Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Self-Portrait Tuesday: Personal History, Week 5

The Paper Trail It used to be that all but the most wealthy or well-known of people might be born, live a full life, and die without leaving much more of a record of that life than a couple of lines in the family Bible, an entry in the local church baptismal records, and perhaps a mention or two in a census or tax record. The main record of their time on earth existed in the memories of those who knew them and cared for them. But these days nearly every person's life is documented from the day we're born until the day we die, and many, many of the days in between. Birth certificate, school records, diplomas, marriage license, driver's license, passports, published works, and much more - it all forms a trail allowing anyone who cares to look to connect the dots and form a picture of the path of my life so far. It's a bare-bones picture perhaps, but still...there it is for the world to see. Is all this documentation of our lives a mere record, or is it an anchor and chain? It says to those who come after me, "I was here. I lived. I learned. I moved. I created." But does that mean that without the paper trail I would disappear forever? It makes me think of the legend of the Manitou, who are sustained by human belief. If humans no longer believe, the Manitou start to fade away, as if they never were. How many things in our lives would become nearly insurmountable problems if our existence wasn't acknowledged by a network of computers and the records they generate? Am I more than just my paper trail? Of course I know I am. But I hope I never have to prove it to a faceless Bureaucracy. "Paper Trail" (clickable if you want to see it larger in a new window) SPT, Personal History, Week 5