The spring of 1955 was an interesting time. Things were prosperous, at least in America, haircuts were short, and dresses were long.
But two watershed moments occurred, both pointing to the future, both of them linked, both of them also mired in the mores and limitations of their time. Yet they divided up the 20th century into nearly two half-centuries, each filled with its own wonders and challenges.
April 18, 1955, one of the greatest mathematicians and physicists of all time died. Albert Einstein turned the entire world on its head with his theory of general relativity. Time and space were related. Black holes. The speed limit of the universe. Nothing that came after this genuine and innovative idea would be the same. Totally a notion fit for tomorrow.
March 19, 1955, the film Blackboard Jungle premiered. It featured the song Rock Around the Clock by Bill Haley and the Comets. Teens were blown away by the new sound of rock ‘n’ roll. They rioted. They fainted. They finally had a culture and a music set free from their parents. They were looking toward the future.
Einstein and rock ‘n’ roll both believed in the future. They felt a better tomorrow was coming, a future set free from the old. A place in which you are invited to dream and imagine, where the antiquated ideals perish.
The Future Came While We Were Dreaming
Sure, there were neo-futurist dreams of flying cars and house maid robots.
But, the year 2000 really meant unlimited potential in the hands of everyone, the promise of technology, a life beyond the drudgery and the familiar and the tedium.
But most of all, 2000 was a time almost within grasp. It wasn’t so far into the future that it appeared unattainable. Many people alive in 1955 knew they would also be alive in 2000. They looked forward to it. The world was supposed to turn into an amazing place during those 45 years. And it did.
If the year 2000 symbolized the future, we now live after the future. A post-future reality.
Are we still dreaming?
Our future, the future of the Post-Future (does that make sense), is fragmented. There is no magic date anymore. We don’t talk about the year 3000 in the same ways we dreamt about the year 2000. First of all, it’s too far away.
The future is broken into segments because we’re promised certain technologies by the year 2020. Humankind on Mars by the year 2026. The computer singularity, when machines become ‘conscious’, will greet us in the year 2045. And on and on.
But not one single magic date. The future will come in small bites rather than in one big gulp.
Maybe 2000 was never the future, but just a metaphor to help people frame and imagine what it could be.
Rock ‘n’ Roll is dead. What will our next metaphor for the “future” be?