“The good old days.”
This phrase has been known to send eyes rolling and elicit sighs of quiet exasperation for decades. Are the “good old days” really all they are cracked up to be? In my estimation, maybe.
When I allude to the good old days, what I speak of is not based on a nostalgia for the world in which I grew up. Trust me, the ‘80s, ‘70s, and even ‘60s of my own youth were really not all that worthy of being pined for again. No, what I am speaking of are the Times before I was even born. I remember seeing the photographs in history books. I remember as a child hearing stories from those older than me who spoke of the much simpler days of an earlier era: the ‘50s, ‘40s, and even earlier. As an adult I have often watched movies from the ‘40s, ‘50s, and early ‘60s, seeing a world in many ways markedly different from today. (Be advised: I labor under no delusion that the silver screen representation of any given moment in Time is ever a complete or even remotely accurate depiction; such representations do, however, leave clues.) Those bygone eras had a certain innocence and character which I find most appealing.
Though they are but evanescent memories from my past, I want to say some of the Old Ones of my youth were 80 and 90 years of age and, thus, had personal recollections of Life as far back as the late 1800s. Times then were different and, in many ways, better.
Manners, decorum, accountability, dignity, and resilience seemed to be far more in evidence and in vogue. The importance of the family structure was still recognized and fostered, and hard work was seen as both a responsibility and a reward. In short, values were valued. Yet even more than these things, there was something which was a defining characteristic of those bygone days: an unflagging sense of optimism and genuine hope for the future.
Despite two world wars and a massive long-term economic depression, there seemed to be a pervasive expectation that the bad was going to eventually become good and the good would only get better. I know I haven’t observed such an expectant and genuine positivity in the world around me in decades. This is what has been missing for so long and what we must reclaim if we are to extract ourSelves from the current myriad of predicaments which we have created.
It could be argued that our grandfathers and great-grandmothers were, in their youth, simply naive and ignorant. I would argue pointedly to the contrary; I say it is WE who are betrayed by our naiveté. Our ancestors understood and accepted things which are perilously close to being discarded absolutely and lost in perpetuity by we who live today.
Present-day society has an unfortunate tendency to wait for an outside influence to “fix stuff” and set things right. Instead of looking to politicians or some other messianic enterprise to put conditions in order, it is well within our capacity to cast an investigative glance rearwards and rediscover what it is we have lost that can make the Present the “good old days” once again.
I will close this short apology by stating that I am not a Luddite. I have no desire to be without climate controlled buildings any more than I wish automobiles, computers, telephones, or air travel to vanish. I don’t at all support a homogeneous culture nor do I advocate for a compelled monolithic form of religious expression. I say we must cast off the Life-negating aspects of culture, regardless of their vintage, and nurture the Life-affirming aspects to give rise to something truly better.
An admirable goal of a transcendent humanity is to seek to continually refine and positively develop the Self (and consequently the community) while cleaving to the traditions and conventions which have been Time-tested and shown demonstrably effectual. A forward looking optimism should never go out of style.
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*I will assume that readers of this blog are possessed of an above average intelligence and a commensurate ability to discern intent; even so, considering the present zeitgeist of pervasive social outrage and engineered melodrama, I will state explicitly the following: I do not for one moment suggest that Jim Crow laws, unsanitary living conditions, monopolistic robber barons, or any of the unpleasant human relational dynamics of Times past should in any way be applauded or pursued as worthy of reclamation.
That this disclaimer needed to be included is a sad commentary on our present Times and an ironic reinforcement of the general thesis of this essay.
©Billy Red Horse