While Hamas terrorists were planning their deadly attack on Israel last week, my travel companions and I were in Prague and Berlin, visiting museums and recalling that famous line of historian George Santayana, "Those who forget their history are condemned to repeat it."
Aging Boomers all, we were seekers of history and its lessons for the Age of Acceleration. In Prague, we visited the Jewish Quarter, which dates back to the 10th century. We learned how Jews enjoyed periods of prosperity and cultural contribution but also endured chapters of harsh discrimination and persecution. In Berlin, we were guided on a walking tour through the sobering Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe. The tour culminated in the parking lot where Hitler's bunker once stood 17 meters below.
Germany has done a remarkable job of owning up to its brutal and horrific past (11 million Jews and Gypsies killed), while not sensationalizing the Nazi period or Adolph Hitler in any way. We were told that giving the Hitler salute is illegal and that displaying swastikas is forbidden.
If you're a fan of museums as I am, Berlin is the place to go. This vibrant, youthful, and progressive city of 3.6 million inhabitants features "Museum Island" which houses a total of five world-class museums all devoted to honoring and learning from the past.
All the museums we visited are devoted to the past except The Futurium in Berlin, which is devoted to the future and its potentialities. No doubt because of my work as a futurist (and innovation advisor) to governments and leading companies, this chance discovery turned out to be a highlight of the trip.
A Museum About the Future
Meander into The Futurium and you experience a different vibe. Instead of the somber weight of the past, the statues of the greats of antiquity, there are the excited sounds of kids on field trips zooming around as if taking in a theme park. The Futurium is shiny and new, part innovation lab, part meeting space for conversation and dialogue, part exhibition and art museum. Mercifully, Futurium avoids the tired, overdone futuristic cliches; there are a few of the usual flying cars and robots of Tomorrowland-style pavilions but this is not what grabs your fancy. Instead, many impressive and artistic exhibits invite you to envision alternative solutions to housing, food supply, and energy issues.
One installation that caught my eye, a gigantic collage, appeared designed to bring together visions, ideas, and pilot projects from architects and ordinary citizens on how cities might become greener and more sustainable. The fundamental conviction of Futurium is that all possible futures are the result of our decisions and our actions. While the past is prologue, what this uniquely innovative environment reminds us of is that all that will happen depends on what we choose to do today.
Futurium's contribution is to remind us that we can shape the future and that nothing about it is written in stone. That we are only limited by our imaginations, and our will to rise above the carnage and the disruption, if only we will.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]
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