping out a blog post for some point in the random future from some point in the random past, you can’t really have experienced that bit of perspective: in a twitter-filled, facebook-instantaneous world, a gap of this magnitute is monumental. I once wrote that a year on the web was like a century in real life — whatever that analogy means anymore with the distinction between reality and the internet blurred so much — so think about these words with that sense: imagine writing a letter that wouldn’t be delivered for years, decades… centuries. What would YOU write?
I chose to write about the process… but then I’m weird that way.