The test of time
Of all the things that we labor upon, how many will endure even for a while after we have gone? Which will stand the test of time? Those that built the great pyramids, carved the faces upon Mount Rushmore, erected the Statue of Liberty or the Eiffel tower certainly left behind inspiring works that will endure for a relatively long period of time.
For most of us, designing and constructing grand monuments are just not in the cards.
If we consider what we do in our jobs, it becomes so obvious that little of what we do lasts very long at all. My father worked designing textile equipment, but the plant has long been bought out and the work moved elsewhere. The lifetime of consumer products is even less, going from “must have” to obsolete in just a couple years. In what seems to be an exponentially accelerating world of the last 100 years, about anything that isn’t as fundamentally universal as a brick is on it’s way out and will leave little evidence of it’s passage. For those that work digitally, with few exceptions, the relevant lifespan of our efforts is measurable in just hours and days.
What, of the things we could leave our mark upon will outlast us? Perhaps family heirloom items, that remain universally functional? A ring. Maybe a quilt. An oak table. Antiques retain the essence of what they were when they were first made. Tables still hold things, just as they have done for hundreds of years.
My father- in-law, refinishes furniture in his spare time, and has really become quite good at it. From an outside perspective, it seems to be a combination of knowledge, technique, and a lot of patience. While it’s not high glamor, I know that he takes pride in his efforts, and as a result, pieces like this simple table will be around for many more years.
I point this out, as I find it ironic that the more technology accelerates our lives and capabilites, the more temporary things become. Lower technology, simple, “old school” things will endure for longer spans of time, and perhaps carry a higher average worth over their life span. This table might have been $50 new, probably was worth about that in the condition in the picture on the left, but might now bring several hundred in it’s restored condition. In another ten years, even fifty years, likely it will be worth the same if not more. By comparison, a top of the line laptop in 1995 cost about $8000. How much would you offer for that same laptop now, with 486 processor, Windows 95, and a 9.6″ color screen? How about a big 25″1977 color console TV? They were impressive and expensive when new, but quickly faded away to virtual worthlessness.
Of the things that we touch, that we create or alter, which ones will exist as long or longer than we do? Which will still be relevant in twenty, fifty, a hundred years?