A Living Time Capsule 12/6/20

Thoughts by Richard Bleil

Would it surprise you to discover that I often, and still, think about what I would do if I had a family? I have no children, and at this age the odds are that I never will, but I’ve often thought about what I would want to do if I did. What kind of father would I be, and what would I want to give to my children? For example, I believe that spirituality is a critical part of anybody’s life, and yet I would never want to force my religion on my children. Instead, I would want them to decide on their own. As such, I would want a space or room in my house dedicated to spirituality, with books on various faiths and religious philosophies and routinely talk about them with my children. Instead of going to a church on Sundays, maybe we could have a family discussion on various faiths. If they choose to join a church, or indeed if they become atheist, I would only wish that the decision of which path is the right one for them is their own.

No, not just faith. I would want regular family game and fun nights, and meals together. Like with my family, I have no intention or desire to tell you how you should raise your family, but again, I’m hoping that my thoughts might inspire some ideas for you. In that vein, it is my humble opinion that too many families give up far too many opportunities to interact and develop a relationship. It might sound odd, but my family was like this. We would hardly speak at dinner, and after supper we would crowd around the one and only television in the house and never say another word to each other. Compare this with my adopted Boston family where the evening meal would last for at least two hours each night, where we would not just eat but actually visit and talk.

As my mind wandered through what I would like to make as part of my family (all in all a wasted effort), I had a very interesting idea for a family project to help strengthen the relationship with family elders. The idea is simple enough; a book wherein all family members, including the extended family, would be invited to write messages for future generations. There would be no limitations on what, or how much, each person could write but the idea is that it is written to those not born yet. The book would be passed from one generation to the next, becoming something of a living heirloom.

There would be some rules. First, it would be on paper. The reason is because technology changes too quickly and is often not “backwards compatible”, so to ensure its survival it would have to be on a medium that has already and undoubtedly will stand the test of time. Second, any family member is free to make any entry they like, as often as they like, but nothing can ever be deleted or taken out. That means that people need to carefully consider what they put in, since anything written in anger or spite will likely only make them look bad to future generations. The book would not be intended as a gossip project, but rather as words of wisdom for people to tell future generations who they were, and what they’ve learned.

Certainly, this would raise some controversial entries, especially for future generations. For example, not that many generations ago, slavery was a normal part of everyday life. When that came to be questioned, many people had strong feelings both for and against emancipation. Such a book started then would surely have included entries that by today’s standards would be completely inappropriate. But such thoughts and opinions, for better or worse, would be a part of our history. Facing such ugly truths helps us not only understand our past, but also protects us from such ugliness in our future.

Of course, you can’t really think about an idea like this without wondering what you would write in such a book yourself. I don’t like writing so I would probably pass. I’ve never told anybody my opinion and never written anything that I don’t have to. And hopefully you’re chuckling right now. I always leave comments open on my posts, but it’s rare that anybody actually makes a comment. I’ll be honest; I hope this post, in particular, will be an exception. What would you write in such a book to future generations in your family?


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