As we embrace a New Year, it is always a toss-up as to whether we are drawn to look to the past to understand our future, or to the future itself. The blank page. The untested waters. The mysterious frontier. Danger and opportunity seemingly mixed in equal proportions within the murky fog a-swirl in that not-so-crystal ball.
It’s within that spirit that I recalled this week a reverie that unfolded several years back while sailing the waters of Lake Gatun midst the Panama Canal. A reverie that attempted to synchronize the muscular optimism at the turn into the last century with the somewhat more tenuous outlook at the turn into this one.
That earlier reverie was tempered by remembering innovations such as the Vienna Secession, Futurism, Fin de siècle, Dada and Cubism – movements that propelled some observers from the nineteenth century into the twentieth – could hardly be said to reflect a stridently cheery outlook. Inversely, the angst and anxiety that oft-times characterize the narcissism of our own here-and-now – trends that have sometimes accompanied our complex journey from the twentieth century into the twenty-first – are profoundly repudiated by the engineering marvels that define this equally muscular New Age.
In truth, the past was never as rosy as we remember and rarely does the future fulfill our darkest premonitions. It’s simply the nature of the human comedy that we so thoroughly believe they do.