Something That Lasts (reprinted from the Metro Spirit, 8-27-15)
Do you know how hard it is to build something that lasts 100 years?
Think about it. Of all the items that you touch or see on a daily basis, how many of them were created over 100 years ago? Certainly, your iPhone or anything electronic you might own is less than five years old. Most likely, your furniture and possibly even your house is less than 20 years old. As you drive around downtown Augusta, you might notice many wonderful historic buildings. (We’re fortunate in that way.) However, once you drive a few blocks past the Ezekiel Harris House, you’ll be hard pressed to find anything built prior to the last century (the notable exception located at the end of Magnolia Lane notwithstanding).
Any item that survives for 100-years must be created out of a passion. Without a passion, no creator will take the time to ensure that an item possesses the qualities needed to endure – envisioned with a great design, built with the best materials and assembled with expert workmanship. All of these qualities we see in the great architecture and works of art that have survived over the centuries. While many common items have been lost to time, those which survive are those upon which a creator has poured their passion – pottery with inscriptions that tell a story, buildings that reflect a popular culture, and paintings that capture a snapshot in time. These items embody a labor of love that transcends time, a passion that is shared across the ages.
Of course, long-term survival also requires a little bit of luck. For instance, a glass bottle created over a century ago may possess the requisite qualities to survive – good design, good materials, created by an expert tradesman. Poor circumstance falls upon this glass bottle, however. This bottle, along with 1,020 of its friends, is selected to participate in an analysis of ocean currents. After stuffing a post card with return address inside the bottle, the bottle is capped and tossed into the North Sea off the coast of Great Britain. Surely, within the next few years, this bottle will either wash up on shore and then be unceremoniously thrown away or possibly crash upon a rocky coast and destroyed forever.
Another outcome for this bottle exists. The bottle could simply float around the North Sea. During this time, this little bottle would survive by avoiding schooners, U-boats, oil platforms and high-speed ferries. The bottle’s cap would stay intact with no leaks and protect the return postcard. After 108 years of meandering, the bottle would wash up upon the German shoreline and be discovered by happenstance. No, it’s not a great work of art. But after 100 years of floating around in the ocean, it’s deserving of a footnote in history.
Unfortunately for other ancient objects, luck runs both ways. The full extent of the damage is not known, but it’s pretty clear that ISIS destroyed the ancient ruins in Palmyra, Syria. These Roman-era ruins were some of the greatest in the world. These ruins survived the fall of the Roman Empire, the dark ages, numerous crusades and two World Wars. In the end, an unlucky combination of religious motivation and modern explosives forever silenced the passion of the 1st Century artisans who created such wonderful beauty.
When it comes to creating works that endure, our generation faces an interesting dilemma. Past generations typically labored in the physical world. While most individuals didn’t create great works of art, at least the results of their labor could be seen and touched. Today, an increasing amount of our work occurs in the virtual world. When you finish your day at work, what do you really have to show for it? You can say that you wrote new software, but all you really did is reorganize some magnetic bubbles on a hard drive. More and more, our society consists of individuals whose primary job function is to reorganize magnetic bubbles. This transition of labor begs the question, “One hundred years from now, will there be a museum dedicated to the great magnetic bubble reorganizers of the 21st Century? If so, what will be in it?”
In fact, such a museum likely will exist. The first exhibit in this museum will display the magnetic bubble organizing devices of the early 21st Century (e.g., the MacBook Air like the one I’m currently using). The second exhibit will present the magnetic bubble transport devices that enabled sharing of bubbles. Obvious, the Internet will be highly featured. The remaining exhibits will be determined by history (i.e., our future), but I hope that these exhibits feature the great new ideas, scientific discoveries and electronic works of arts that were enabled by technology. I hope that these new creations display the qualities needed to endure, and I hope that future generations are inspired to build upon these electronic inventions to create new opportunities for all and make the world a better place.
But most importantly, I hope that Augusta Tek gets its own exhibit!
Until next time @gregory_a_baker