I was watching a documentary the other day about something that happened more than 80 years ago. Looking at the faces of the people in the program I saw an innocence and a wholesomeness that are missing today. I’ve never been much for “dreaming,” not in that innocent sense that dreamers have, but these days I think about how different our lives are today and how that’s not always a good thing.
“I feel like I missed out,” I told Michael. “Even though that first half of the 20th century had its issues, it was a more innocent and a simpler time. I wish we lived in a time like that now.”
He considered, for a moment, then asked, “Do you think it’s just that we didn’t know about the issues of the day? Remember, the news was only 15 minutes a day back in the 1950s. We’re inundated with news today.”
It was my turn to consider. “Well, our PARENTS knew about the problems,” I said. “Remember ‘better dead than Red’? the McCarthy hearings? Duck and cover? We didn’t understand it because we were so young. But our parents did.”
I went on. “I know it’s sacrilege to say this, because I’m an ardent feminist and would have made an unlikely homemaker, but there’s something to be said about knowing your role in life, no matter how limited. Knowing where you fit in. Having the kind of predictability that we DIDN’T have.”
The conundrum of choices
Even coming up as a young feminist, I saw that having so many choices made my life more complicated. But I never really longed for simplicity until recent years. Years in which the world has gotten so much crazier than it was in my childhood.
And of course, I am well aware that I’m speaking from the point of view of a white person raised in an upper middle-class first-generation American family. That is, of course, the only point of view I have real life experience with.
As we talked further, I realized that it wasn’t the era as much as it was the innocence. That as a child, I might have gone through the motions of duck and cover at school, but I really had no idea what it all meant. Not like my parents did. I didn’t have the visceral fear of the Communists bombing us, for example, because I was just too young.
My parents, who were younger than I am now, felt that fear. They felt some of what I’m feeling now. Although they probably could never have imagined the kinds of things we’re facing today, on all fronts.
Sometimes reality seems overwhelming.
The innocence of childhood is a beautiful thing, pure and unsullied. And as I’ve grown weary of the ridiculous and terrible, frightening and silly things going on in our world, I long to recapture it.
Like a child, I long to be insulated from the terrors we’re inundated with every day.
But as an adult in the 21st century, I know there is no escape from this world we live in, save death.
Yes Carol, that is why I love living away from cities. It gives me the feeling of insulation from the harshness of the “real world.” I can choose to let the world (better known as the news) in, or go for a hike and enjoy the here and now beauty surrounding me…
I just finished watching the movie “Trumbo”. What a horrible time in American history! We learned about this period in school but didn’t really understand the magnitude of it, as you mentioned about those “duck and cover drills”. Those “simpler times” really weren’t, as much as we remember them fondly.
I think the early loss of innocence is a tragedy.
Here’s to dreaming!
I think a combination of age, savvy and intelligence compel us to stay alert to events (everywhere, all the time) way past the point where we can absorb it all.
I know I have to plan time to wonder and muse and daydream; I literally avoid a newspaper for however long it takes to unpack my head.
I’m not sure I believe one generation ever has it better than another – it’s just different. We certainly have more choices available to us these days and we can be in constant immediate connection with every other part of the world online. The result is we don’t live in a society where secrets are so well kept, and we have the possibility for truly being exposed to others with different backgrounds than ourselves, all of which make it possible for us to embrace unity consciousness in ways that simply weren’t possible even in our parents generation.
I think we can all cultivate the “innocence” you speak of. I like to think of it in terms of the archetype represented by tarot’s Fool. Not foolish in the sense of idiotic, but rather open to allowing things to unfold and following where one’s heart leads one. And I suspect that’s both the best form of dreaming and living there is.
Every generation has their trials and tribulations. I do know that my childhood was so much more innocent than what my children have grown up in.
I think the omnipresent news (and the media’s ability to whip us into a frenzy) is part of the problem. Ignorance was bliss. Although I must admit I’m a news junkie … so I shouldn’t complain.
I have lived in the city for my entire life and there is nothing more I would want to do than to live in the quiet countryside in my twilight years. The fast paced lifestyle is so stressful and the news makes anxiety even worse! I dedicate a few minutes of quiet time for myself everyday, and yes, I spend it dreaming.
So many good comments. My childhood was wonderful because of the freedom from the sorrows of the world. Yes, Mom was watching the McCarthy hearings–but it did not touch me. Just yesterday my brothers and I were talking about the freedoms we had and yet there was a shadow over us–one we did not realize, that we were privileged and white.So as that cracked into my rather imaginary world, I did what I could to help–teaching, nursing, writing. I still do. And dreaming is a great choice, Thanks.
People don’t even realize how much they have lost. New channels control everything you see and hear. They decide everything from what we watch to who we vote for. Media is out of control.
I spent twenty years in a town with a large Mennonite population. This group does maintain the halcyon existence many view as in the past, but country living without modern convenience rejection offers a lot of this too. In fact, you can’t get cable or high speed internet service in many of these little towns, so there is a bit of a forced abstinence ;-). What I found curious moreso than innocence (there’s some of that) was the relationships. Everyone knows everyone’s business but they’re also quick to be there to lend a hand – no matter what. It’s a different mindset where help your neighbor is practiced daily on a level unseen in most cities and suburbs – no reciprocity expected. So, there is kind of a way to escape from the world most live in to one that focuses more on community than conflict. Dreaming’s good too – so’s writing – there are so many places you go in your mind that’s not where you are ;-).
