Friday, January 27, 2012

What's in your capsule?

With the recent discovery of a time capsule in the Maple Leaf Gardens, Toronto, I'm feeling a little nostalgic and inspired. Why? See, the owner of the Gardens took a handmade copper box, filled it and hid it in a cornerstone wall back in 1931. A well guarded secret, Smythe took it to the grave with him. Eighty years later, as the Gardens undergoes a transformation, a worker accidentally stumbles on this piece of history. News spread quickly and many couldn't help but feel curious. What on earth could this box contain? At a time when the world was deep in a depression, what relics could capture the essence of that time?  The box was opened and inside were newspapers and booklets, reflecting the establishment, city and what was happening on the day the box was buried.  Kind of things you would expect to find.  What has everyone stumped is a small ivory elephant. Yes you read correctly. This item is what has caught everyone's interest.  Why? What does it mean? Is there some message? The public turns to the Smythe family hoping to get answers, but you know what? They haven't a clue.  They are speculating just like the rest of us.

People have been making time capsules for thousands of years just in different forms. From the Egyptians preparing tombs, kings or wealthy merchants burying documents and momentos, to someone who wants to preserve information for generations to come,  The most notable is the Crypt of Civilization which contains countless items that depict this era. I think it is a really neat thing to have the privilege to open a time capsule.  To have an opportunity to get a glimpse of a time through someone's eyes. What they chose to tell their story.  Because that's what it is, a story.  Now, this particular time capsule appears to be more a means of maintaining historical accuracy, just in case, documents or newspapers were not preserved. The ivory elephant though is a personal message.  Unfortunate, that it was not accompanied by a note. Maybe it was meant to inspire conversation. I guess we'll never know.
Time capsules to me, are snapshots of life. What we treasured, feared, dreamed, achieved...If I were to prepare a time capsule, I would put in photo's from each year of my life all inscribed with details of the year, events and people both on a personal and global perspective. Then I would carefully select items like a piece of jewellery passed down from generations, a worn out piece of clothing, a book, lock of hair, something I made or wore every day.  And as much as we are all in the technology today, everything would have handwritten notes. Each item, each note, weaving a tale; a chapter in the long line of human history.

We take for granted that all the information of our generation will be there, in abundance, for future generations. But things happen and stuff gets destroyed, lost or forgotten. As far back as humans walked the earth, when they recognized their mortality, I believe they tried to find ways to tell their story for their children, grandchildren and so on. Markings on walls, wood or stone that could validate one's existence. As the years pass, things have become more sophisticated. Containers of all shapes, sizes and materials designed to hold those items that reveal who we were and what our lives were like. Regardless of whether it is a picture etched on a cave wall or a copper box, the goal is the same, to leave the intangible key to our minds and hearts.

So think you might want to have your own time capsule? Don't think too long. Time has a way of slipping by, memories blur and before you know it, you have no more time.

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