I don’t know what life was like back in the day. I cannot attest to how people felt, thought, or lived. But I often imagine it being a quiet, simple utopia, despite the unique complexities faced during events in any given decade.
When I envision the past, I see a certain stillness; a restful silence. I picture Grandpas rocking on the porch swing while Grandmas knit and grandchildren play. I see the intricacies of life, while still complicated in nature, condensed and easier for the individual to manage. Civilizations of people operating in chaos but settling into peace. They were able to shut down and enjoy a moment without indulging their anxieties. They didn’t need to pursue validations disguised as cures for boredom and loneliness. Instead of filling their heads with empty noise and attempting to escape themselves and circumstances with constant stimulation and endless bits of useless information, they were forced to confront silence and banality by examining the ugliness of the self and the harsh reality it found itself in.
When I envision the past, I see people who took pride and honor in the sacrifices they made, living selflessly for their friends, their families, and their country. I see an effort, despite having to endure nearly intolerable faults in personality and behavior, to embrace the cohesiveness—the sense of community and belonging—within the family unit. There was a willingness, even amongst those who held misguided distaste for their neighbors, to accept our commonalities and embrace the basic tenets of humanity.
People were considerate to each other by default, showing mutual respect for their fellow man instead of suspicion and fear. This was a world where people made a conscious effort to see the good in all things, people included, instead of searching for problems in everything.
When I envision the past, I see less greed; people who did their best to create a life out of what they had instead of pursuing what they didn’t. They confronted the finality of life with faith, love, and a willingness to accept being content instead of seeking happiness through superficial means. There were people living with a defined purpose, instead of entire generations blindly searching for it; usually in the wrong places.
Honestly, I know the past wasn’t really the way I described it. I know people were people—flawed, imperfect, human—as they are now. But the past in my imagination is a utopia, if we ignore the tragedies brought about by human ignorance. Before easy access to resources and information, before technology vied for our attention, before all this awareness of “the issues,” people and their lives seemed simpler. They seemed able to slow down, to disconnect from the trivial meaninglessness surrounding them and to reconnect with what matters most in this world. There was meaning and purpose in the responsibilities people adopted and the sacrifices they made.
They adapted to simplicity.
Now, current generations seem to be lost in their search for meaning and purpose (which is why I think so many people are unhappy. My perception is that we live in the most advanced, equal society in human history, but the majority of people seem completely miserable).
My visions of the past are really visions of a balanced world. Not too much convenience, nor too much struggle. A place where mankind weighs the successes of established structures (economic, social, cultural, etc.) with modern innovations and enlightenment. It is a world where we integrate the knowledge, wisdom, morals, and principles passed down by our ancestors and use them as guidelines to bolster future progress and understanding. The strengths of the past—simplicity, solidarity, purpose, etc.—should intermingle with the strengths and awareness of our present.
Before You Go!
What do you see when you envision the past? How about the future? Everyone likes to say ‘back in my day,‘ but were things really better? Or worse? Be sure to leave your thoughts in the Comments Section below!
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