Letters to the Future

Posted by Nick  | 01 Jun 2016  | 0 comments

I recently had my thirtieth birthday. It’s really just another arbitrary number, but “thirty” does seem like such a milestone. I had always wanted to bury a time capsule, so that was my birthday wish this year.

Me, Char, and a couple close friends, Dingus and Lauren, wrote lengthy letters to our future selves, due to be read in thirty years time when we will all be about sixty – the year 2046. The letters included descriptions of what our lives are like presently, and our hopes and predictions for the future. It was a cathartic exercise.

What will life be like in thirty years? How will technology have changed things? How stable will our economies, governments, and climate be? How will we have changed personally? Will we have children? How much loss might we be subjected to during those years? What will the farm be like? Will we even be alive? By writing a letter to your future self, you’re signing a declaration of surrender to ignorance. It feels both unsettling and therapeutic. Come what may!

I did a little research first about the kinds of materials recommended for time capsules. Ideally a stainless steel enclosure is optimal, but that’s only if you’re including trinkets and such. We were only putting paper into ours, so it didn’t need to be very big. It’s important to be wary of any kind of plastic enclosures, since some, like PVC, are unstable. I opted for some polypropylene pipe, which is very stable and designed to be underground (it’s used for transporting water on farms), with polyethylene (another stable plastic) sandwich bags to wrap the rolled-up letters in. Caps were screwed onto the end of the pipe and sealed with silicone for good measure.

I built a rough-and-ready enclosure with treated wood to protect the pipe from thermal expansion and from when we dig it up with spades in the future (or our robots do it for us).

We even went as far as handling the letters with latex gloves. You’d be surprised how much the oil from human skin can degrade things over time. This was a kind of investment, we didn’t want to take any risks.

After the letters went into the bag, which then slid into the pipe along with some silica desiccant and a bag of hair follicles (for cloning purposes), we sealed the tube and entombed it in its wooden sarcophagus. Then came the ceremonial burial.

We lowered it into its one-metre-deep hole, which we dug at the top of our orchard. The trees we’ve planted in the orchard and around the shelter belt will be massive in thirty years. Hopefully their roots won’t have entangled our time capsule too badly.

It was important that it was at least a metre deep, to avoid thermal expansion and potential flooding of the soil.

We then each ritualistically shovelled some earth onto the time capsule, marking the last light it will be exposed to for three decades, and the last time we will see it for three decades, or perhaps ever…

Once the capsule was fully buried, we placed a heavy stone to mark its location. Perhaps soon I’ll make some sort of placard to fix to the fence which displays the burial and recovery dates.

We gazed down at the stone marking, in a way, the burial of our past selves, each of us silently reflecting for a moment on the melancholy and excitement this humbling experience imparts. We are with each waking moment born anew.

Leave a comment