Long before mobile phones or even photography, diaries were kept as a way to understand oneself and the world one inhabits. In the 18th and 19th centuries, as secular diaries became more popular, middle-class New Englanders, particularly white women, wrote about their everyday lives and the world around them. These diaries were not a place into which they poured their innermost thoughts and desires, but rather a place to chronicle the social world around them – what’s going on around the house, what they did today, who came to visit, who was born or who died.
Time can now be sliced into slivers as thin as one ten-trillionth of a second. But what is being sliced? Unlike mass and distance, time cannot be perceived by our physical senses. We don’t see, hear, smell, touch, or taste time. And yet we somehow measure it. As a cadre of theorists attempt to extend and refine the general theory of relativity, Einstein’s momentous law of gravitation, they have a problem with time. A big problem.
Our present era is one in which the heart of culture is blowing hard upon a coal of fear, and the fascination is everywhere. By popular consent, horror has been experiencing what critics feel obliged to label a ‘golden age’. In terms of ticket sales, 2017 was the biggest year in the history of horror cinema, and in 2018, Hereditary and A Quiet Place have been record-breaking successes.
Fact-checkers know that in a digital medium, the web is a web. It’s not just a metaphor. You understand a particular node by its relationship in a web. So the smartest thing to do is to consult the web to understand any particular node. That is very different from reading Thucydides, where you look at internal criticism and consistency because there really isn’t a documentary record beyond Thucydides.
When younger generations emerge to challenge the bygone revolutions of their forebears, it’s said to be in the service of a grand teleological arc, an earnest desire to do things better. But this has always struck me as an incomplete picture of how culture works. Sometimes brinksmanship tips toward true disdain, and desires to merely show someone up descend into fantasies of destruction. Can dark, trifling feelings produce uplifting art?
Or even memory towns. The plan is to help those with memory issue – Alzheimer’s and other age-related dementia – in “reminiscence therapy.” The hope? “Dozens of faux ‘memory towns’ will sprout around the U.S. in coming years. Amid a retail meltdown, the malls where teenagers used to hit up American Eagle and Orange Julius could morph into escapist domains for the elderly.”
For generations, the children of Rio de Janeiro – and those farther afield – have been defining themselves and their history at the National Museum. “A former colonial slave traders’ home that was later turned into a royal palace, the building itself was the site of key moments in the country’s history, part of the national narrative, and therefore a place of deep symbolism and pride.” Now it’s almost all gone.