The Art of Remembering: A Hundred Years in the Making
Most days when I wake up I can hardly remember what I was just dreaming about, all the fantastical turns my mind was taking in solving my own personal world’s problems. I’m just too busy, trying to remember all of the items on my to-do list, all the little pieces of work I have to get done, while also remembering to get all the pesky buttons on my shirt before heading out the door. We live busy lives, important lives, lives that we make real and weighted for our own health and usually for the growth of society. But sometimes it’s important that we do remember, even if it’s remembering something that happened when most of us weren’t even alive.
Today, Monday, August 4th marks the centenary of World War I. A hundred years ago today, some of the great world powers of our time were suddenly entangled in a skirmish that would come to be known as The War to End All Wars. Although it may not have ended all wars, it certainly changed the world of war and the world itself in some incredible ways.
In a New York Times article this morning, journalist Steven Erlanger offered this snippet of his piece: “World War I destroyed kings, kaisers, czars and sultans; it demolished empires; it introduced chemical weapons; it brought millions of women into the work force.” It’s hard to write a concise line about World War I — impossible really. There is hardly anything concise about it. The ramifications The Great War had on the world are incomprehensible to most of us. But everything from art and architecture to computers and smartphones have come, not form countries ravaged by conflicts, but from a world, generations, people born from war.
It seems far-fetched to imagine that ideas and conversations we might be having in our very own focus groups here at watchLAB could have rippled out from a single shot echoed and mirrored a millions times over across the European theater. Yet the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand and the Archduchess shifted immigration on a global scale, shaped how we viewed war and safety, and affected the American rise to the forefront of money and power across the globe. The world was utterly changed.
Sometimes it’s hard to remember what we had for dinner last night, so how can I ask you to remember something that happened more than a lifetime ago. Like I said before, we have self-important lives, and if we lived in a world where we didn’t care about ourselves, let alone others, we’d be serving no one, especially not the men and woman who have died in serving our well-being in the present and the future. So maybe the lamps won’t be going out all over America, like they did in Britain tonight at 10 p.m. Maybe Americans won’t be taking a moment of silence to remember the soldiers and civilians who served in the war. But maybe we should. Maybe you, after reading this short piece, can take one second and realize what 100 years has really meant, how far we’ve actually come, even if it’s not quite far enough, and maybe you’ll even think about where the next 100 years is going, and more importantly, if you think future generations will want to be there.
Blake Chastain is a writer and marketer. His obsessions are media, technology, and video games. Blake lives in the Rogers Park neighborhood of Chicago with his wife and daughter.
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