Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Would I, If I Could?

One question I get asked quite frequently is "would you live in the past if you could?"
Hmmm...good question. We can romanticize the past through tales in books or through movies - take the best of the 19th century and tell of that joyous part of life that makes the 19th century look so wonderful. By reading social history books, we can tell how long it took to travel from here to there by horse and carriage, how folks worked together as a family to grow the crops so they had plenty to eat come harvest time, made by hand whatever furniture needed to make life more comfortable, had no worries about paying the electric or cable bill...
We can also hear about the not so good part of Victorian living - sickness, rough daily occupations and working conditions, going to the dentist, mortality rates, pollution...
And, when the period book or movie is done we can 're-enter' the 21st century: cooling off in an air-conditioned car or house, maybe go for a dip in a pool, drive through a local Burger King, throw on a Green Day c d, and relax.
When one compares the past to the present, my guess would be that the greater majority of common folk would choose the present time in which to live.
I used to feel that way as well - and, I still do to a certain extent. But, the more 'time' moves on, the less comfortable I feel living in this day and age, and the greater my wish to be able to travel through time to my favorite era, that, of course, being the mid-19th century, has become.
Even with all of its roughness, I feel the Victorians had 'cornered the market' on dealing with life. They put their lives on the line daily - they accepted everything that came their way - good and bad - and gave glory to God no matter what.
I'm not like that. I try to be, but my mindset is of the 21st...well, OK, the 20th century, and we of this era in human history have become the stressful nation - a nation of want and need of material goods, not acceptance for what we already have; a society of Doubting Thomases instead of a nation of faith; a nation of blatant in-your-face screw-you-if-you-don't-like-it leftists instead of respecting our neighbor and fellow man for a belief in tradition.
In the 19th century - heck, even throughout most of the 20th century - people knew the difference between right and wrong. Today, folks instead will state, "what's wrong for one person might be right for another." They will claim there are no absolutes when it comes to such a "gray" area. That everything is pretty much 'right.'
They will also blame whatever and whoever they can for their own wrong doings (do you here me, Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick?).
Disciplining your child for being bad was not considered a crime - yes, it's true, contrary to the revisionist historians (who love to place today's societal ills upon our 19th century counterparts), kids back then were more disciplined and respectful. They knew the difference between right and wrong, good and bad. They knew the importance of having and practicing religious faith in their daily lives; the importance of family; the need for hard work in order to survive. Most did not feel they were owed anything by anybody, especially the government. They persevered through thick and thin and survived.
I guess my original answer to would I go back if I could go back in time was wrong - I am going to have to say "no, I would not."
Because, being a child of our modern times, I could never measure up to those wonderful survivors of the 19th century.
God Bless Them, and God Help Us.

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