Future Historians Look Back

Flash
Jeffrey Bakkensen


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Photo Credit: Greg Fallis

The fairgrounds opened promptly at ten, but at dawn the tail end of the admissions line had already stretched past the tennis courts on Waverley and out into Lake Street, slowing traffic towards the business improvement district. The stalls had been evacuated of champion cows and pigs just the night before, and the smell of something distinctly barnish hung in the air throughout the morning. No matter. The spectators had come to the fairgrounds for enlightenment, and that, they received in spades.

This year’s event, titled Future Historians Look Back, offered the interested an early opportunity to hear from some of tomorrow’s most eminent authorities as they discussed the issues that would enter the annals as definitive of our time. Seminars and panel discussions included “The Lyricism of Gaga,” “Sports as Religion in the Early Twenty-first Century,” and “Economic Policies of the Late Republican Party.” The hay in the livestock viewing areas was trampled underfoot as economists, historians and students of law pushed forward to hear the sage words of our future wise men. One by one, the budding Herodotuses and Thucydideses climbed or were carried up the stepladder to the podium and delivered their kernels of truth to the general audience, which quickly found favorites.

For most of us, the highlight of the morning was a panel of toddling linguists and media scholars discussing the theme “Fin De Si├Ęcle At the Beginning of the Second Millennium.”

L. Kenneth Kind, age eight, dominated the early goings with his position that we have reached not only the end of history, but of art as well. To quote the conclusion of his prepared remarks:

There is nothing new to be said, no social interactions remaining unexplored, no cultural touchstones that have not been discovered to be fraudulent. There is nothing that shocks anymore, and because there is nothing that shocks, there is no humor. Without humor, there is no redemption, and without redemption there is no art. Finis.

Those assembled shivered in excitement to be at the end of something, to view the dissolution of old forms. We stood breathless in our sudden freedom. But it wouldn’t be so easy. Jeremy Peterman, seven, of Swampscott, countered that evolving technology and cultural norms would always introduce new circumstances requiring new creative paradigms; every story in all of history is just adaptation within contemporary frameworks. He in turn was shouted down by a pair of twins in unisex jean overalls, who pointed to the long creative decline in television and film and the accompanying corporatization of the industry. Near the end of our allotted time, Erin Krutz, also seven, drew cheers and more than a few cynical guffaws when she suggested that the decline of formal venues might offer exciting possibilities for lived art, for art as experience, a shared value-making process involving both participants and consumers. She would have kept on, but just then we broke for crust-free peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches, and most of the afternoon was spent napping.

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Jeff Bakkensen was born and raised in Andover, MA, and got his start writing books for and about his favorite stuffed animals. When these failed to draw a wide audience, he moved on to Georgetown University, where he played rugby. When a tragic graduation cut short his athletic career, he moved to Chicago, where he currently works for an educational nonprofit. He anticipates his next move will bring him fame and riches. Email: jeffrey.bakkensen[at]gmail.com

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