• Mallory Garber

Communicating to the Future through Time Capsules

What do those messages say? Are these messages political? Environmental? Social…. “Keep procreating the species”? Or do these people choose to send encouraging messages like little goodwill gift cards to strangers tens of thousands of years from now?

Sometimes, when we do not see the big picture, it’s easy to feel alone. What we often fail to realize is that whether it is our past, present, or future, we are always seeking comfort from those who appear around us. Usually the smallest pieces of advice can get us over the largest obstacles. As silly as it may sound, my grandpa’s favorite rhyme to say was,

“Do your best and forget the rest.”

18 years later, and I still use that quote to get me through a hard test or failed relationships. We often do not realize the impact our words can have on others. That being said, it is important to pass our wisdom along to the future. After we are gone, the only thing keeping our memory afloat is what we have left behind. I don’t know about you, but I want to make sure what I have to say is worth listening to.

Now I know what you are thinking… “how are we supposed to pass along specific messages to people if we won’t be around to do it?” The answer is simple and has been around for generations. Time capsules have been a vital source of communication between the past and the future for quite some time now. An astonishing example of this is the Memory of Mankind. Based in a salt mine in, Austria, this time capsule is set to be opened in a million years storing a thousand of the most important books — all carefully transferred to ceramics.

Much like our thoughts, these books hold information valuable enough to be passed along for centuries. Time capsules give things that are too important to be forgotten the ability to be preserved forever. The organization explains that,

“The Memory of Mankind Foundation (MOM) was founded with the goal of preserving an image of our present far beyond the digital age. For this purpose, ceramic-based data tablets are stored deep in the salt mine of Hallstatt (Austria) in the Memory of Mankind Archive.”

There is something really beautiful in the act of preservation for the future. It shows that the past cares enough for those beyond us to experience a better life with the knowledge we wish we had.

With today’s technology, we are given the opportunity to send messages to the future like never before. Organizations like NotForgotten give people the chance to create personal messages for whoever they want and keep them preserved for over 300 years. When making a time capsule, it is important to keep your audience in mind. Who are you hoping to get to? Your kids? Your kid’s kids? Your kid’s kid’s kids? The world is your oyster! The time capsule could also be for nobody, just serving as a staple of your presence and life. My point is that what we have to say now matters.

If it were me, I would want to speak to my great, great, great grandchildren. Yes, that is a lot of “greats.” By that time, I feel as though enough generations have passed where they might actually need my advice when I am no longer there. I would tell them about the 2020 pandemic, I might talk about the environmental issues we are facing today — tour them around my own town Miami (which might be underwater by then), I would advise them about how to deal with the pressure of building a career, and of course… remind them that they should always wear sunscreen. That goes without saying. There are a lot of things I have gone through where I wish I had known what I know now. While times change, certain lessons always stay the same. It’s like when your mom tries to give you advice on something and you think “well maybe that’s how it was done 20 years ago!” only to realize that is exactly how it has been for well, generations. I would like to think the generations following mine would take up the same values, but if they do not, my messages will be there for them to be reminded.

In some cases, time capsules serve as a safe place for those who are fighting for their own survival. By putting their thoughts and hopes in time capsules, they are securing that their memory is being kept alive. Sheila Gregory, a customer of NotForgotten, explained her reasoning for making a capsule,

“I want to come across as a real person to my descendants, not let them be in the dark about who I am.”

Isn’t that what we all want? To be remembered as a person rather than just a memory? As a cancer fighter and family hobbyist, Sheila made sure her legacy was one to follow with pride.

So much power goes into making a time capsule. It is hard to realize just how amazing they are until you picture someone 100 years from now opening something you wrote, having not the slightest idea of who you were until seeing what you left behind for them.

To put things in perspective, think of a 300 year family tree — how many descendants will you have? If you double the number of ancestors in each generation (two parents, four grandparents, etc.) it is easy to see that after 10 different generations, we have the potential for 1,024 ancestors. 1,024. Out of those people, could you imagine how many of them could benefit from your advice? Or even just find comfort in knowing you?

Looking back, I wish my ancestors had left me with something as personal as their time capsule. It would have given me a chance to get to know them while never actually getting the chance to meet them. All I have of them are a collection of faded photos and a few vital documents. But imagine they could have shared a video with our family— given us a little tour of the house they lived in, shared a bit of parenting advice, perhaps some useless tips about how to care for your teeth, or told us about some the experiences that changed them. I guess some of my ancestors would have lived through the previous pandemic, perhaps it would have been comforting to hear their experience. Anyway, if nothing else, I would have loved to see their facial expressions, or to hear them laugh — to look for any genetic similarities. What a gift. That is why it is important to take advantage of what technology is handing us.

Another way Society has worked to communicate with the future is by KEO. This is the name of a proposed space time capsule carrying messages from the citizens of present Earth to humanity 50,000 years from now, when it would re-enter Earth’s atmosphere. The organizers encourage everybody to gather messages from children, senior citizens, and the illiterate so that every culture and demographic on Earth was represented. Moreover, the organizers were committed to not filtering the messages, stating “all the messages received, without undergoing any censorship, will be embarked aboard KEO.” A concept such as this one to me is so powerful. What do those messages say? Are these messages political? Environmental? Social…. “Keep procreating the species”? Or do these people choose to send encouraging messages like little goodwill gift cards to strangers tens of thousands of years from now? “you’re only here for a good time, not a long time”. Perhaps they sing? This time capsule is set to represent humanity 50,000 years in the past, can you imagine how much will change?

Capsules give people the chance to show how much their presence had an impact. Every life has a story, leaving behind valuable lessons for others to learn from. Time is always changing, making it important for the past to always have relevance. Something that could make your time capsule unique is by sharing your family’s traditions. Every family has their own spin on things when it comes to routine. What if one of those things that makes your family so special could be passed a long for generations? You could literally say “it runs in the family.” As a kid, every night at dinner each member would go around the table and share their highs and lows of the day. Simple traditions like that helped me maintain a positive, balanced mind-set, something that should be passed along for future children in the family.

The past is always interesting to the future, so you can’t really go wrong. If there is anything the pandemic has given us, it is a great story line…run with it! Make the best of these challenging times by fighting back with memories not worth forgetting.



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