Thursday, September 20, 2012
City of Tomorrow, Part 2
The biggest loss to the legacy of Metropolis after it became defined bald billionaires and flying men was the Apex Club. Consider it the Manhattan Project and the Justice League rolled into one.
It was the dream of Martha Thomas. Martha inherited a sizable fortune from her industrialist father, but chose to invest it in the City of Tomorrow. There was no greater champion of scientific and social innovation than Martha Thomas, and to put it simply, Metropolis wouldn’t exist today without her.
In order to achieve her lofty goals of revitalizing everything that had originally motivated the foundation of the city, Martha formed the Apex Club, gathering the brightest minds of her generation to not only solve the problems of the day but anticipate those of tomorrow. That’s not to say that they dawned garbs of sackcloth and bemoaned the evils of humanity, as all the would-be street-level saviors do now. Their job, as they saw it, was to anticipate the needs of mankind before anyone realized they existed.
Not to harp on the present too much, but the Apex Club did more than infinitely refine the same technology, making the same things smaller and more diversified. As I’ve said, the brightest minds look for something new. Cynics will tell you there’s nothing new under the sun. Cynics are notably absent from our brightest minds.
This is not to say that the Apex Club did not run into opposition. There’s always opposition to change. I’ve also said most of us exist in a lethargy of normality, and we like it so much that we actively abhor those who attempt to alter the predictable and routine and well-established. We preach all the time about supporting people like Martha Thomas, but more readily reward her exact opposite, those who reassure mediocrity. We claim to reward success, when we really only care about achievement, and the achievements we most value are incredibly mundane. When it isn’t, we find a way to downplay the achievement.
The Apex Club fought that every step of the way, and that’s what made it all the more remarkable. As I’ve said, the City of Tomorrow wouldn’t exist without it. It’s one thing to bring Metropolis into being. It’s another thing to maintain it. The only way to maintain Metropolis is to keep its vision alive. Innovation through routine. It’s an irony that was not lost on Martha.
Skyscrapers were nothing new when Metropolis came into being, but they discovered a new dimension in this city. Visitors always notice that. After a while, most of the world’s architects stopped inspiring awe, everywhere else but in Metropolis. That’s the singular contribution of the Apex Club. Their towers were taller, sturdier, and filled with infinitely more complex ideas than any that had been seen before. The famous L-shaped building you know today was originally Martha’s tribute to her father, Lon Thomas. Yes, it has since been appropriated.
The Apex Club had its successors, too, some of which you may be aware of. In more ways than is typically appreciated, it was the missing link of the 20th century, too modest to boast, not secretive enough to develop a cult following, but behind everything that came to define the City of Tomorrow, after it was determined that simply maintaining what sat in the foundations would have been a betrayal to them.
I never met Martha, never sat in on a board meeting of the Apex Club. Martha’s funeral drew thousands from around the whole world, representative it’s said from every continent and probably from most countries, even those who had never directly benefited from her work, but who nonetheless drew inspiration from her. I suppose in a way I did meet her, because I attended the funeral, too. In her final interview she exclaimed a deep ambivalence to her legacy, and regret that she had not done more, that in time no one would remember her name.
I suppose it’s true. Sometimes referenced in editorials, but you will seldom hear her name today. The march of progress eventually leaves everyone behind, even its greatest champions. Yet if I could tell Martha anything, it’s that she hasn’t been forgotten, that she was every bit the success she strived to be. It’s just, we haven’t even begun to see the fruits of her labor.