Notes From a Monument

Tuesday, August 9, 2011 / 8:34 PM

"Is it weird that this is so new?"

Dave posed this question as we walked along the "Garden of Remembrance" in Seattle. The memorial wall was divided by wars and engraved with names of local fallen soldiers. We stopped at the newest addition to the wall: Iraq-Afghanistan. When you run your fingers against the names on this section, you can't help but note how clean it looks. To the right, the names of the Vietnam War have dulled from decades of harsh Seattle weather. What was once "present" has been replaced by a new and unfortunate battle.

History is constantly being added to. This is not a novel concept, but it seems to be groundbreaking when you're standing somewhere that holds a story, when you walk somewhere where millions have before. We are adding to the history of places and things, and that just feels...big. It's crazy to think about. It isn't just our own story we are affecting as we live; it is the world's.

Daunting. Scary. Weird. Everywhere we walk, others have walked it before and others will continue to walk it long after we pass through. Everywhere we sit, eat, talk, breathe... "Sometimes I wonder if all we do is just live lives people have already lived," Cortney wrote to me earlier today. I wonder that too.

Being in DC and surrounded by history every corner I turn is a strange and unfamiliar experience. Irvine was a city with a buried and convoluted history. In Irvine, I could stand in the spot where Chancellor Aldrich led UCI's first protest, but it seems to be a moment in history very few care to care about. Here, you can stand in the spot where Martin Luther King shared his dream, and here, you can circle the shelves of Thomas Jefferson's library collection. It's different. It's still the past, it's still history, but it feels...different.  This isn't to say that Irvine's history is unimportant. We all value different things, and I think what I'm learning is to value the beauty that comes with the privilege to exist in a world with such a rich background--a background none of us can ever truly know everything about. It's like with people: we should take the time to appreciate the small details of a person's life as well as the major things that make them who they are.

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  1. One of the oddest things about visiting a tribute to the past is realizing how we will be the past someday... I spent my afternoon in a castle built in 1462. The soldiers who ate their meals in the main guard, the lady who wore a beautifully preserved beaded gown, the guests who stayed in the guest quarters- they're long gone, and their house is being tramped up and down by tourists. What will happen to the places significant in our lives?