Wednesday, August 02, 2006

What history may come

I would not be surprised if a few thousand years further down the road, bits and peaces of the greatest fiction of our age will turn up in official history. Many seemingly credible records of our time are likely to survive as accepted facts many eons hence. Think of all the wonderful movies we will leave behind, think of the total mixup of these movies with tons of documentaries and filmed reconstructions? Who will be able to tell the difference between fact and fiction for every one of these accounts of the 20th and 21st centuries?

I don’t believe we will actually be able to really influence this. Even in our time we live with legends of the past which we readily wish to take for real. We might be capable of scratching the walls of old tombs and caves to correct – or confirm – these legends to some degree, but we don’t really have an interest in proving the legends right or wrong. We rather continue to retain their credibility and ‘truth’ – for our own sake. Take the Bible. Take the Holy Grail and the Da Vinci Code.

And even as our recent history moves on to the realms of a more distant past, we can already feel the process of history molding it to fit the needs of future generations for clear and convincing history. History itself is almost by definition a process in which both fact and legend find their proper place.

So let’s have a look at the great legends, the great stories of fiction of our own age.

There was Superman. He was a bird, no - he was a Boeing 747. At any rate he could fly. Clark Kent nearly replaced the Messiah Jesus, that is until Mel Gibson set it all right with the Passion of the Christ, just before St. John Paul II died. Most likely people will find a reddish star somewhere on the fringes of the Milky Way with remnants of an ancient planet resembling Krypton long before they will find the first planet with Earthlike life.

There wasn’t a Third World War. After Hitler came Darth Vader in five successive stages of a Galactic War. Luke Skywalker was the Winston Churchill of our age.

And what about little bits of twisted ancient history: wasn’t it Russell Crowe who killed the Roman Emperor Commodus?

Those who have seen the Libertine with the Earl of Rochester playing Johnny Depp, will remember that in 1675, golly, the promiscuous King Charles II said “what the fuck!”

Most clearly the celebrities of our time replaced the ancient knights and nobility. Marilyn Monroe, Brad Pitt as Joe Black, Scarlett Johansson who in real life was painted by Vermeer. was it exactly?

We cannot let history pass just as we let it pass. It may perhaps be wise to include clear records of fact and fiction in our legacy for posterity. But will even we agree on the right label? What do we consider legend or truth ourselves?

I for my part have never believed that mankind really reached the moon. Why, it was Tom Hanks! And wasn’t he just an actor?


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