Do you ever sit back and wonder what the bits and pieces of our modern lives say about what it means to be human? What we as people hope for, desire, despise, and value? The basic, nuts & bolts needs and assumptions we’re using to build our lives as individuals and as a culture?
Archeologists use the artifacts left behind by a civilization to guess what that civilization considered important, what they believed, and what they desired to achieve. An unearthed scrap of pottery can reveal a lot information. Everything from technological advancements, to economic conditions, to the ideals of a culture can be reflected in the things they made, used, and left behind.
Such artifacts are valuable because they have both a function and a meaning. They do something for the person that used them and they say something about the people that made them. Sometimes the function and meaning of these objects are closely related. Sometimes they were quite distinct.
Artifacts don’t have to be buried in the soil to be telling indicators of a culture. You don’t have to dig in your backyard for artifacts — just dig in your closet. Clothes from the 1970’s aren’t really that old in the grand scheme of history. But to our modern eyes the tie-dye, polyester shorts, and Chuck Taylors of that decade are distant from us today. They are a reminder of the spirit of the times that inspired these fashion artifacts. A spirit that’s somehow similar but very different from the spirit of our contemporary times.
Artifacts don’t even have to be old. In fact, the clothes I’m wearing right now are artifacts that say something about me personally and my culture. We all know this. We know that what a person wears on their bodies is an expression of what’s in their minds and on their hearts — a small symbol of who they are. We check out each other’s artifacts all the time. That’s one reason why brand names are important to us.
So, looking at our clothes is an easy way to sit back and wonder what the bits and pieces of our modern lives say about what it means to be human. What about the other things? Maybe sit back, have some fun, spot a random object and try to think about what that thing says.
That’s a conversation I could learn a lot from.