Every generation pines for the way things used to be. We may even look back a couple of generations longing for times we think were better than these. However, in many ways, these are the best days ever seen in the history of the world: consider increased longevity, extensive medical research and advances, and more diversity so that more among us - those who are physically challenged, for example - feel fully vested in our society. Agriculture is finding new ways to feed more people, and good thing. Social media outlets are connecting millions and billions around the world, millions and billions who can choose to join causes that affect political, environmental and social actions. The 24-7 availability of news keeps us fully plugged in, if we choose to be.
And you can also choose to rebut everything I just wrote with tales of increasing out-of-wedlock births, the declining interest in marriage as an institution and in organized religion, the clear-cutting of Amazonian rainforests, widening dead zones in the Earth's oceans, growing disciplinary problems in American schools, wounded vets who return to no jobs, the alarming volatility in the Middle East, and the proliferation of nuclear arms in countries where crazy men control them. The list is endless if you want to create such a list.
Sometimes looking back can be the impetus for positive social change. Once we grew all our own foods, made our soaps, sewed our own clothes, cured with medicinal herbs and potions, and made do with simple cleaning solutions like vinegar and baking soda. More and more of us are going back to simpler ways of living that include gardens, soap-making, recycling, consignment shopping and making do with what you have, instead of succumbing to the daily come-ons foisted upon us by slick marketing.
Yes, the times seemed so much simpler and easier to manage when there weren't so many choices to be made.
Information overload is swamping our boats and increasing our stress levels. We flitter in the wind chasing new products to salve needs we never knew we had until an advertiser told us we did.
Much as we might like, we cannot return to the way things were or "the way we were." What a lovely song as sung by Barbra Streisand, how gently it speaks to memories of the blush of romance, the gentle awakening to new thoughts and worlds. These days seem harsh and unforgiving when compared to days gone by and memories of those days that have had their rough edges worn away. Can you imagine that these days will one day be seen in the soft glow of memory? If time and human consciousness continue to work as they have these many centuries and thousands of years, we will one day look back fondly on today. An old proverb puts it this way: "What was hard to endure is sweet to recall."
Oh, but time marches on, and the pace seems to be picking up. It's not just the middle-aged and elders among us but also 20-somethings who are sensing a rapid acceleration of time's passage and the rate of changes we must learn to accommodate from month to month or year to year. We've all gone through sharp learning curves that started with email, then Facebook, then texting and instant messaging. Plenty among us still balk at online banking, but I for one have grudgingly accepted its ease and usefulness. Applying for jobs and certification from the state are primarily done online these days, nameless and faceless as the process may be. We are less and less individuals, and more and more PIN numbers and passwords.
If the past cannot be repeated or the future held off, in this election year, beware of politicians, officeholders and office-seekers who promise either to bring back the past or fend off the future. This county has spent years getting ready for the future under the visionary leadership of Kay Lee Brown at the Center for Community Preservation and Planning, the Center's board and a hard-working Leadership Collaborative composed of county employees and elected and appointed officials. The resulting 2050 plan has won state, national and international recognition and plaudits. No one in the country, dare I say, is as ready for managed growth as we are. I'm going to be watching carefully for those seeking new office or who want to remain in office who will embrace the planning and welcome the future, and who will not call the old days our best days.
Barbara Morgan is a Covington resident with a background in newspaper journalism, state government and politics.