You know you’ve gotten somewhere when ancient history does not seem all that long ago.
We ran an editorial the other day from the Bangor Daily News about a message in a bottle. It was a “time traveling” note left by someone who put it inside a chimney he built at a home in Standish, Maine, on Oct. 15, 1975. “May it stand for the next generation to see,” it says, in part. The container in question was a Miller Lite bottle, which appears to have lent a festive if not intoxicating element to the proceedings.
What got me about it were the observations about life back then, when inflation was “very high” and Gerald Ford was president. You have to laugh at these things. I may have socks that were around during the Ford presidency.
Time traveling things, including messages in bottles sent out to sea or left in chimneys, are fun. As well as spanning time, they can travel a long distance. I wrote about one a decade ago that was sent to sea on the coast of Massachusetts and made its way to Portugal.
You wonder, what would we leave now? What would we say about our current moment, and what message would we have for the future? At least part of it would likely not be that much different than what we say to one another today: Hope you are well and staying safe.
We might also want to say: Stay strong, because you’ll need to. It’s certainly worth hoping that whoever finds our bottle 45 years from now will know that when it came to staying strong, we were up to the challenge.
I’ve read that our recovery, or handling, of the coronavirus pandemic will come in phases (Ross Douthat, the New York Times columnist, is one who has offered this perspective). For the last few months we’ve been in the first phase, which is the crisis. The third phase is what you might call the new normal, not exactly getting back to where we were before the pandemic hit, but at least close enough to feel normal.
The second phase, as I see it, is the string of baby steps taking us from phase one to phase three. In Connecticut we’ve just tried to enter phase two. Let’s hope it’s not too soon and we don’t get thrown back into phase one.
There’s reason to be confident, in large part because of the leadership of Gov. Ned Lamont, who has been cautious and reasoned, and has a four-phase approach to reopening the state. He’s taken heat for going back on the plan to reopen salons and barber shops along with the other openings that began Wednesday — but let’s look at it this way: At least Lamont’s not taking hydroxychloroquine, which the president says he’s doing, though you can’t believe a word the president says (his doing, not ours).
Lamont has earned good will with his response to the crisis, and could continue taking positive steps forward by committing to transparency, which is what he said he would do while campaigning. A commitment to open government would be something worth leaving to the denizens of 45 years hence.
What else could we leave as a message? Perhaps that along with the big things, like open government and civil liberties, we weren’t ready to give up on the others you might consider small. Young people still went to the prom, still graduated, were still able to celebrate the moments of life worth celebrating, though in a different way. Maybe celebrating in a different way will make the moments more memorable for the young people of today. Maybe some will have socks that last 45 years.
What else? That we tried our best to find our way, and that we hope it worked.
Reach Jeffery Kurz at 203-317-2213, or firstname.lastname@example.org.