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Circa 2020

Circa 2020: What and Why

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After several months of trying to figure out what this blog would be “about,” I think I’ve finally stumbled on an answer.

All my life, I’ve wondered what my counterparts a hundred, a thousand, five thousand years ago, did, felt and thought in their daily lives.

Our libraries are full of history books that tell us what happened in their times.

We have writings from a handful of learned individuals—the precious few who could, had the time and occasion to write—telling us of the events of their day … as often as not, one suspects, as much with the intent to influence their times than objectively record them for posterity.

And we have wonderfully written historical novels that do their best to interpret history, place it in the hands of fictional characters and thus hope to give us a flavor of their day.

I don’t believe, however, I’ve ever had the opportunity to know, first-hand, the life and mind of, say, a farmer living in a Spanish village in 1008. Who he was—what he thought, felt, how he spent his day, his hopes for his children. His life was no more limited or defined by the coming fall of the Ommiad Caliphate than mine is by the United States’ war on terrorism, the first days a new President’s transition or the economic rise of China.

That is what this space will be dedicated to.

Circa 2020 will collect anecdotes and vignettes from daily life, record random thoughts and impressions, cut and paste (how long before that term requires footnoting, I wonder) news stories with personal comment as to why, watch the world go by … and memorialize that which stands out not so much as news, but reflections of who we are.

I invite all who visit here to participate. Please feel free to share in the “comments” at the end of any entry, or, if you prefer, write up and email your thoughts to the address noted below for inclusion as a separate post. This isn’t going to be about me, it’s going to be about us.

I have only a vague vision today of how this project will evolve—what form it will take, what it might look like a year from now or fifty. What I do know is, even as I write, another day in six billion lives is going on outside my window.

We're driving, walking, biking to and from work, lost in thought. We're sitting in our homes, traveling by land, air or sea, hiking in the woods, laying in a hospital beds, deep into our own private selves. We're loving our children, missing them, making more, wishing we could, glad we never did.

What are our hopes and fears? What makes us laugh? What makes us cry? Do we let our minds wander where they will, or, when they do, rope them in and tell them to behave?

Of course, I don't know if they will even care what we thought, felt and did in our daily lives a thousand years hence. But I have hopes. I hope our counterparts in 3008 will pause to consider, from time to time, not just what happened early in the 21st century, but what those of us who lived it were all about.

I know this all sounds rather vague. It is—and I think that’s fitting. I don’t know much, but I do know that one central truth of our time is that our world, our place in it and where it all is headed remain very much a mystery to us today. It’s a truth frightening and exhilarating, awful and wonderful … and very much the context in which we live.

This is our time, and this is who we are.


Ran across this piece yesterday in the Washington Post.

I commend you to the entire article, which I found both illuminating and moving. What really struck me, though, and prompted this entry, was the image of an Everyman, with nothing more than an exchange of glances and three words, communicating something 400 years in the making.

The morning sun shone down on Willie Pearson as he unlocked the front door of Pearson's Westside Barbershop and reached for the lights. Everything was just as he left it the night before: five barber chairs, the smell of talc and liniment, and a photo of Joe Frazier hanging above the mirror.

But everything was different.

"Yes, we can," Pearson said, smiling at two of his customers waiting for him to open. "Yes, we can."

No one needed to say a word. All three men were smiling.
I wonder if those of us who do not share Willie Peason’s racial and cultural legacy can honestly set aside our own politics, prejudices and daily filters, and stand in his shoes during that moment. I’d like to think I can … or at least believe that the chill I felt sharing it in print a day later and hundreds of miles away, and the tears that welled up in me, were, in any meaningful sense, because I understood.

I also wonder, for any of you perhaps reading these words a thousand years hence, if Willie Pearson's moment has any resonance in your world.

Updated 11-07-08 at 12:27 PM by Om

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  1. Pravda's Avatar
    As I've written elsewhere on TN, I think Obama's election could mean the beginning of the final destruction of that anchor of anguish and agnst: racism. What I hope comes out of this time in our Nation's history is that in moving to a post-racial society, MLK's dream will be realized.
  2. Henry's Avatar
    I almost didn't vote for him, and I didn't really understand the significance of Obama's victory until it became a reality. But, watching the reaction of the nation on election night I found myself thinking that this was one of the three most historically significant events I've ever witnessed; the other two being the fall of the Berlin Wall and the attacks on September 11th.

    Yeah, it seemed that big.
  3. Om's Avatar
    Right there with you both.

    And as monumental as this event is today, the real impact will come down the road, as coming generations are born into a world where the idea of a black American President is no more novel than a world with an integrated military, a world wide web or smart robots crawling around Mars is to our kids today.

    My strong feeling is that 2008 AD will be one of those historical markers that history books record in bold.
    Updated 11-08-08 at 11:26 AM by Om
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