Bearing Witness in Season: A Letter to the Future
My camera never rested on vacations during my teens. Just about every new monument, unfamiliar plant, and commemorative placard came under the glare of my lens. This instinct would later lead to excessive social media posts, overly sentimental hoarding, and “completionist” approaches to video games. I’ve shed much of this behavior over time, but the urge crops up every so often. The new game Season: A Letter to the Future forced me to confront this by habit by asking me to consider: What is your responsibility to the story of your life?
The game puts you in the shoes of a nameless young woman with a momentous task. A prophecy from a friend foretells the end of the current “season,” which is this world’s version of an era. Your character wants to bear witness to the season before it’s lost to time. And so she sets off on her bicycle with a microphone, camera, and journal in hand to tell that story. She writes, “This time on earth could live on in these pages, what it looks like, how it feels to be alive right now.”
Season leaves it in your hands as to what those pages look like. The first few areas you bike through require nothing of you. However, dutiful to the promise of my purpose, I experimented with my equipment by recording animal sounds and taking pictures of ruins. I even discovered unexpected interactions, such as sitting down on a bench to draw a scenic view, as well as picking up lost letters. All of this goes in your journal, with dozens of pages devoted to specific locations. Only by putting together enough for a multimedia collage can you “complete” an entry, which rewards you with stickers, handwritten quotes, and more.
There’s no way to put everything in your journal unless you want an indecipherable, cluttered mess. Yet there was so much I could include and experience! Shouldn’t I do this to the fullest? Shouldn’t I put everything in my journal? But something had stuck with me from the start of the game. Before leaving home, you perform a ritual with your character’s mom by creating a pendant made of memories from objects in every room. There are plentiful options—all equally valid and precious. This is where Season prepared me for the adventure by asking me to embrace a thoughtful selectiveness. The significance fully dawned on me with a reflection in the journal: “We build our lives out of what we leave behind as much as from what we carry with us.”
You can be an observer of the moment, distancing yourself from the environment and people around you as someone who witnesses history. (“I have to remember for everyone. It was a season to collect and let go.”) Or you can be a participant in the moment, devoting your full faculties to immersion as someone who lives history. (“My senses came alive . . . I detected the world for the first time. I was overwhelmed by its beauty and a feeling of possibility.”) There were beautiful yet fleeting moments I instinctively thought to record, but alternative options like “Just listen” and “Keep private” in some scenes made me reconsider what some moments deserve most.
Season asked me to embrace a thoughtful selectiveness.
History will always be created by and filtered through people; our emotions, perspectives, and various limitations color everything. If you’re an observer, you can miss personal context and emotion. If you’re a participant, you can miss other perspectives and fine details. Prioritizing what and whom to spend time with is hard enough, but how is yet another overwhelming step to consider. So, I wonder again: What is my responsibility to the past for the future? What is my relationship to my own and other’s stories?
Biblical scholar Karen Keen says the Bible has no pretense of being objective or comprehensive. The authors not only leave out a lot, but also portray figures and events with exaggeration and editorial slants at times. “Insights from historical-critical research can uncover true things and help us to interpret the Bible, but those reconstructions can lack the angle on those people, places, and events that is divinely revelatory,” Keen writes in The Word of a Humble God. “It is their representation of those events of history, based on inspired comprehension of them, that gives us the revelatory story of salvation. In that way the Bible conveys true history.” One might call this a holy bias.
This holy bias is why the ending of the Gospel of John is so fascinating. Why was more not written down? Why repeat so much across the gospel accounts? Why didn’t the disciples come together and write down every last thing they could remember? John concludes, “Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.”
If the testimony of God is sufficient for all things and all we need to lead godly lives, we can rest in the sufficiency and reliability of scripture as a product of the Holy Spirit’s collaboration with humanity—not in spite of its limitations but because of them. If that same Holy Spirit works within us, we will know how to play our parts in the ongoing story; in attending to our own season, we will know which photos to keep and which notes to make. And this will help us write our own histories with an intent similar to that of the Bible. “For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope.”