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Letters to the Future

Here is another exercise to flex the muscle of our imagination. This process could be read as an antidote to the question posed by the world famous scientist, Professor Stephen Hawking when he asked, why is it that we remember the past and not the future? Educators can facilitate the exercise by playfully instructing students to close their eyes and imagine a journey in a time machine. Traveling forward in time, our objective is to identify with a person alive one hundred years into the future. Ask students to strap on imaginary belts and helmets and prepare for the time travel machine. Closing their eyes, ringing a bell or clapping your hands... help them playfully move into the future. An educator can use the following narrative to set up the exercise. "In our time machine we are moving from the early part of the 21st Century, through ten years, now twenty... Keep moving forward now fifty years and sixty... Keep moving through time to the year 2107. From this vantage point, you will have a special meeting with a future friend who can identify with his/her ancestors in the early 21st Century... And they, being great lovers of history, know about your time, about what your people endured... The wars and social conflict...

The cooling and heating of the atmosphere. The extreme poverty experienced by so many and the extraordinary wealth experienced by so few... As you meet with this wise person, imagine what they would want to say to you. Open your whole mind and listen... And when you are ready open your eyes and put the message to paper, in a form of a letter to yourself. Imagine this future friend, writing a letter, for you alone."

Here is an Example of a Letter from the Future:


Once students have finished their writing, ask them to get their helmets and belts back on and take them backwards in time to the present day. This is an important bookend to the experience. When safely landed back in 2007, ask for volunteers to reflect on their journey. Invite students to share their letters. Given more time, a Micro Lab or a Fishbowl could be conducted to share thoughts and feelings that came up.

Adapted from Joanna Macy and Molly Young Brown, Coming Back to Life, New Society Publishers (© 1998).