Last Saturday afternoon, while rummaging through sofa cushions, looking for the remote control, turning up silverware, batteries, and pillow fort-building children trapped in a collapse of microfiber rubble, I came upon the idea of doing a time capsule.
A time capsule, as you may know, is a collection of goods or information that communicates something useful or interesting about the time in which it was created. This communication, however, only goes one way, for once you seal it, you can only hope, without ever being certain, that some passerby in the distant future will find it, open it, and explore its contents. If you’ve ever entrusted something to the post office, you know what I mean.
The purpose of the time capsule is to give future generations a sense of how we lived. Although it is impossible to communicate the full measure of our existence-the various YouTube and TikTok videos we mindlessly peruse, the auto-renewing streaming services we can’t seem to cancel, the assorted digital television channels we doze in front of-a time capsule will nonetheless give future generations excellent insights into how we chose to spend our time.
I would like to create my own time capsule, but my reasons for doing so are selfish. Simply put, I want to be remembered. When future people hear the name Matthew Delight, I want them to have an accurate account of the real me, the brilliant Chief Justice of the Supreme Court who kicked the game-winning field goal in Super Bowl LI, twice.
I tried a time capsule once before. Two years ago, in a capsule not to be opened for hundreds of years, I sealed up an assortment of mementos, photographs, and subpoenaed documents. But I had to dig it up when I realized I had dropped my iPhone in it. It’s just as well. No future generation would have ever thought to look for anything in my neighbor’s casket.
In choosing what to put in my next time capsule, though, I will be more selective. One of the things I may include, for example, is a loaded handgun. An unusual choice perhaps, but my motives are pure. In the future, with any luck, humanity may be free of the scourge of gun violence, and my handgun will remind them that it wasn’t always so. Besides, if the gun remains sealed in the capsule for at least a hundred years, that should be plenty of time for the statute of limitations to run out.
I will also include two items of sentimental value, private treasures I have carried with me nearly every day for the last year. Though they will be difficult to part with, I can think of nothing better to express my humanity than my mask and vaccine card. At this point you may be asking, “How can you love something that has been forced upon you by government decree?” And to that I say, “Why not? It worked with my children.”
Speaking of children, my new time capsule will also contain family photos, each of them chosen to convey warmth, affection, love, and togetherness, as well as a copy of Adobe Photoshop, which I used to achieve that effect. It will also contain a selection of thank-you cards from my wedding. I probably should have sent them at the time, pleased as I was to receive aluminum corn cob holders from distant cousins whose faces I could not pick out of a police lineup, but after fifteen years any sense of courtesy or gratitude has long passed. Aluminum? Really?
Not all the items will be so sentimental. Some will be historic. I plan, for example, to include a price list from our local dollar store as well as personal vital records, such as birth certificates, marriage certificates, and plea agreements. I also plan to showcase our era’s capacity for creative expression by including artistic works, everything from kindergarten finger paintings to art school thesis projects. Maybe future generations, with their advanced technologies, will be able to tell which is which.
Lastly, I will include an heirloom that has already passed through three generations of my family. Though it may not seem like much, it means the world to us. I hope future generations find as much value as we have in this sacred piece of parchment on which is written “ntflxpa$$word.”
Of course, all this assumes that a hundred years from now someone will be alive to open the capsule. Living as we do under the constant threat of nuclear war, irreversible climate change, and global pandemics, that is a big assumption. But then again, in a hundred years, maybe humanity will learn to protect the planet, eradicate disease, and establish peace, and so mark the beginning of a new era just in time for Earth to be obliterated by an asteroid. And on that dark note I will seal my time capsule and commit it irrevocably to the future.
Now has anyone seen where I put my keys?