So we stood up from our comfy seats in the movie theatre the other evening and did that mental shakedown while the credits rolled, back into the real world from the reel* world of the big screen, and a sensation of giddiness and gratitude popped in me, over this one thing: I’ve lived long enough to have a span of history available to me. I can look back, and it’s a view, like from a hilltop over a valley. I mean, the valley is a decent distance and it’s a pleasure to see it.
The movie was “The Post,” and I remembered those times, remembered the people Katherine Graham and Ben Bradlee and Daniel Ellsberg, and President Nixon of course, remembered reading Graham’s autobiography, Personal History, remembered from my first foray into journalism at a national Mennonite magazine how type used to be set with metal, etc. And I felt this remembering’s capacity to summon other memories alongside, and before and after. I could reach along a line.
I can look back and it’s a view.
I think I’m trying to describe a store of knowledge that seemed in that moment a possession to appreciate, to roll in my hand like a beautiful marble, not merely for nostalgia’s sake, but because it’s mine and I still have it. And not believing for a minute that this store of knowledge is thorough or detailed enough—it’s simply not ever possible to pay enough attention in the moment—but, to mix my metaphors again, there’s a span to it by now. That’s what felt happy and significant to me.
*Note: I do know that movies don’t come on reels these days, but since my memories of movies started with film strips in junior high…