Twenty years ago, as a senior in high school (March 1996), a stop at the Jefferson Memorial in Washington, D.C. left me with a quote that even in my young age struck me enough to capture in a photograph. I cannot recall exactly what I may have been going through at that time in my life (one can only imagine the typical teenage tribulations). However, even back then at an age when I was full of ideals and inexperience with the world, that quote called out to me about about change and disruption. The fact that as we progress through thoughtful development we shouldn’t be held to the same traditions that stifle and constrict our growth.
The inscription reads:
I am not an advocate for frequent changes in laws and constitutions, but laws and institutions must go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind. As that becomes more developed, more enlightened, as new discoveries are made, new truths discovered and manners and opinions change, with the change of circumstances, institutions must advance also to keep pace with the times. We might as well require a man to wear still the coat which fitted him when a boy as civilized society to remain ever under the regimen of their barbarous ancestors.
The quote that finds itself on the wall of the memorial is actually a condensed form of Jefferson’s original letter to H. Tompkinson (AKA Samuel Kercheval) dated July 12, 1816. The original quote may be read in its entirety from the Thomas Jefferson Foundation’s web site and a digitized copy of the handwritten letter is available from the Library of Congress.
I too am not an advocate for rapid change without thought of consequence, and I strive to accept change through the natural evolution of design and thought especially as it relates to technology and its impact on society. With change comes opportunity for growth. To even further paraphrase Jefferson’s original quote: “Requiring a man to wear a coat which fit him as a boy is pure nonsense.”
However, though not always directly related to change, constrictions are not all bad. When resources (money, bandwidth, storage space, processor speeds, etc.) are constrained we tend to use them wiser. We innovate and become more efficient instead of running wild, or when we do run wild we are called to task to make web pages smaller in size, limit the number of ads and scripts that run freely, and focus on brevity to get our message across.
As I found when I constrained myself to photograph using only light and blossoms to tell the story of my recent trip to Washington, D.C. (March 2016) I was able to express myself in new ways and come away with a richer experience.