As I continue to advance in age, I often find myself thinking of the old days. The old days, those times when life seemed simpler. Whenever I find myself sinking into one of these reflective moments, I must apply the resuscitative paddles of reality to realize that there is much from the old days that has no right to be romanticized. Even with that shock to re-collective reality, it’s quite tempting to think of a time when life seemed much simpler.
Let’s be honest, especially those of us born between 1946 and 1964 (the Baby Boomers), don’t you remember the analogue days when time was utilized in a more savory and deliberate fashion? When the process of getting from here to there was more the pleasure than the arrival itself. When consumerism meant purchasing a well-built product that lasted, and lasted, and lasted. When neighbors were people you knew, and knew well. When relationships were maintained face-to-face versus at the keyboard of a computer or a cell phone.
Folks tend to think of new technologies with disdain. A look back shows us that nearly every introduction of society-changing technology was met with some degree of apprehension. This included such commonly used devices as radio, television, telephone, automobiles, and the list goes on. The trouble many in society had with the introduction of these devices stemmed primarily from the human condition known as “resistance to change.” It takes us a while to get accustomed to something. When some new fandangle contraption comes along our comfort zone is penetrated, causing a shock to our system. Oh, but give it a while. Cell phones have become a seemingly necessary appendage to the bodies of many, crossing all generations. Recently, I dropped into a McDonald’s to have something I hadn’t dined on in quite some time, a Big Mac. While enjoying my sandwich, minus the fries, I noticed a family across the way. Every one of them had their heads down, and their thumbs positioned on the keypad. There was no conversation taking place between them, unless, of course, they were texting each other. That just might have been the case. After all, talking to each other requires a level of human connectivity, that seems historic in our wi-fied society.
I remember when my children were much younger. I used to tell them about the conditions under which I was reared. We lived far back in a rural area. We had no running water. Our toilet was outside and it wasn’t a pleasant experience to undergo when use was required. Whenever, I would tell stories of the lack of what are common-day conveniences to which my children had access, they would look at me with total disbelief and say something like, “Dad you’re making that up.” “I don’t believe you.” These comments weren’t meant to be disrespectful in any form. They just couldn’t believe I lived under such conditions. After all, dad and mom had college educations and they had worked hard to provide the best for them. Didn’t our parents do the same? Yes, our parents did, but that was a different time, when Jim Crow, separate but equal, colored and white this and that were par for the course.
Can you go back? If you’re honest with yourself, you can have the occasional mental vacation, but harken back with a good dose of reality. You can reminisce about the good experiences, those that were isolated points of joy. These were those times that the harsh realities of the world couldn’t touch. There were things like family togetherness; attending church; playing from sun-up to sundown without fear of being harmed by some strange person; leaving the front door unlocked; and many more common activities that are foreign to the times in which we now live.
Our new president has adopted a mantra, “Make America great again.” It’s hard for me to hitch my wagon onto that phrase, since I’m not exactly sure what he means. At my age, I’ve seen the good, the bad and the ugly of America over the last six decades. I would prefer we all work hard to make America better. Times gone by are just that, times gone by. We can’t live in the past; however, we can take best practices from the past and apply them to today.
Can you go back? No, not really. You can reminisce, but living for the present isn’t where our energies can serve the best. The present is the God-given gift we currently have. Let’s do the best with it, and while we’re doing our best, let’s not perpetrate the mistakes of the past. Improvement, improvement should be our mantra for today.
I’m old and blessed…hope you will be too.