It seems that our natures, at least on this earth and in this time, are ephemeral. Meaning, unless we believe that there is a continuance of consciousness of some sort after death, all that is stored in our minds will be lost upon death. We are the ultimate example of volatile memory. All the things we build, grow, or produce will eventually corrupt. This is the inevitability of death and decay and is ultimately the conclusion for which all humanity must reconcile.
Throughout the ages we have become better as a species of storing our knowledge and memories in a less than volatile state. From the primitive methodology of passing stories down through myth, folklore and fireside tales to the latest explosion of things like ancestry.com, wiki’s, blogs, facebook timelines, and YouTube videos. Recordings have been made in a variety of formats, paper, electronic, magnetic and others and permanently archived in locations that are preserved by our government or charities setup for such a purpose.
Despite all of that, corruption still occurs. Slowly, ever slowly, time pushes on and systems fail, fires burn, priorities change. This quest for permanence in an ephemeral state has been perhaps the single driving factor behind human evolutionary growth in the last century. I daresay that it has been our increased ability to preserve our knowledge and pass that down to other generations that has caused the massive acceleration in development as a human species.
The pressure to communicate, therefore, has been the single driving and motivating factor for our technological growth. We are busy little ants creating systems upon systems for the development, preservation and growth of our learning. We create specialties and subsets of those specialties all with their own desires to protect, preserve and pass on what they have discovered to the next generation of specialists. In fact, the intense pressure to record everything in our lives, important and trivial is now producing about 7% of our national GDP. This does not include the more standard means, such as the written word in standard publications.
I listened to a brief audio clip of my grandfather and his two daughters (my mother and aunt) recording their voices on one of the first common mechanisms for recording voice vibrations on a vinyl surface. The record somehow lasted through the years before eventually deteriorating, my family was able to capture some of that recording. Now all we have of that time is a collection of a few photographs and this one brief audio recording, made on the day that the kids got it as a present.
Compare that to where we are at today. If I am able to prevent the loss of data and somehow preserve the data in a format that will last the test of time then my great grand kids will have video, audio, digital records of my life and my kids’ life. My kids will not need to wonder what they were like when they were young. There are videos and pictures documenting the entire experience. I could, if I wanted to, piece together most of my life from approximately 1995 on. The amount of data sources I could pull from is incredible. Bank statement activity, google search history, social media activity, images kept digitally, and many more.
However, as the angel of history is pushed aggressively toward the future, hurling toward inevitability, my mind looks back at the discarded, disorganized jumble of collections that I have. I have to wonder, that when I die, will anyone bother to collect this and put it into a format digestible by generations? Probably not, by Great Grandmother Delsie Dean kept a lot of pictures, documents, and other items from her family. She probably could have told me what they all meant and why she kept them. What has occurred is that we have kept some, discarded others. Some memories retained, many lost. Her daughter had every intention of grabbing as much as possible, but the wheel of time rolls on. Life is busy, raising children. Who has the time to dig through the mountainous and voluminous evidence of what has occurred in teh past? The future is what is at stake for most of us and therefore the angel of history is being blown into the future, blindfolded and backwards.
On this Easter Sunday, the Christian World looks to the miracle of resurrection. The hope that after death, one will be reunited with their soul in a perfect form without sickness and without death. That is a great hope, but for me the greatest hope would be a miracle of perfect recollection of the past, a true knowledge of the people, the stories. The acts of heroism and horror all carefully cataloged and understood. The entire span of human history outlined in perfect clarity for all to see and understand.
That would be amazing to me, and since I do not live in a perfect world, I will continue to grab the little pieces that I can and put them into a media in which I can only hope that my descendants will renew, refresh and recognize.
Great topic, reminds me why I really need to digitize all my family videos.
Exactly, I have been working on figuring out a way to preserve all that in a meaningful way. Not an easy project!