Lest They Forget


The remains of an old tree house I built as a child are highlighted by the sun. I can remember starting that project while the cabin I write from within today was being built, when the world seemed like it would always be the same, almost always.

I've passed that old tree and what remains of my treehouse, located next to the cabin, and thought about why one fell apart and one still stands. The simple answer is that I did not use long enough nails. The more elegant answer comes from some advice my father once imparted to me. If only I had understood then, what I understand now.

My father once told me, when I was learning to drive, that I had to learn to see further ahead as well as what was right in front of me in order to avoid accidents. It was a fault of mine when I was younger, a fault I still sometimes revisit: not looking far enough ahead. 

That’s really the problem with living in the “now,” isn’t it? When a society doesn’t work toward a long term future it ends up with only short term solutions and short-sighted vision. Things break down before they should; structures fall apart, there are many “accidents.”

Without learning from history, age and experience is all we have. When we don’t truly listen to the wisdom of our elders, we end up repeating their mistakes. I should of used longer nails in that old treehouse, I should have been looking further down the road if I wanted to build something that would last. 

It is a reminder to me that we can be children at any age, be this as individuals or as a society. What we should know doesn’t always line up with what we think we understand or are thought to have understood. When I look around today at many of the products being manufactured and structures being built, the chemical waste being shoved in the ground and into the air, it no longer looks like I live in a country that is in it for the long haul but is in it for the profit of the now, and it concerns me greatly.

As I begin to make plans to rebuild that treehouse with a new generation I think about what wisdom I will try to impart in such a way they will remember. I will try to look further down the road with them as well. So that perhaps generations I will never know will be able to enjoy the lessons I will leave behind, just as my father did for me: lest they forget.