Matthew Sweet reflects on how what makes something timeless is it’s truth.
You cannot create for the future.
The desire to produce a piece of writing, a song, or a video that is timeless is dumb. Aspiring to create something in the present that is relevant in the future not only handicaps you, it handicaps all who stood to benefit from your talent.
When you try to be timeless, you hedge. The future is uncertain, unknown. So what you create now must make room for this. So you don’t fully commit. You qualify, you say “but”, “perhaps”, “maybe”.
Look back. The works that are timeless, the ones brought into existence tens and hundreds and thousands of years ago, are vigorous. They say what they say with an energy, a force, a conviction that makes them seem other worldly.
How do they manage this?
When people try to be timeless, what they really mean is they want what they produce to be relevant in ten, twenty, one hundred years. An admirable goal. But the way they go about it is all wrong.
They avoid providing too much information that could be mis-understood out of context: relevant stories, histories, details etc. They try to elevate above the mundane and the practical to the abstract. Thinking that which isn’t too specific is automatically immune to the ravages of time.
But they’re wrong. What makes a work timeless is not context, or style, or framing, or specifics, or generalities.
What makes something timeless is it’s truth.
The works that have survived and still impact us are ones that hold some truth for us. Most of these truths are centered upon human nature. We have not changed fundamentally for thousands of years, so observations on human nature still resonate.
Instead of trying to be timeless, instead of producing for the future, instead of trying to be evergreen, focus on saying what needs to be said. On speaking the truth.
The barometer for the success of a creation is not how timeless it is. What the future holds we cannot tell, so we cannot judge a thing by it’s timelessness. The way to measure a creation is by the truth that it speaks. Because although we cannot predict the future, we do know one thing.
The only thing that is timeless, is truth.
Previously published by Phronetic
Photo by *sax