You know, every once in a while I zone-out and review my life, mainly to count blessings, which have been numerous. So far it’s been a good ride with (I hope) more to come. I do not dwell in the past, but I do permit myself a review looking for "lessons learned” in order to improve the future. In other words, I try not to repeat the same mistakes. Sometimes I don’t.
NOW… Everyone has a "magic” phone with numerous applications, but it will be outdated in six weeks… We have appliances for everything, but collectively they require massive amounts of gas and electricity; however, more good news is that there are so many energy waves running through our homes that any unknown tumors are being radiated… Communication is instant from many electronic sources, but much of the information is false… For the most part "home training” has taken a hike, and manners and language are terrible… We have a ga-zillion television channels, but little programming of value… Air travel is available for everyone, but it’s a cattle car experience… It’s easy to get laid, but STDs are rampant…
THEN… Energy to heat homes, schools, and churches was inexpensive, but years of breathing coal fumes reduced life expectancy significantly… In the main, people were thin and looked fit, but the majority consumed cigarettes by the carton… Dental care was easily available and cheap, but people only went for "breakdown maintenance”… At one time Coca-Cola actually contained cocaine… Ambulances and hearses had standard three-on-the-column transmissions… Air travel was expensive and only for a few, but the experience was wonderful—macadamia nuts were included on meals trays, but so were cigarettes… STDs were rare, but then again it was difficult to get laid…
As a kid the future was presented to me as a kind of utopia. The prognosticators declared everything would be better with marvelous inventions to make our lives easier. Let’s see; there would be flying cars, individual jet-packs, highways would take control of ones vehicle allowing drivers to kickback; maybe take a snooze, pills sprinkled with water would produce food, miracle drugs would cure everything and keep us young forever, and amazing rapid transit systems would move us about in luxury. Well, the last two partially came true (so far) though futuristic transit systems have only become a reality in the Eastern Hemisphere. What the seers failed to see was the negative side of progress like air and water pollution, garbage handling, air travel in flying garbage cans full of smelly people, and overcrowding as the world population doubled. I’m sure the population explosion (Imagine it without birth control!) has more to do with better drugs and health care than the proclivity of mankind to screw their brains out.
As I look back I conclude that some things are better, some are worse, and others are just, well, different. The latter because of the way we look at and approach life maybe because we’ve become naturally more lazy, which is not intended as criticism. We have riding lawn mowers, snow blowers, automatic transmissions, computers, microwave ovens, remote controls for everything, automatic washers, dryers, and dishwashers; and wash-and-wear. Some of humanity uses this extra time to workout in gyms, run marathons, and climb rocks. Most simply get fat. Whatever, the way we see the pattern of life has changed; evolved.
Neighborhoods are different. My childhood neighborhood, like most in the USA, contained all types of people: business-owners, physicians, executives, machinists, teachers, salesmen, and laborers. All houses pretty much looked the same; some in better repair. The point is, at that time, homes weren’t necessarily looked at as status symbols. Status could be perceived by the year and model of the car in the driveway (in front of a one-car) garage, but I don’t recall anyone making a big deal about it. Today we’ve systematically separated the so-called economic classes by the neighborhoods we’ve built. We created a situation where empathy has disappeared because we only interface with those of our own ilk. The "other folks” may as well be from Mars. We neither see, acknowledge, nor interact with them. Is it any wonder we’re so polarized, a definite benefit for politicians and race hustlers who thrive on divisiveness.
Then there is music. Singers once stood in front of a band playing carefully crafted arrangements to fit a writer’s heartfelt lyrics. They sang the "American Songbook”; Mercer, Porter, Hart, etc. Today it seems each song has a similar, monotonous baseline (beat), with repetitious, somewhat boring lyrics, lip-synced in front of a dancing chorus all doing what looks like synchronized aerobics. Smoke and flames are thrown in for good measure. One "artist” seems pretty much like another. I recall the industry morphing that way starting with Paula Abdul in the early 1990s.
There were and are exceptions, to wit: Whitney Houston was a powerful vocalist, Michael Buble and Vic Damone have great tone as did Matt Munro; and Carmen McRae and Lou Rawls were stylists. I don’t much care for the "factory voices” from places like American Idol or manufactured singers like Brittany Spears, Jennifer Lopez, and Justin Timberlake. Mariah Carey and Christina Aguilera have terrific voices, but are caught in the boring formula paradigm. Rap and hip hop are (to me) even more boring. Since when is recitation music? The young adults say they can dance to it although their writhing around looks more like primitive moving and grooving than dancing, but to each his own. I like captured music, not manufactured music.
Operatic singers always get great applause (even from the kids), praise from the judges, and go far in the competition of America’s Got Talent. And remember the Il Volo visit to American Idol? And who can forget Jackie Evancho? Yet those who decide what is hip force feed us their boring formula. Last year on America’s Got Talent this black guy, Landau Eugene Murphy Jr., with dreads shows up and channels Sinatra. The choice of music and voice from such an improbable visual image blew everybody—judges, audience, and viewers—away! The guy was terrific and won the whole competition. Still the music executives ignore what the people say, crossing it off as an interesting anomaly.
Fortunately, our access to all types of music is more abundant than ever before: Internet, iPods, satellite radio, etc. So we don’t have to choose what the industry tries to force feed us. Here’s something to consider: when rockers (like Van Morrison and Rod Stewart) make it big they all want to do a Sinatra-Nelson Riddle type album. Neil Peart, drummer for Canadian rock band, Rush, says when he walks about he hears Sinatra, Bennett, et. al. in his head.
I do not begrudge any of this stuff whether better, worse, or simply different. I have learned that "new” is not always "better”; neither is "old”. In the end all is a product of cause-and-effect of which we have (basically) no control. Chaos and entropy are the nature of this world so we may as well just hang on, observe, marvel occasionally, and adapt. In that way our relatively short life span can be joyful.
Here’s my swan song for when I exit this orb. I call it…
Beneath an azure canopy / Beams bright sun I cannot see / Below damp earth that covers me / Obliged to lie down by God’s will
With serene whisper days passed by / Life is spent; I in silence lie / For birth ordains that all must die / To meet again (?) beyond the hill
I lived with joy; my heart was glad / When sand ran out it made me sad / Yet thankful for the time I had / (And) some claim we may live on still
These shadows haunt me through the day / Acceptance has not found its way / My only option is to pray / What canon taught us to be real
With that in mind, I’ll see you on the other side (assuming there is one).
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