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Simple acts keep complicated times in proper scale

July 10, 2002|by LAURA VOGEL

My kindergarten drawings picturing the year 2002 always had flying cars and robots in them. And as I look back on what my 4-year-old mind had dreamed up, I realize that I wasn't too far off.

But there is a certain degree of sadness that I feel when I look at those old drawings and imagine what it must have felt like to live before all of the new technology that exists in the 21st century. I feel sad because I can't really remember.

The memories of most twenty-somethings in the world today date back to right around the time that technology broke free and exploded into society. For most of us, our earliest memories are from the 1980s but the majority of our vivid memories are mostly from the 1990s.

We may remember getting our first VCR, but we really don't remember what it was like before we had one. The same applies to our video cameras and CD players. Computers grew up along with us, so we never really noticed their advances until they were already upon us. We certainly have no concept of what it was like to be in the workplace without them. We all had color TVs and we grew up watching music videos. Many of our parents had cars with power windows.

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But it isn't just technology that we've never lived without, it's something much deeper.

We've always known AIDS. We've always known broken homes. We've known violence on television and in the movies. We've always known not to talk to strangers and we've always known why. We've never had enough trust in mankind to leave the doors of anything unlocked for any amount of time.

I think that the defining characteristic of the twenty-something identity is that we don't remember an easier time. We have no recollection of living in a less complicated world.

However, when I was a child, my parents had the power to protect me from the bad things that I would one day know. I sometimes fear that my generation will not have the same power when it comes to our own children. Our children will always know to be wary of violence in their school. And our children will always know terrorism. And, as the years go on, who knows what will be seen in kindergarten drawings of the future.

So I guess, in a way, everything is relative. To our children, our world will be less complicated than theirs. And perhaps one day they will yearn to have the luxury of remembering what they believe to be an easier time. A time before all of the things they will wish never were.

I have a great aunt and uncle who are in their early and mid-90s, respectively. At one time they were at the height of fashion and ettiquette, and they often pride themselves on that. As almost a century has passed, they often find themselves behind the times. Their manner of dress is often outdated and their ideas can sometimes be construed as archaic. But when taking the time to observe them closely, one can obviously see those things which are timeless. Those things which transcend technology and generational conflict.

They send handwritten thank you notes for every occasion. They listen to their children and grandchildren - really listen. They never show up empty-handed. They always offer to help clean up dinner. They try to send you home with leftovers every time. They love each other.

These things may seem small, and they are. But it is the small things that keep our world less complicated - throughout all generations.

- Laura Vogel is a freelance write who lives in Frostburg, Md.

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