February 20, 2014

The Value of Bygone Futures

The history least written about is the lives and deaths of plans, hopes and dreams, the projected narratives fulfilled unsuccessfully by history's so-called losers. Whether this means unremarkable commoners or less fortunate elites, it's astounding to contemplate how many visions were longed for and fought for, and how they impacted the world as much by their glorious potential and promise perhaps as by the negative precedent being set when those anticipations ultimately became stifled, or stillborn, or were actively crushed. 

But the opportunity here is not merely to balance traditional views or to ensure everyone's stories receive equal paper and ink. The greater opportunity is rather to let these perspectives enhance our understanding about the past as it was, as it was, as it more fully was- the grand lived experience of everyone, all at once, striving together and competing against one another, each with visions and plans, each reacting and adjusting, with everyone adapting to the raging storm of an ongoing dynamic that was larger than any one set of expectations, and yet stronger for being comprised of them all. 

The past is littered with unrealized futures but they deserve more than lament or counter-dominance nostalgia. The human condition is that to live in the present requires being somewhat absorbed in one or more possible futures. Thus, alternative visions of history's losers aren't just something to pine for or marvel about. Retrospected into past individuals' self-awareness and outlook, the non-past becomes part of actual history.

The dreams of one group were the nightmares of another, and to reconstruct those competing projections is to gain perspective and understanding about the interior and exterior lives of *all* the players who have passed from the stage, whether anyone since might declare some to be winners or not.

Anon then...

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"If I have ever made any valuable discoveries, it has been owing more to patient observation than to any other reason."

-- Isaac Newton