Several months ago, I read Becoming Justice Blackmun, an interesting sort-of biography of Blackmun (the Supreme Court Justice who penned Roe v. Wade, among other distinctions) based largely on his personal papers. In an unusual move, Blackmun decreed that his papers should be released to the Library of Congress only 5 years after his death (many justices want much more time between their death and the release of their papers,) so there was quite a swirl of attention around their release a few years ago and the resulting book.

Blackmun is interesting for a lot of reasons that I won’t go into here (you are all capable wikipedia searchers, I’m sure,) but one small note in the book really struck me. Among the voluminous archives in the Library of Congress was a sort of diary that Blackmun kept for his whole life. Rather than a day to day narrative of the details of his activities, the diary was more of a record of significant events- he’d jot down career accomplishments, birthdays, weddings, significant court decisions, etc. What was most interesting to me was that in addition to recording these personal events (birth of a child, death of a friend) he also recorded events of national significance (wars, deaths of world leaders, etc.)

I thought this was a really cool idea: it would be very interesting, I thought, to look back 5, 10, 20 years later and see both what I had been up to personally and what had been going on in the world at the time. What was going on in my life at the time of the 2008 election, for example? What world events occurred around the time I got married?

So inspired was I by this idea, I started a similar record of significant events for myself. I’ll admit- I am struggling a little. What to put in it? What is significant enough to make the book? I don’t want it to be limited to only the Most Significant Events Ever, because I’m likely to sort of remember those anyway, but I don’t want to crowd it with totally minor mundane details, either. And the world events thing has proven to be much trickier than I would have imagined. Blackmun had the advantage of writing some of the most significant Supreme Court cases of the day. I do not. And just looking to what stories have garnered lots of news media attention is not necessarily a good way to determine what to include. I’m pretty sure, for example, that in 20 years I do not need to remember the ongoing, never-ending search for Stacy Peterson (sad as it is,) and the controversy swirling around her douchebag husband, despite the fact that that one story has dominated the news around here for MONTHS. I am left to decide: is this current newsy event something worth noting, or will I look back and say “good grief, why did I think it was worth noting that the mayor of Detroit got indicted?”

So I’m interested: if you had to pick one thing that had happened and been in the news in the past month to put in a journal, with the idea that years from now you would look back at it and it would give you an insight into the state of the city/state/country/world at the time, what event would you choose?

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