I've just read another plotless reminiscence. Somebody's memories of growing up in an "age gone by" before all of this (sour face) Modern Living stuff happened. Now I like these sketches, which is fortunate, because nearly every author succumbs to writing one sometime. But there's this subtheme that runs through all of them that bugs me: "Life was good back when I was a kid, but now...." Wrongwrongwrong. Nonono. No time has ever been or will be better than any other. It just seems like things are worsening because the past is always the "good 'ol days" and the future isn't on the Preview Channel.
Here is a quote from one of these writers: "Our youth now love luxury. They have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for their elders and love chatter in place of exercise; they no longer rise when elders enter the room; they contradict their parents, chatter before company; gobble up their food and tyrannize their teachers." Dear Abby? Oprah? Chicken Soup for the self-centered teenage soul? Naah. Socrates, 2,500 years ago.
Norman Rockwell freely admitted that the America he painted was before his time and probably never existed anyway. Groups of people have waited on their roofs for the End of the World since there have been roofs. A lot of folks didn't think that the book of Revelations would make it to a second printing - the end of all things was that close. And I'm sure that the first hominid to fall out of a tree and wonder why they were alive thought that things were much better before thus new fangled consciousness stuff evolved. The past has always been pastoral, the future has never looked bright.
Perhaps Gautama Buddha was right is equating life with suffering. Granted the dude was all set to starve to death if he didn't achieve enlightenment, so he may have been predisposed to a somber outlook.
Still, he has a point and the reason I think he does is that the human mind is an enormous 3-D, Dolby sound, HD ready smell-touch-taste memory machine. How can the Present compare to your personal virtual reality photo album? Your Past has been cropped and labeled; the horrible times have been Monday-morning-quarterbacked into "lessons". The good times are filmed through gauze and ring like crystal because they-will-never-happen-again....
Comparatively the modern moment feels like your driving in the dark, your lights have failed, and the steering wheel just popped off in your hand.
Why? No perspective. And that's the key. When Isaac Asimov or Truman Capote or Margaret Atwood or Stephen King Russell Baker Ray Bradbury paint these glowing word pictures, they can't help but imply that things were better back then. Simple extrapolation: The human mind is so arrogant that it thinks its personal history is the story of humankind. The subtext to everybody’s reminiscing - from the first primeval campfire story to the final solar flame out - is this: I stood at the threshold between the simple past and the complex present.
We each have our own journey but they all follow a fairly consistent arc of a nurtured and simplistic childhood, through the heady turmoil of adolescence and onto into the adulthood where we have entirely failed to get rich, save the world, Or hit a home run in the World Series. Our past was all about possibilities. Our Present is all about realities. Our future is all about probabilities – of things going wrong. And since humankind cannot remove itself from Society, we all paint ourselves into the world and times that we have lived through and imagine that our personal emotional trajectory is also what the world has been going through.
If I asked my Mother about her childhood she would eventually get to: Things were more basic back then, but now...." If I asked her Mother I would get the same thesis but with more recipes. If I asked my Father he would say the game is on and call back during a commercial. But I'm pretty sure he feels the same way. And if I asked a teenager they wouldn’t answer because they were busy texting and listening to their iPods.
And me? Well, It's happening already. New technology has left me feeling like I just fell out of a tree. The new music is just moronic repetitive noise. Nobody nowadays cares about anything. Bah Humbug.
But when I was a kid, why that was different world back then! When a movie left the theaters it was gone. Poof! Imagine that. No ‘instant queue’ – not even VCRs. No cable. No internet. No texting. We had one phone company and you had to wait by the phone for people to call you. Only 13 channels on your 500lb. console TV. No video games. We had pinball machines, and you had to walk to the arcade, through 50ft. snowdrifts, uphill, both ways, fighting off bears with your looseleaf binder.
But today? Where’s the caring? The trust? (Where have they ever been?) I'm heading out to the roof now. The End should be coming soon.
P.S. And get off my lawn!