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May 26, 2010, at 12:36 am — Blogs

From a Distance There Is Harmony

A couple of months back, I found myself extremely depressed. It seemed that everywhere that I looked contained a sense of agony and forewarning of the predestined end of the world. The decreasing quality of relationships; the recession; global warming; the emergent scarcity of resources such as water and electricity; the tragedy of natural disasters that kill millions; flu and hiv pandemics and the looming evil that exists in society today.

However, when you think about it, life has never been perfectly pleasant. There were World Wars and revolutions; earthquakes and tornadoes; the Great Depression; extreme human rights violations; suppressed minorities; black plagues… the list goes on. In comparison, now is not that bad.

Life occurs in waves… it’s how the world works. Maybe it’s self-regulating in its own way?

We tend to augment the good old days, remembering the good moments that we experienced and ignoring the bigger picture. I recently read an article about passing fads that stated, “We live our lives in a complex web of rapidly changing whims, desires, ethics, and policies; we pick the ones we like, and they form the spirit of our age, the spirit of our society.” At the same time, we as people are never satisfied with what we have or how things are; we always want ‘else’.

In South Africa, I have heard people (from all races) claim that in some ways living during Apartheid was better. It sounds shocking but I have heard it stated more often than one would imagine:

“The beaches were cleaner then”

“The streets were safer”

“The buildings were maintained”

“People worked harder and knew what they were doing”

“The government was competent”

“There were more jobs”

… However, life was definitely not better than!

The past is like that Bette Midler/John Barrowman song, ‘From a Distance’. From far, everything looks great.

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1 comment to From a Distance There Is Harmony

  • Jeremy Olsen

    I wish you hadn’t resorted to quoting Bette Midler… but it’s a fantastic point you make that rings with truth. I recently heard John Stewart very cleverly comment in a similar vein on The Daily Show. After a montage of talking heads complaining about how the days of their respective youths were so much better, Stewart suggested it might that they remember these times as better because they were KIDS. One need only note the extraordinary prevalence of eighties remakes, reissues, comeback artists and retro styles to witness the power of nostalgia and the yearning for the past at work.

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