#4 The Shrine of Ise Jingu
Nostalgia for the Present is a series of 30 flash speculative fiction pieces responding to the present from the lens of the future
Dan watched on the screen as two rovers maneuvered the first beam of the 67th sengu into position. There was solemn silence in the room and no sound from the screen, making the whole act feel unreal. This must be what all those software engineers have been feeling for the last 50 years. He felt some sympathy and 15% less contempt for them. He half expected his father to comment about how this was not how the 66th sengu was done or the 65 other sengus before that, but it seemed like he was in awe or perhaps trying to figure out how he felt about what he was watching unfold. Two unmanned rovers on the surface of an alien planet that looked like it may just be part of a desert in Arizona, putting in place one of thirty beams that would hold up the Naiku shrine. This moment was 20 years in the making.
Dan turned his attention to the man in the blue shirt circling the edges of the room. His desert hiking boots were the only thing that reminded Dan they were in the middle of nowhere New Mexico. He was the only journalist Dan had spoken to today, and it had not got off to a good start.
"What is the purpose of rebuilding a 7th-century building in space? "
Every time this question was asked, Dan had the urge to go on a rant about the purpose of doing anything, but he went with the PR massaged answer "It's a monument to long term transfer of process knowledge. My ancestors have been reconstructing this shrine every 20 years since the 7th century. I think its a great milestone for man..." the journalist cut him off.
"I could think of ten different ways all this money could have been used to better the lives of people on earth," he responded.
"It is not like there is not enough capital for that. Why can't we do both? solve problems here and also do interesting things?" Dan responded, going off script more than usual.
"bold statement is given that you can only do with funding by a billionaire," came the response.
The PR person pulled Dan aside and ended the interview before he could respond. The time they had asked Dan the same question during a dry run, he had replied, "because I don’t have an obligation to do anything that would be useful to the world, and this is what I want to do."
And this was true since he was eight years old. He remembered watching his father be part of the Sengu. Words were inadequate to describe the lived experience of protecting his family built Naiku and Geku shrines from scratch. Now, 40 years and another sengu later, the ceremonial tree felling had been replaced by the ceremonial launch of the first rocket carrying the build materials for construction. The frenetic movement of men had been replaced by the meditative silence of the room in the middle of a desert and the slow deliberate movements of the rovers. The first beam looked like it had separated from the iron grips of the rovers and it seemed to be standing tall. Dan wondered if history would think of him as a villain or a hero or perhaps just a madman.
This piece was inspired ISE JINGU AND THE PYRAMID OF ENABLING TECHNOLOGIES