The past never really goes away
The past is always with us. It is never gone. We simply don’t think about it. It gets lost in the minutia. But there it is.
Take an invention used by man for seven millennia — the wheel. First used for making pottery, the wheel later ground grain into flour. The Egyptians pinioned it onto chariots and won an empire. The chariots are long gone. Yet, the wheel remains an ever-present force in our lives. Try driving a car without wheels.
We are dependent on the wheel. We use it on anything that moves over land. We use the wheel on carts, toys, planes, trains and automobiles. In our homes we use the wheel in our computer mouse, in cabinet drawers, and even how we cut our pizza.
The past permeates our lives. Here, in our present, we use the Gregorian calendar, the English alphabet and Arabic numerals.
Without the Gregorian calendar, how would we get to work or the wedding on time, plan the next Super Bowl party, or know when to watch the skies for the Neowise comet? Our lives are ruled by the calendar.
With numerals 0123456789, we can go anywhere, calculate and engineer anything. We built Hoover dam, searched the Titanic, and sent the Cassini space probe to Saturn. As part of our daily lives we swallow 80mg of aspirin, add 1 cup of brown sugar, screw in a 100-watt light bulb, and buy 15 gallons of gas. Numbers make the boundaries of life limitless. Without 0 to 9 nada.
With the English alphabet we can talk to the doctor, read the recipe, tell the attendant how much gas, comprehend the newspaper, discuss a novel and tweet a message. The possibilities are endless.
Someone in the past designed and built the house we sequester in during the pandemic. Every object we touch — our clothes, toothbrush, TV, cellphone, remote, drone, robot — is here because people dreamed it, designed it and delivered it.
Edison dreamed of lighting every home. Ford dreamed of every person owning a car. Gates dreamed of every home having a PC. And we do. From the past comes the present, which forges the future.
Our lives are so interwoven with these inventions we literally can’t function without them. Without numbers, the alphabet and electricity, how would we call our mother?
As most high school students have whined in history class, “When am I going to use this?” The answer is every day. Every time we plant our butt in a chair, slump on our jacket, lace up our Nike running shoes, or slurp a latte. There it is, the past squarely planted in our present. We don’t think about it.
The past gets ignored, dismissed and taken for granted. But it is never, ever gone. The past is always with us.
Zee Nickerson lives in Medford.
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