By Craig Funston
Last week I wandered (off) a little, taking a stroll down memory lane. Tend to do that at the advanced age of 60. Hope I didn’t sound too morose, but looking back tends to do that.
I find that as I get older, I am taking more time out to reflect and reminisce. That’s one of the reasons that I enjoy reading Old (his word) Fred Mellen’s column, though his clippings go back further than I do.
I’m still trying to figure out whether a sixty-year time lapse impairs my judgement, or was it actually better back then. I lean toward the latter: It was better back then, but it doesn’t mean we have to mope over our mocha today.
Let me quote the county-famous columnist in this space from last week: The world made more sense a few decades ago.
In other words, the world doesn’t make sense to me as it once did. Does it to you? Pick your subject matter: politics? education? law? families? church? So many rational and normal institutions and events are no longer rational and normal. It bothers me, but beyond that, it also scares the you-know-what out of me. And then I think of my kids, and theirs—yours, and theirs, too, for that matter.
Developments that, well, don’t make sense. Sense that isn’t very common anymore.
Let’s consider wars for a moment. I cannot say if there are more deaths per capita throughout the world. A perusal of history—say, within the past 10,000 years– would show that nation versus nation, tribal warfare, and genocide, have always been with us. Pick your continent, and colour it red (for its bloodshed). Maybe we’re just hearing about and seeing it more.
So the (social) media may appear to make the world seem like it’s getting worse. It’s instant news that comes with twitter and Facebook. All the news that’s fit (and unfit) to report—in your face and in your space at the click of a send button.
I’m not sure that turning sixty for the likes of Chan, Travolta, and Howard is as traumatic for them as it seems to be for me. I haven’t talked to them recently, so I don’t know where they’re at with this. And actually, I’m probably more reflective than traumatized by this milestone.
At thirty years of age, sixty seemed a lifetime away; at sixty, seventy looms in my future. And there’s no longer a lifetime ahead of me. Not a pleasant thought, despite how active or alert I am.
I enjoy good health, peace of mind, safety, and economics, for which I am very grateful. I am keenly aware that any one, or all, of these could be taken away from me in a moment. I see it all around me, so I need to cherish each day.
Recent phones calls and emails about people much younger than me having strokes, slipping on stairs and passing away suddenly, dying of cancer, have left me feeling vulnerable. Physical, emotional, and financial setbacks and death are no longer the lot of the old.
A walk down memory lane leaves me breathless these days. I get winded just thinking about it, so it must be a heart condition—heart, in the sense of affection and recollection.
I can’t go back to the Land of Shouldacouldawoulda, a land where I used to live in simplicity, hope, and trust. That was also a land of rotary telephones and 8-tracks. There is nothing inherently noble about these things.
I like my laptop, cell phone, running water, and all the other amenities that I come with living in this century I don’t really want to go back to a typewriter, only one phone in the house, and no Internet. Skip the sod hovel and outdoor plumbing: I like my nice, warm house with its ensuite.
What I miss in this world—and by that, I mean my Canadian culture, Alberta-style– more than anything else, is warm, real human relationships. We appear to be far more in contact with each other, through the magic and mystery of social media, but I suggest we are far less in contact than ever before, thanks to the same social media.
Facebook relationships (such as they are) don’t cut it; that medium misleads people into thinking they have something when they don’t—using words like “friends” and “like.” I continue to resist that approach to relationships. I long for something deeper, not shallower; long-term, not short-term; and more genuine, not phoney.
I know it’s not the ’50s or ’60s anymore, and maybe that’s alright. It would be nice, though, to retrieve some of the values and experiences from those early years.
I need to wander back now from memory lane; there’s still a lot of miles left in these shoes.