The Abstract Us

When I was a kid, there was a wheat field a few miles west of town that belonged to John S. McAlester and Co. When my grandpa took us for a Sunday drive in his Studebaker Starliner, we cruised for almost half an hour passing those amber waves of grain. Grandpa would put his hand out the window, hold his palm against the wind like a stop sign, and say, “Twenty families used to farm here. There go the Wilsons… and the Knowles… the Wainwrights… the Graves… my old friend, James Casey, raised three generations right here… That’s what used to be.”

Now when Chip and I drive by the same stretch of land, I say, “See all these houses? This used to be one big wheat field. Belonged to McAlester Co. They sold it off, acre by acre, and you could almost see, like a slow time-lapse, rows of wheat turn into rows of houses. That’s what used to be.”

I wonder what Chip will say, 30 years from now, when he drives along this same road? What else will have changed by then?

Wouldn’t it be great if you had to take a class when you moved into a new community? Learn about the land, the culture, the people who came before you. Understand that you are part of a bigger picture. Sure, human society is an abstract painting. But abstract paintings can be as intentional as a Vemeer. You don’t just throw more paint on the canvas. You consider the colors and shapes and patterns that already exist, then add your own to the ongoing Portrait of Us.

Understanding the stories that preceded our own might just make us live a little differently, to consciously shape the stories we will leave behind. And if nothing else, it’d be a lot of fun.

Hmm. I wonder if I could get that on the town ballot. Think I’ll head to City Hall and find out.

23 Comments on “The Abstract Us

  1. They looked at him like he was crazy. But they said he could write a proposal, then try to get enough signatures to put it on the ballot.

  2. Makes me wonder. What will the world be like when we’re his age?

  3. Will the Newton 5 will be a 4D movie theater?

  4. At least 4D. Will restaurants use food replicators?

  5. Will we have transporters, like in Star Trek?

  6. Yeah! People can commute from space in seconds!

  7. Then we could tear down all these condos and plant a forest.

  8. With advanced medicine, we’d have fewer sick people.

  9. Replace all those hospitals with parks.

  10. We could roll back the clock on earth until even ol’ sourpuss Thoreau would be happy. But at the same time, we’re rolling the clock forward. Teleportation would end overcrowding.

  11. Food replicators would end world hunger.

  12. Matter-converters could create everything people need!

  13. And what about AIs? Computers will be self-aware by then.

  14. Right! The first truly new life form since the big show began!

  15. Me, too! I’m all about tomorrow. Live long enough, and see all your problems solved, that’s what I say.

  16. I’m not sure this is what my dad had in mind, but I think this is even better.

  17. Of course it is! The future is always better!