What if you wanted to send a message to someone in the future. Would you need a time machine? Would you have to reverse the polarity on your deflector array to transmit a message through a supernova? Maybe you would need to harness the power of a black hole to energize the system.
That might not even solve all your problems. After all, sending a message into the future can be a tricky business. What could make sure that it didn’t degrade as it passed through the space-time continuum? The technology could break down. Human error or human limitations could prevent the message from being transmitted. And because language and culture change significantly over time, our words and syntax could be difficult to understand by those in the future.
Yet if these difficulties could be overcome, who would you write? To yourself in five years? To your children in fifteen years? Grandchildren in fifty years? To those living five hundred years from now?
What would you write? Your hopes and dreams? Your hard-won wisdom? Stories from your life of sadness and joy? Or just the funny thing that happened today?
It wouldn’t have to be profound. The very commonness of our letters to the future can profoundly communicate our bonds as humans across time and culture.
What can encourage us in this rather daunting project is that people have been sending messages to the future for almost ten thousand years. Some of those earliest messages scratched on clay tablets were very commonplace—a shopping list, a record of livestock sold, a recipe for beer.
We also have records of how teachers taught students to read and write five thousand years ago. They used some rather sophisticated techniques (both semantic and phonological) and unsophisticated (the cane).
But wait, there’s more. Two and a half thousand years ago Homer, Confucius, and Isaiah sent messages to the future. From hundreds of years past Dante, Scheherazade, and Shakespeare still speak to us. More recent messages to our day come from Hemingway, Achebe, Borges, and Solzhenitsyn.
Writing and reading are so commonplace we forget how almost magical the whole process is. We can receive and send ordinary and exceptional stories as well as knowledge across thousands of miles and hundreds of years with people we have never met and who may not know our language.
And what technology shall we use for this? While our words can easily be multiplied thousands of times digitally, ink on paper may still be the most likely to survive into the next millennium.
Today, then, read a message for the future that was written long ago. Today, write that those in the future might know you and as a result know themselves better.
Credits: Pixabay eli007 (black hole); Pixabay Pexels (writing),