Sunday, March 22, 2020

I Speak For The Dead

It's always a dangerous thing to attempt to speak for others, but sometimes the attempt must be made. Those who have a voice must speak out against the injustices perpetrated against those who have none. People need to speak out against problems even when the victims themselves are unaware. Just because someone does not have a voice does not mean they have nothing to say.

As for me, I feel I must speak for the dead.

I feel the need to give voice to those who have passed on, our elders who are no longer around to give us their wisdom.

It is risky, channeling the voices of those who raised us, those who guided us through our early years and shared with us their principles and beliefs. It is even harder to attempt to speak for those we have only heard about, those who passed out of existence before we were ever born. And yet there stories were passed on to us, at least parts of them. I can only approximate what they would say, but I feel they would want me to make the attempt. Their lives had meaning, their experiences can guide us even as we make our way through a world quite different than the one they knew. 

I see many of the things my parents tried to teach me differently now that I am approaching the age I knew them to be. Some of what they told me makes more sense now, some of it has not proven to be wisdom. I do not judge them, they did the best they could to point me in a positive direction. But they did a good enough job that I would dearly love to be able to talk to them now, to hear their opinions on the issues I am facing and the issues our society is facing. Most of us think we'd have a good idea of what our parents would say if they were around today, but I’m guessing for most of us our understanding of what our parents believed was fashioned by our younger selves, that if we were able to speak with them now our understanding of what they were trying to teach us would grow deeper and would better be able to guide us in the present.
And for me, at least, I would love to hear their opinions of the society in which we live now. I’m guessing it would be different than what we’d expect, because we are creatures of our current environment and they were creatures of theirs. I can’t help thinking that if we would show what we consider to be modern marvels to many of our ancestors, they would consider them abominations. If we were to show them our water parks, they would ask “But where are the open fields, where are the woods?”
We are in an era where the present is constantly with us, where we are unable to touch the timeless because the outside world has infiltrated our homes. Newsmen and advertisers, social media and video games are working from within our places of sanctuary, demanding our attention, and while we connect with these electronic devices, we are disconnecting from any link we once had with our past, with our ancestors, and with the perspective that those of another era might be able to give us.
I challenge you to step out of the present for a moment. Find an old magazine where the pictures look different, where the color scheme is not what you’re used to. Grab an old novel and really feel where the author was coming from in an era that once wrote letters and waited days and weeks for a reply. Seek to understand a different culture, which after all is really your culture, your heritage.
Watch an old movie, where most store managers were actually store owners, where people went shopping in a dress shirt and tie instead of pajama bottoms. You don’t have to agree with the way everything was back then but you should at least attempt to understand it. And don’t watch a new movie that takes place in another era, because it will be filled with the biases of our own age.
Visit an antique store or a museum, gaze upon the tools people once used. Gaze upon an old lamp and consider how not only the technology but the perspective on how things were made was so different.

Gaze at an old picture, and see what it can tell you. Who were they, what would they say to us, what did they know that we did not?
Get connected to those who came before you. Because it is only in knowing who they were, the good and the bad, that you will have any real understanding of who YOU are. Pour through your memories, reflect upon what you can remember of them, reappraise what you understood when you were young and permit yourself to see the past in light of the present. Do this until you feel you now understood them better than you ever did before. Then let them speak through you. Their voices deserve to be heard.

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