December 12, 2011
Last week I was reading a story about the contents of a time capsule that had been encased in the cornerstone of a building for more than 100 years. The story made me wonder when we, as a country, started using time capsules to preserve a bit of history and, if I had the opportunity, what would I put in mine.
According to the World Book Encyclopedia website, the phrase "time capsule" first described a container buried by the Westinghouse Company in 1938 at the New York World's Fair. The capsule is scheduled to be opened in the year 6939. Since I probably won't still be writing for the Patriot when that happens, one of the younger reporters will have to cover that story.
The first known container with a fixed retrieval date was the Century Safe, sealed at the Philadelphia Exposition in 1876 and opened in 1976. The largest capsule is the 2,000-cubic-foot Crypt of Civilization located in Atlanta, Ga. It holds thousands of items including a windmill, books, tools, motion pictures, toys and much more. Sealed in 1940, it's scheduled to be opened in 8113. If Al Gore is right, no one will be left on the planet to open that one.
Since I can't wait for my family to open their Christmas or birthday presents, I doubt any one with my DNA will wait very long to open the Ginger capsule. So I'm going to make it easier on my family and have our first born great-great grandchild open it on their 16th birthday.
So now that I know who, when and why, what shall I place in the Ginger Capsule?
First, since music seems to have the ability to live well beyond the margins of time, I'd like to have a variety from all generations and genres. I'd include one of my mother's old 78 rpm records by Glenn Miller. (For those born after 1970, rpm is the acronym for revolutions per minute.) I'd pick something to reflect the feelings of a generation when being an American meant believing in freedom and our duty to defend that God-given right from a man who killed millions of people just because he didn't like their religion.
I'd also include one of my old vinyl LPs (long playing), a 45 rpm record with the funny plastic disc in the middle, an 8-track and cassette tape, CDs and finally an iPod just so they could see the incredible American ingenuity that made this country dare to dream and reach beyond the limits of our imaginations.
I'd want to be sure and include something from the Beach Boys so my family could better understand a time when teenagers only had to worry about the next school dance, sneaking a beer or a cigarette, graduating from high school and falling in love. A time when the word "Columbine" meant a wildflower and not the reason metal detectors and full time police officers are in almost every junior and senior high school across this country.
There'd also be Bob Dylan, The Beatles and The Eagles records, just to be sure my family understood I came from a generation that believed one voice combined with others, no matter how far apart, could change the collective conscious of an almost civilized world.
Next, just to show how much Americans love to laugh at our own shortcomings, I'd include VHS tapes of the I Love Lucy, Dick Van Dyke, Laugh-In, Smothers Brothers, All in the Family, Cosby and The Golden Girls shows.
Since almost anyone will do anything for 15 minutes of fame and some money, I'd include DVDs and Blue-rays of the unbelievably popular reality shows The Great Race, Fear Factor, Survivor, The Bachelor, America's Got Talent and The Apprentice.
To be sure they knew the value of honesty, I'd include newspaper stories about Richard Nixon, Jim Baker, MCI, Enron, Tyco, Bernie Madoff, Wall Street and the housing crisis.
Just to help them understand how we sometimes had a twisted sense of humor, I'd be sure to put in a Rubik’s Cube, the programming directions for a new DVD player or television remote control, "simplified" federal tax forms and the granddaddy of all irritating modern inventions... the recorded message from an automated customer service phone call.
There'd be books about Martin Luther King, Abraham Lincoln and John Kennedy to help my family appreciate the sacrifices others have made so that we all could live in a world that rewards hard work and believes that no one has the right to deny another human being the right to live free and speak their own mind.
However, if I was limited to just one thing I'd write them a letter. I'd tell them how much I loved my family, believed in my country and stood by my faith in God.
I'd tell them that after all these years I've learned that no matter which generation you're from, there's no conflict so great, battle so violent, pain so devastating or burden so heavy that it cannot be overcome with a strong faith in God, respect for yourself and all other living creatures.
I think I'll put that letter under the Christmas tree instead.