Classic—a book which people praise and don’t read. ~ Mark Twain
Readers may have noticed that we’re more than somewhat fond of of the old-fashioned at the Fairfield House. It’s not so much that we’re trying to move backwards as we find it a useful way to look to the future. You can’t after all, know where you’re going unless you know where you’ve been.
However, it’s often not appreciated that we live in a time where we actually do know something of our past, or at least the past of people very much like us. For most of human history the vast masses of humanity were illiterate and so left no permanent record when they passed from this earth. What we know instead are the minute doings of kings, vassals, priests , and the wealthy–debris from lives of the once great, floating down a river of memory on fragile parchment rafts. We know of these people what they told us and not, incidentally, including how the brick maker down in town lived, or or how the local peasant farmers got by.
In such ages, the comparative trickle of written words would grant every work outsized importance, but there’s no denying so much of great worth was produced. No one would seriously dispute the value of a Virgil, Shakespeare, or Dante; even if few bother to read them today.
Now of course in the the 21st century we have magnificent tools to express and record our thoughts. Still I wonder if our recorded thoughts by some chance survive the centuries, whether the world will be improved by them or if the insights of the best of us will have been drowned in a sea of trivialities. We who can say so much to so many with such ease spend much of our time recording and discussing the doings of the famous; it’s as though nothing has changed in the thousands of years since recorded history began. Among so much noise, you must strain to hear the music.
In the end, I think it is not the record of the things we have done that will matter, but how we answered the questions of our purpose—why were we here in this narrow span of time. The moments of our lives are like the slow drip of water onto stones; wearing us away to nothing more than memories crafted by the yet unknown tellers of our tales. Wherever our Shakespeare is, I hope he’s doing more than busily texting “ur bff 4evr” to a friend.