Monday, September 26, 2011

Some More Used to Be

When I was writing yesterday, the entry really went in a different direction than what I had in mind. I'm not much of a nostalgic person* but I do begin to wonder if some aspects of the past were not preferable to what we've got now. Some of these thoughts center around communication and technology. Now, I'm as crazy about the benefits of computers as anyone. I'm more ambivalent about cell phones. It's great being about to be in touch, to call Susan from the grocery and ask if what I've got in my hand is the right thing. But texting and talking in virtually any venue? Including vehicles . . . when you're at the wheel? Please. Video game boxes that keep kids hypnotized for hours and hours? Computer games that do the same? Somehow, my gut tells me that these phenomena can't really be progress. Other things too: virtual depiction of sex on TV and in movies, debasement of the language, the pervasive fear in this society (a flotilla of cars at every school because parents are too scared to let their kids walk 2-3 blocks). How cold and hard we've become towards people we used to think it was our responsibility to care for: mentally ill, needy children, immigrants.

I was also thinking about the general decline of literacy in our society. Computers have something to do with this. Used to be there was a certain shared body of knowledge that everybody learned in high school, grammar school, even. No more. (Maybe I'm delusional, but quite a few of my contemporaries sense the same thing.) The vast sea of ignorance in which we all swim and sail is unfathomable. Used to be that reading was a leisure activity for a lot more people than it is now. People in society used to be more polite, more respectful of one another. Right. Well, that's gone.

Everything used to seem so much simpler back when. Is that because we were ignorant of all kinds of stuff we know now? Yeah, probably. But I can still miss those simpler times. I wish I didn't know half the crap I know now that just makes things seem worse.

(I decided I would allow myself this one wistful commentary on what used to be, hastening to assure you that I'm through whining.)

*I do have sentimental attachments to some strange things. Little trinkets are scattered all over my bookshelves. I still have the baseball glove and ball I used to toss around with my boys. (I've thought about how much fun it was to play catch, but then realize that I would no doubt really hurt my arm--at least make it sore for some time--and I wouldn't be able to throw as hard or as far.) Remembrances from out time in Germany: some mugs, maps, a smoker, a couple of albums of wine and beer labels. Susan and I have copies of just about every greeting card we've given each other over the 40+ years we've been married, a chronicle of our deepening love for one another. I'm loathe to part with them.
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