A service has been invented through which you can send messages to people in the future. To whom would you send something, and what would you write?
I would send a message to somewhere in the middle-distance with a reminder not to forget. We have poor memories, we human beings, and it would be a real shame should our descendants lose sight of things which we hold dear or which mark us a who we are. (I would dearly love to receive a missive from ancient times with a note about what of their culture was the most significant and what we can happily discard to the wastes of time.)
There are lots of pieces of cultural interest that I would remind the future about. Music, film, TV shows, stereotypes, jokes, clothes fads, vehicles, books, and so on. But this year, particularly, it would be prescient to remind folks in the future of something we still remember every year: the First World War.
A lot of the media narrative around the centenary this year is that we’re losing sight of the importance of WWI, and it’s generally accepted that it would be a huge shame to do so. I don’t know how true it is that we’re forgetting the war, but I do know that it would be a bad thing if we did. So in my message to the future I would say, don’t forget the past.
With proud thanksgiving, a mother for her children,
England mourns for her dead across the sea.
Flesh of her flesh they were, spirit of spirit,
Fallen in the cause of the free.
Solemn the drums thrill: Death august and royal
Sings sorrow up into immortal spheres.
There is music in the midst of desolation
And a glory that shines upon our tears.
They went with songs to the battle, they were young,
Straight of limb, true of eye, steady and aglow.
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted,
They fell with their faces to the foe.
They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old;
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.
They mingle not with laughing comrades again;
They sit no more at familiar tables of home;
They have no lot in our labour of the day-time;
They sleep beyond England’s foam.
But where our desires are and our hopes profound,
Felt as a well-spring that is hidden from sight,
To the innermost heart of their own land they are known
As the stars are known to the Night;
As the stars that shall be bright when we are dust,
Moving in marches upon the heavenly plain,
As the stars that are starry in the time of our darkness,
To the end, to the end, they remain.
– Laurence Binyon