History is just that : history.
As mindful citizens of the world, one of our goals is to live in the present moment. This is the only moment where reality can be experienced. So why look at images of the past? And why not just look at them, but recreate them so that they appear as if they were just taken?
Dwelling in the past is not the same as reflecting on it.
The lessons we learn can often fade with time, but bringing ourselves back to a critical moment—the explosion of a hydrogen bomb, a monk lighting himself on fire in protest, or even just the fleeting expression of a depression era boy who is scrabbling along from one day to the next with no comprehension of our relatively luxurious lives—can re-ignite our understanding of where we—and others—come from, and give us a deep appreciation of the journey of mankind.
But looking at historical pictures in itself can often fail to create this empathetic response. We have seen them, or images like them, too many times before. Our senses have become dulled. We stop paying attention.
Technology has progressed to a point where it is now possible to infuse such pictures with tingling, explosive newness. Because our brains are wired for novelty—as unfair as it may seem to resort to the “trick” of extreme photo restoration in order to cultivate this response—when we see these updated photos, it has the effect of bringing us, bam, right back to the second the picture was taken.
I know for me, that means I was able to feel a deep and instant connection to the subjects and circumstances of each one. I sat in awe as I scrolled through these images, and felt the weight of history pressing like a firm hand upon my shoulder and whispering in my ear, “Don’t forget.”
It’s true, we should not live in the past, but we shouldn’t forget that it happened either. These are the seeds from which our tree grows. They deserve to be honored.
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Editor: Catherine Monkman