OPINION COLUMNS

The future? It’s now, just like it always was

By Bob Buckel | Published Saturday, December 27, 2014
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George Orwell’s book “1984” portrayed a scary future in which an omnipresent government – Big Brother – waged perpetual war and kept its people under constant surveillance.

It was published in 1949. Who knew, way back then, that it would take us 30 years longer to get to that point?

I’m joking. I think.

Bob Buckel

Bob Buckel

The movie “2001: A Space Odyssey” was the next big future-thing. Released in 1968, it featured a calm, menacing computer named Hal who took over a space mission.

Ha! How ridiculous! That could never happen. No com/000111011010101101010100010011101001100010001 *&^%$#@ZZZZT! Uh, never mind. Computers are nice.

Can I go on? Thanks, Hal.

Child-me was eat-up with the future – particularly as portrayed on our new black-and-white TV. I watched “Lost in Space,” “The Jetsons” and “Star Trek” and became convinced that someday Scotty would be beaming us around while we communicated with tiny handheld devices.

Future humans would travel through time with the nonchalance of a commuter on the Long Island train, and half the people walking around in those groovy rayon uniforms would be from different planets.

Aside from smartphones (which are actually way cooler than those dorky flip-phones Captain Kirk and his crew used) none of that has happened.

Computers? They’re everywhere, but they still work for us, not the other way around. Security cameras? They, too, are everywhere – but we’re still relatively safe in our own homes (meaning the people most likely to violate our privacy are our own relatives).

The moon? Been there, done that, got the rocks. We’re pretty nonchalant about a spacecraft landing on a meteor and a rover drilling for water on Mars – but no one’s beaming anyone anywhere, and as far as I know, man has yet to jump through a wormhole and leave the galaxy.

One of this year’s best movies, “Interstellar,” may be the next one they look back at, a few decades from now, and say, “Wow! They pegged it pretty close!”

Our imaginations transport us into a future that seems to be coming faster than ever, but let me assure you, it is not. Time still unfolds at the same pace it always has.

I know it seems to go faster, like when a basketball game enters the final minute, and the scoreboard clock starts showing hundredths of a second. But time truly doesn’t move any faster now than it did for Granddad, the pilgrims, the pyramid-builders or the mastodon-hunters.

As advanced as we are, we are powerless to speed it up or slow it down.

About all we can do is mess around with daylightsaving time.

Oh, and one other thing.

We can make the most of it. We can live in each moment, cherish the good times, learn from the tough times. We can stop wishing it away.

Some writers call that “nostalgia for the present” – savoring now because you realize it won’t last forever.

In Ephesians 5, Paul called it “redeeming the time” – a more contemporary Bible says, “making the most of every opportunity.”

I like that word “redeeming” – saving it, trading it for something the way Mom used to trade Green Stamps for gadgets like blenders and can openers.

Time is an equal-opportunity commodity. We all get the same amount, every day, and we get to choose what we will do with it.

As far as I know, 2015 isn’t the subject of any scary books or movies. We’ve already made it through 1984 and 2001, and I suspect we’ll survive whatever science-fiction scenario the future holds.

What we have is today. How about we trade it for something of value – a hug, a kiss, a shared movie or book, board game or ballgame, a cuddle or a long, leisurely conversation?

That’s my new and perennial New Year’s resolution, as far into the future as I can see.

Bob Buckel is editorial director of the Wise County Messenger.

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