The more things change, the more they don’t. Those words of wisdom were imparted to me years ago. Still green then, I laughed at the words shared by a fine old gentleman now alive only in my memory. As I consider them at the start of a new year, I’m laughing less and smiling more.
We live in times of unprecedented change. To recount them seems a fool’s errand. Perhaps it has always seemed this way. Remember when the internet arrived? Email? Cellphones? Drop back to the time when man walked on the moon, when a transatlantic cable was laid, when Lindbergh crossed the ocean.
Imagine the time when farmers were encouraged to replace their tractors’ steel wheels with rubber tires. Heck, picture the advent of tractors, or gas engines, or steam engines, reducing back-breaking labor on the farm but quietly introducing a whole new array of challenges. People then surely shook their heads as we do today, but embraced change – progress! – and moved forward.
Did they look back, wistfully, as we do now, and remember the old ways? It’s hard to imagine anyone begrudging the arrival of electricity on the farm, for instance, or running water or indoor toilets. And yet, how did the man who had farmed with horses reconcile the gentle sounds of horse-drawn implements with those of a newfangled tractor? Gratefully, I suppose.
Today, those of us committed to preservation of the past celebrate an era when people lived simply – because they had to. We celebrate an era when entire families sacrificed most creature comforts – because they had, really, no alternative. We romanticize a time of relentless, lifelong labor while overlooking common ailments it caused. Remember lumbago?
I don’t know anybody who says, “Gosh, I wish I could live 50 years from now! I can’t wait to see what the future will bring!” Each of us yearns for another time, another place. And yet, the past is, as the poet says, a foreign country – they do things differently there.
Random thoughts at the beginning of a new year while gazing into a fire on a cold winter’s night. We try to keep pace with our times while looking back at what is known, what seems safe, what feels familiar. And that, dear reader, is surely a trait we share with our forebears. The more things change, the more they don’t! FC