Meaningful pasts: Post #16

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

I particularly treasure major endeavours that were done in the past, such as those in architecture, sculpture, painting, literature such as ‘The Divine Comedy’ by Dante, monuments, archaeological remnants which are numerous in Italy and in Fano, the city I live in: we are proud of the roman wall, the Arch of Augustus which was constructed by Vitruvius (a famous roman architect under Caesar), the medieval walls and the arches that divide the city from the countryside.

However, in our own homes and attics there are pasts that highlight a way of life of our ancestors: beliefs, uses, habits that link us to them (with strong emotional value). I have a pendulum clock, pocket watches, old heaters, and suitcases from relatives that had emigrated and subsequently returned… all of these objects help me reconstruct my life and those of my ancestors. I feel respect and a great admiration for those who created impressive inventions and discoveries from the past, but I also think there is substance in the smaller things of one’s life…

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

There are so many, from all the sorts of weapons, poisons, scientific and technological objects used in a distorted fashion.

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

I believe that oral tradition is significant, what’s passed on from parent to child, languages such as Latin, dialects, proverbs, tongue-twisters, nursery rhymes, fairy tales, fables and their morals, stories told by grandmothers (mine would tell me stories while she was sewing), and also religious traditions and cultural beliefs.

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

Through writing – the written word never dies and it is through texts that we can acknowledge transformations in society. Also through formal education and informal education through the family.

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?

There’s no danger because the values of the past can be critically assessed:

  1. by selecting what is considered good/beautiful;
  2. by constructing the new through the legacy of the past (and learning from errors made in the past);
  3. by not erecting buildings in the name of money, power and success at all costs;
  4. by not constructing a future based on a narcissistic point of view, but for the good of communities.

Female, 60s, retired schoolteacher


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