Meaningful pasts: Post #1

This is the first of a number of posts that answer 5 questions I have asked friends, relatives and colleagues. The aim is to find out how the past shapes people’s lives. While the posts may look similar because of the repeated questions, I encourage you to read the answers and share your thoughts. At the end of each post, you will find the gender, decade of age and occupation of the person who responded.

1. What objects from the past do you particularly treasure?

This answer is a personal one in light of the question. By nature I am not a person tied to the past or past events. Rather, I find that I often look to the future (with plans, worries or thinking of upcoming events) and I work very hard sometimes to live in the present and in the moment. Since I am not tied to the past, the objects from the past that I treasure are few. As I thought of them, I realized that they are reminders of people or a specific time in the past.

I still have my high school yearbooks that remind me of a specific time and the people present at adolescence, a very important period that shaped my future.

Going back to childhood, my younger sister had a tremendous place in my young life and was a daily important presence. Other than school, I probably spent most of my time with her. In so many aspects she wanted to do what I did, and since there are seven years between us, I was often in a position of “teacher”. When I had homework, she was often with me and wanted to participate. I still have some drawings and doodling she made as a young child when she wanted to write like me (she later became an academic and earned a Ph.D!). The deliberate and patient scrawls imitated my own hand movements and although they do not form letters, they have the size and pen movements and loops that look like handwritten words. I found a few of these in old books, and while the books themselves were discarded, I kept certain pages of scrawls representing her early “work”.

A few albums of treasured photos including my wedding pictures are also among my most treasured objects, representing people and a time that is past, as is my accordion, which I think I will never sell for sentimental reasons, reminding me of the beginning of a lifelong love of music.

Other than these, I have very few things that I have deliberately kept as treasured objects.

2. Do you think that some objects from the past are best forgotten?

The way the question is raised makes me think that we are referring to objects that have a dark history towards humans such as war items, torture items or reminders of oppression or death from unnatural causes like conflicts or religious persecution. In this context, I believe they are not best forgotten; rather, they should be viewed as part of human history and preserved as such. A dark past is still a past. We must accept the human race with all its flaws and maintain its history, both good and bad.

3. What intangible pasts (e.g. customs and languages) are meaningful to you?

Meaningful to me means a personal answer, so I would say my Italian heritage (language, history and culture). It represents a person’s past and roots, so where we come from should be meaningful to all of us.

4. How is it best to preserve these intangible pasts?

I believe that preserving our ancestors’ language, history and culture can be achieved through our children, but in a country like Canada with much diversity, this is a very challenging task. Modern life in this century also means that not everyone has children, increasing the challenge. We can also consider written testimonials and preserved documents, but I think these options are seldom chosen in the modern world we live in. In my view, many intangible pasts are unfortunately being forgotten with time.

5. If we save more and more objects and intangible pasts, is there a danger that there will be too much past in the future?

Because of my answer to question 4, I think the amount lost is greater than the amount saved, especially in modern times. As time goes by, efforts need to be made to preserve history. In light of space constraints, not every object needs to be kept; rather, a small number of representative objects can be retained for each era. I do not believe that we would consider that there is too much past in the future. All items, objects or intangible elements, represent human history and as humans, we should all care about preserving our history for future generations.

Female, 40s, writer/editor.


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