When I was walking home in the early hours of the first day of 2024, a sports car drove by in the lightly falling snow. It was a fine machine. Sleek and built for speed, streetlights reflected in its chrome, headlights flashing, tail lights glowing, heading confidently towards its destination; a vision of the way the future used to be. But the future isn’t like that anymore.
At the start of each new year, I always feel as though I am stepping across an invisible borderline into a strange new reality. As someone once wrote, the past is a foreign country. Well, the future is a different country, too, and I’m not even sure what language they speak there, what forms of currency will be accepted. It is a vast and unknown continent, in fact. The cities are dangerous, there; everybody drives too fast, with dodgy brakes, and all the streets are lined with the haunted houses of the past.
There’s just no telling what we will find in this brave new world. Will there be tidal waves? Mushroom clouds? Who can tell. At least we know for sure that there will be meteors and eclipses.
As with any interesting and potentially perilous journey, it’s essential to consider what to bring along. A notebook is always a good idea, and I always start the year off with a brand new one of those. No matter how weird the trip gets, there is always something worth observing, worth recording. Perhaps there will be miracles and odd moments of joy. There will be celebrations to make note of and funny scraps of conversation to record. Strange happenings to be transformed into stories, poems, jokes. Lots of blank pages for sketches and doodles. Maybe the machines of the Future will soon be doing all of that better than we ever could. But they’re not there just yet.
Another useful item might be a musical instrument of some kind to entertain ourselves during those long futuristic evenings. Woody Guthrie used to have the words “This Machine Kills Fascists” painted on the front of his beat-up old guitar. It’s a noble notion, this idea that music and the human voice can break the spell of tyrants. I like to believe it might even be true.
If you can possibly make room, I would highly recommend packing a small tool kit. I can’t help but think that some repairs will be required at some point on our journey. If we’re ingenious enough, perhaps we can learn to build some cool stuff like pinball machines or rocket ships or brand-new hearts that are filled with hope out of discarded stuff we find along the way.
Don’t be overly practical, though. Other items to consider would be chocolate, a hip flask, opera glasses, galoshes, an extravagant hat, and dancing shoes.
Above all, I think we should all make plans to travel together with the ones we love. It’s always less frightening and far more joyful to walk arm-in-arm through such a strange, dark, beautiful new landscape, whatever we may find there.