This Present Is Past and Future

Videotapes and a digital hard drive

They say robots dream of electric sheep. Families dream digitally and analogously.

I’m still waiting for one Christmas gift to arrive. Actually, I still have to pick it up from a store. And it’s a gift for the whole family, including me.

It’s a hard drive that will contain the digital versions of 8mm family movies from the earlier days of the Schmitt family–when I was growing up. This gift will also contain VHS home movies that I took of the next-generation Schmitt family, when our daughter Mary was growing up with Eileen and me. Also included are movies that family members took of our wedding day, on their own VHS cameras. Perhaps Eileen and I could have hired a professional videographer to capture our wedding ceremony and reception back then, but it never occurred to us.

I can hardly wait to see this collection. I can’t say I will rush to view all the hours of all those films in their new format, but it will be exciting to possess–and to present to our family as a gift of the past that will endure into the future.

The past is a great gift. In our family’s case, it’s an alternative to those websites that tell you your family’s history and even give you a sense of your identity through your DNA. This digital present will not be cheap when I pick it up from our local camera store, but it will probably be cheaper than paying for DNA analysis, and it will be a more dynamic, panoramic glimpse into our identities–as individuals and as a family, shaped by places where we lived, relatives and friends we cherished and activities in which we participated. To have this kind of a past–and to have a record of it–is itself a gift that we’re appreciating all over again.

As we enter this new year, I wish all of you a wonderful future, especially as it will be reflected in the specific year 2018. I also wish for you plenty of time to remember and celebrate your past–and plenty of mindfulness with which to appreciate the present moment. In every moment, our personal and group identities reveal themselves, sink their roots into our lives even more deeply and bear fruit to the outside world with unknowable future impacts but unshakable foundations in authentic experience. The records of our lives may be transferred from older formats to newer ones, but they are best stored in minds and hearts that can appreciate and appropriate the best of our identities, forgive and laugh about our character flaws and build truths upon truths.

I’m looking forward to giving my family this gift from the local camera store because it will somehow be a “live” part of our family, making the past more accessible so we can understand the present and approach the future with greater wisdom and stability. In a world where analog memories seem obsolete but digital life sometimes seems ephemeral, may this gift transition the Schmitts away from the reel-to-reel but preserve us in the real-to-real.

About Bill Schmitt is the home for Bill Schmitt's blog and biographical information. This blog, initiated during Bill's nearly 14 years as a communications professional at Notre Dame, expresses Bill's opinions alone. Go to "About Bill Schmitt" and "I Link, Therefore I Am" to see samples of multimedia content I'm producing now and have produced during my journalism career and my marketing communications career. Like me at, follow me on Twitter @wschmitt, and meet "bill schmitt" on LinkedIn.
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