My Father in His House of Logs

I was in a conversation the other day with some friends. It wasn’t long before we were bemoaning the ‘state of the world’. We moved from politics in Washington DC to global warming and the Middle East, then took on the environment, the media and the latest brouhaha about China shooting down a satellite. In a few minutes, we were feeling a bit of despair at the seemingly endless list of intractable problems, most of which are threatening our quality of life—if not the future of our entire species.

Even though I am almost a professional optimist, I still felt the ‘pull’ toward resignation, an almost irresistible urge to just throw in the towel. And yet, if I am truly objective, I think I am happier now than at any period in what has been a very happy life.

Some of my friends have adopted a ‘laissez-faire’ policy, leaving the world at large well enough alone and just burying their heads in their personal sandboxes. Others advocate making hay while the sun’s still shining, living for leisure and relaxation in an attempt to hide their sensitivity to pain and suffering. Then there are the fanatical activists, taking sides against the ‘establishment’ they perceive as the ‘organized threat’. And on it goes…

I remember a verse from someplace that went something like, “My father in his house of logs said the world is going to the dogs….” I suppose older folks have always had the propensity to compare their contemporary world to the past and have the present appear as something less than the ‘good old days’. Yet, as most of us will acknowledge, the good old days were not always ‘good’. People were happy then, but they also had problems—local, national and international. Things didn’t always work out for the best. Perhaps we’re more comfortable leaving our rose-colored glasses on to filter out the things we’d rather forget.

As elders, I wonder whether there is a general bias towards seeing our individual and collective futures in a negative light? And whether that perception exists simply to reinforce our ‘good old days’ view of the past?