Kids lose their innocence so early these days watching video games and violence on TV that they become immune to it. I remember watching JFK being assassinated on TV and being glued to the TV and the LA Riots, which were awful but then we’d all go out to play until dark. There was more of a balance.
All of the bad things have been present, just in smaller numbers when the population was smaller, and more present with the advent of the 24 hour news cycle. We certainly hear a lot more about events now.
Hm , really remarkable that only yesterday I spoke to my husband about right that.And I also chatted with a friend from blogging world about this phenomenon. I actually feel sorry for nowadays teenager and kids. The childhood we had , priceless! Maybe we knew less , I don’t know , but we were a lot happier , I know that for sure.
I think dreaming keeps us sane Carol. I agree that in today’s world we don’t seem to have that ‘softness’ about us. Life is busy and I also agree that perhaps we do have too many choices. I see children being given everything they want and aren’t allowed to dream or use their imagination to play. Although on a positive note, I believe that some parents including my daughter and SIL are trying hard to encourage their 2 year old to be able to amuse himself without all the latest gadgets. My daughter struggles being a mum and combing a full time career with a fair amount of travel but both she and her husband show that it can be done. I sometimes wish for simpler times where life wasn’t so hectic for everyone.
I wish we could all go back to simpler times. Every time I think of my childhood or every time I’m faced with a problem, I always think to myself how it would be so nice to be a child again. No worries. Everything is sababa! Anyway, here’s to more dreaming and wishful thinking!
That makes a lot of sense. The innocence of a child makes life a lot more simple for them. The secret is not knowing things, apparently. Lol. Although we can’t really bring that innocence back there are ways wherein we can dodge the worries of our age, like you said, we can keep dreaming.
I think the best quote of this is that reality is overwhelming. No matter what age I am I still feel this way with situations I face.
OMG I miss the innocence of childhood. I miss being completely oblivious to the world and just living in “lala land” – I honestly don’t even REALLY remember how I lived always having to ask my parents for money, ha!!
It WAS a simpler time – in some places, if you had enough to eat, land to grow it on,and people who cared about you. The suffragists, underclasses and castes were discontent. But the slower pace of life had to be less stressful.
I long for innocence, too – or at least a kinder, gentler world. I hope that’s a dream that can come true.
I’m always thinking that I’m so glad I’m not raising kids in today’s world. It scares the ever lovin’ crap out of me.
I have those thoughts sometimes about how much simpler things used to be.But being a woman of color with a mouth on her, things probably wouldn’t have faired well lol. I think the grass is always a little greener on the other side being a kid I couldn’t wait to grow up.
I agree. Life has become so complicated. This young generation is so messed up.
Life today may be too complicated. It is because we have so many choices and oftentimes, we want to have everything. They say life before was way easier and simplier. Though I love technology and innovation, I still long for simplicity.
I would love to see the future generations,say 50 years from now. Wonder if they will also look back at our lives today and have a similar response?
Seriously true that children have it made. The funny thing is, they always can’t wait to grow up. 🙂
Carol you would have gone out of your creative, inquisitive mind in the “simpler” role of a housewife, don’t you think? I know my mother resented every minute at the sink and washing machine. She had smarts and art talent and dreams but all she got was an apron. And I’m with Dia. I couldn’t wait to grow up.
I think one of the things missing nowadays is balance – yes bad things happen and always have, but nowadays the 24/7 news elevates issues to an all-consuming and pervasive level, contributing to a build-up of the fear and extremism experienced of today.
I agree with Michael. It is not just the frequency of media (and social media) but the sensationalism that helps with building their audience. Fear leads to clicks.
Carol, You raise an interesting question and one I’m still not sure of the answer. We definitely have it harder today in some ways. Public, mass shootings come to mind. And yet technologically, life is easier. Still, earlier generations had war, famine, and disease, in some ways worse than we have today. Very hard question to answer, but fascinating to think about.
I, too, find myself looking back nostalgically at my childhood and teenage years. I think in a sense every advance comes with a cost, a loss of something else. I love the conveniences of our modern life–like the fact that we can communicate like this right now–but I do see that all the convenience,the abundance, the availability of just about any material thing you want has made us a more jade–and impatient! I think children (and adults) have lost a lot of wonder and awe because nothing is a big deal anymore.But don’t take my microwave!
Yes, I’d love to have the innocence of childhood back. I do think there is some element of looking back and seeing things as simpler that does come from having more information and news available now, and some from selective recollections. An example of that being that with all the current fears about terrorism in Britain, we have actually largely forgotten the constant threat of IRA attacks that we were all so used to in the seventies and eighties. We now see that as a safer, less complicated time, but I don’t know if that was true really. The Troubles, the Cold War, Iraq, Iran, Libya…were things really so different? Maybe they were, or maybe it is the rose tinting of the past?