I had a conversation with my dear 93 year old Aunt Helen shortly before she died, about how good the old days really were. Memories of my grandmother’s home-baked bread, of family gatherings, home and hearth and love and laughter, cuddling us both in remembered grace, were like a feather comforter for the spirit. “Life isn’t better now,” she mused, “just faster and more complicated.”
She’s right, of course. Life has accelerated. Computers, fax machines, cell phones, Blackberries, all demand instant response and leave us whizzing along the electronic circuitry of life like bobsledders on a downhill run. I’m not the first to suggest our reach is farther, but our depth of field is less. We race from task to task, emergency to emergency, without much time to hold buttercups under our chins, or dream about the stars. We spend more money, but seem to have less to show for it. Our kids know more than we did about sex, but less about love, its commitment, devotion or mystery. We’ve amassed so much knowledge, we have to divide it all up among experts, fragmenting wisdom into small compartments, so that it never quite hangs together the way it used to. Somehow, having an eyelash specialist, a knee specialist, and a lung specialist, will never take the place of the kindly family doctor who actually cared about the entirety of you.
We live in a time when life is learned in soundbytes and film at 11. When the bigger the lie, the more it’s believed. We have pills to make us happy, thin and wide awake, or to calm us down, make us sleep, make us forget. And if you can believe the TV commercials, most of them also cause liver damage, “occasional fatal incidents” (the new euphemism for death), or at the very least, constipation.
We’re exploring Mars, at the same time we’re sabotaging Earth. Our leaders hide rapaciousness in the garb of international compassion, greed in the guise of patriotism, and upend the Constitution in the guise of keeping us safe. We go to war to spread peace, the ultimate oxymoron, and we’re told that political debate or dissidence is an act of treason. Paradoxical times, these…
I want to cast a vote for the way it was before we improved it. I miss governments you could trust, love that was forever, seeds that could propagate, marriages that lasted a lifetime, air without nuclear fallout in it, rain without acid, clean water from faucets not plastic bottles, a good cup of coffee that didn’t cost $4.50, phones without menus, service people not outsourced to Pakistan, politics before spin-doctoring, Presidential elections before crooked voting machines, food as it came from the hand of Mother Nature, sizes that didn’t start at zero, affordable healthcare, family doctors, a time when the only intergalactic force we needed to worry about was God.
© Cathy Cash Spellman/The Wild Harp & Co. Inc 2011