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All People Matter

Four Ways The Past Can Be Experienced


I own a series of books of old photographs coupled with paragraph-sized captions that describe Cincinnati, Ohio. I lived in Cincinnati for 18 years. The books are printed by Arcadia Publishing. Arcadia has a line of these titles with old pictures of cities across the nation. None, so far, have been printed of Houston.

I enjoy these books. I enjoy thinking about the history of familiar places. It’s helpful to have my own experiences placed between the context of a past I did not see and the inevitability of a future I won’t be part of.

I can think of four ways I interact with the past in Cincinnati. This example can be carried over to many other places and experiences we have all had in our lives. Ideally, these four ways will all connect to paint a coherent picture of my life and the lives of others.

Here are my four ways, I’m sure there are more, to interact with the past—   

1. With books, I can go back before I was born in 1967 or before I arrived in Cincinnati in 1980. This is impersonal, but it can be done at my leisure and allows for reflection.   

2. Returning to Cincinnati once or twice a year, I always drive around many neighborhoods. Doing so,  I experience both a personal past and the broader history of the city and the communities that make up the city. A downside is that this requires the cost of an airplane ticket and a rental car. 

3. Communicating with friends and family on the phone, or by e-mail, I get updates about people and places. Talking to family and friends is always a winner. They often know more than I do. And the mix of personal history played out in the larger framework a familiar city is an instructive combination. Life is a mix of the public and the private.     

4. Through my own memories, which have the advantage of being available anytime and on my own schedule, I can recall what has taken place and try to understand what it means. This works well in tandem with looking at the books.

A downside might be the reliability of the memories. But what can one do about that?    

The above picture is of the Tall Stacks Festival in Cincinnati. As you can tell looking at the boats, Tall Stacks is an effort at mixing the past with the present.

October 14, 2007 Posted by | Books, Cincinnati, History, Relationships | , , , , | 2 Comments