by Georg T Gordon
(Views expressed in this column are my own, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the owner of this publication.)
Living in the past has its advantages. We get to enjoy the world, and each other. What do we abandon when we give up the modern conveniences that so litter our lives? Television? What’s worth watching on modern TV? It’s not called the boob tube for nothing. You can’t even trust the modern ‘news’ shows anymore, with each network promoting its own agenda. Reporters fail to ask the important questions, allowing politicians to skate by without being called out. When I talk about living in the past, I am not talking about the politics of that era. I am talking about the day-to-day life that the general population lived back then. We had a structured life back then, with daily tasks that had to be accomplished. There was no ‘calling in sick’ to our employer and then heading to the beach. Unless we were on death’s door, we went to work. If we were fortunate and had good neighbors, those neighbors would come to our aid if we were laid out by sickness. We would return that favor by aiding them should they be felled by sickness. It was our sacred duty. If someone needed help raising a barn, we helped. If we needed help, everyone in the community would help. Yes, there are communities that practice this behavior if only they are told of the need. And if they should tell us of their need, we would be just as willing to lend a hand. The community where I live is such a place. Back then we didn’t hide behind the computer screen. We knew our neighbors. Face-to-face. We actually talked with one another. Music was better in the past. Back then, music spoke to the soul. Music painted a picture in our minds. Back then, music made us feel good. Back in the day, music was like a seven-course meal. Today, it’s carrots and Brussel sprouts. Medicine was so much less expensive back in the past. Medicine was simpler back then. There were no big pharmaceutical companies to sell us medicines to counteract the side effects of all the other medicines we were taking. We used medicines that were provided by God. Medicines found in plants and trees. Free medicines. We don’t have to give up all that much when we live in the past. We knew how to brew a decent cup of coffee back then. In a fireplace no less! That tainted water that passes for coffee today is nothing compared to a pot of coffee brewed over a campfire for hours. That’ll stiffen your backbone. In the past, a pot of coffee would be kept warming for any passer-by who should knock on our door. We had no modern-style hotels back in the nineteenth century. You could sleep on the floor of a tavern. Or, if you were lucky, be put up for the night in someone’s home, fed a decent supper and breakfast, and sent on your way without being charged. I was once the recipient of such behavior, when my car broke down in rural Ripley, New York. The tow-truck driver dropped my car off at the repair shop, and myself at the home of a family he knew. It was a wonderful experience that today can only be found at a bed-and-breakfast, and we pay for that privilege. We need more of the traveling experience of the nineteenth century. The land was open back then. If things were not working out for you ‘in the East’, you could pack up your belongings and head west. On such trips to a new beginning, you found out what things in life were important. The Emigrant Trail was littered with goods that were just too much weight for the oxen to pull any farther. Back then, we walked. Most immigrants walked the whole distance from St. Louis to the gold fields of California. Weight and space was at a premium in a covered wagon. Walking allowed more things to be carried in the wagon. Things that would probably be tossed by the wayside as the mules and oxen played out. Today, government officials will spend several million dollars trying to find a way to curb the epidemic of obesity in our nation. But they won’t consider the idea of walking. I lost 20 pounds in five months in North Carolina, walking a mile to the bus stop, and a mile back home. During the 1930s, if people heard of a job fifty miles away, they walked to that location even though there might be several hundred other applicants. The nineteenth century had so very much more than we do today. Like good books. Or maybe it was the writers who were so much better than today’s writers. Back then there were writers like Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and Edgar Allan Poe. People in the past treasured good books and could recite whole passages from favorite authors. Today’s writers do not come close to the descriptive narrative of bygone masters of the pen. Poe was a wizard of his trade. Today’s writers are hamburger compared to Poe’s filet mignon. Fashion was better in the past. Women’s clothes back then enhanced beauty. A man could spend hours watching and contemplating the beauty of a woman. Today, with few exceptions, a woman’s assets are so revealed that a man only contemplates the woman for a minute or two. Today’s fashion reveal ugliness. By george, I’ll take beauty and a filet mignon any day.