Physical Foundations

I keep coming back to this thought, it seems…actually, it keeps seeming to bring itself back to me, which perhaps is indication that I should be listening more carefully.

This week, it appeared in the form of a post over at Good Letters that you should take the time to read. The author is making a sound point. I previously had listened, in fact, to the interview conducted by Krista Tippett that Mr. Winters references, and it also launched this thought process into more serious motion.

Is our digital world, by definition, more at risk of being lost than a physical heritage?

In both cases, the thinkers in question speak of writing letters to their children. They argue that there is something more real to be experienced if their child is one day holding a physical letter or journal that they have written, with their perspectives, perhaps, on their children and life and any number of other things. As for me, I think of the photos and videos of mine and Karen’s adventures in our first few years of marriage. I want our child to have these as enormously important history of the family as it continues forward.

Just as Karen prefers physical books over my affinity for ebooks, so too she pines for physical photos. She fears the ease of misplacing digital files, and fears their fragility. However well and however obsessively I back up, she clings to the suspicion that they are only one hard drive failure away from being lost forever. And perhaps she’s right. We experienced a hard drive failure last year that was catastrophic in terms of data loss. Fortunately, our iMac, with a new hard drive installed, was able to easily restore from the backup I religiously make to an external hard drive. In the days it took for the repair to be completed, however…to say I was nervous that something in the restoration process would go wrong would be a severe understatement.

I suppose that this is especially at the forefront of my mind now, as I write this, because the amazing technology that we have created enabled the ultrasound image that revealed to Karen and I today that we are having a little girl. While I have been thinking of my unborn child for some months now, it is suddenly more real. That’s my little girl. I want her to have the memories of mine and Karen’s life together, of our parents’ lives together, after we are gone. That, after all, is how culture is preserved.

Tippett says she printed copies of emails for her daughter, and kept the hard copies to hand down to her later. I think it’s a bit unrealistic to return to days of hand writing letters, but I think that printing emails is a great idea, a great first step. I wonder about how my thoughts will be handed down to our daughter. Will she peruse this blog to trace my thoughts through years of life’s journey? Will she read about grad school? Will she read about when I first met Karen? Will this blog still be accessible? If not, she must have access to these thoughts, because my words are an essential statement of who I am. To know her father, she will have to know my words.

And I realize the weight of that statement, the impact that it will likely have on her, even as I type.

I’m thinking about beginning a physical journal, for her sake. A physical journal, if nothing more that type-written pages. I’m also considering loading up on printer ink and printing every single image that our iPhoto library holds.

Not for me. For her.

For us.

The future, after all, is only as solid as the past it is able to remember.

Photo Attribution: Orin Zebest

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