I write today from a cafe on my college campus. I haven’t sat in this chair or in this square for 23 years. I was a member of the Class of 2000. Our twenty-year reunion was, well…yep, 2020. It went down with the ship, like countless graduation ceremonies, proms, events — and businesses and marriages. In the storm of it all, a college reunion wasn’t a cancellation to complain about. Our class secretary did her best to rally the troops online, so we could see the faces, read the names, and raise a glass from a safe distance. It was a valiant effort to put us all in the mind space of who we were to one another two decades ago. Being here today, I am reminded that the mind space is much easier and more meaningful when you can return to the physical space.
For the last 20 years, and for countless before I am sure, our focus has been squarely on the future — “our” meaning you and me, us, society, the collective we. We are living through the largest technological revolution since the coal-fired steam engine kicked off the Industrial Revolution. To sell that technology so fast and furiously, we were first sold a very sexy story that tech equals the future. That narrative has re-pointed our collective focus on all that will come. Eyes on the road ahead. What has atrophied in that process is our understanding of the value of the past, of re-connecting with it, of celebrating it, of holding it up to the light of the current, to see if it stands the test of time. Sure, tech like streaming put the Golden Girls back on our screens, but at the same time it disconnected the Golden Girls from what is a television is or was, and how the comedy and joy of Sophia, Dorothy, Rose, and Blanche were intended to be consumed — weekly, in measured doses.
Part of the journey of this “post” pandemic period, for me (whatever “post” means in a world that has yet to truly mourn or heal from it all) has been a return to the past. People who drifted off, lost in the swirl of countless followers. Relationships that took a back seat. How are they? Why are they not in my life? Activities that seem to have vanished from my day-to-day. Why have I allowed my hands to be occupied with a smart phone instead of a good book? And places. What was so important that for twenty years I couldn’t hop a train to return to this place that…