I am glad

Jeff at Pompeii, a nice place to visit-- but I wouldn't want to have lived there! May, 2008

Jeff at Pompeii, a nice place to visit– but I wouldn’t want to have lived there! May, 2008

“Let others praise ancient times; I am glad I was born in these.”Ovid

There’s a lot to think about in this brief quote.  For one thing, isn’t it amusing to realize that Ovid lived in comparatively modern times, at least as he saw it?  Terms such as “ancient” and “modern” are relative, aren’t they?

But even though Ovid lived thousands of years ago, I think he was right to be grateful for being born when he was.  Can’t most of us say the same?  I have no wish to be younger; I have fond memories of growing up in the 60’s and 70’s, and though I find many exciting changes on the horizon for the generations to come, I also regret the loss of much that I took for granted most of my life, and worry about all the usual things older generations fret over.

When I was a child, I had romantic notions about past centuries, and I still sometimes fall into that way of thinking.  But I know better than to believe the fantasies that go along with romanticizing the past.  I know that the attractive but elaborate clothing would not have been nearly as easy to live in as the comfortable attire we wear now.  I know that horse-drawn carriages mean lots of smelly excrement in the roads (just visit Colonial Williamsburg sometime if you don’t believe me).  I like smoke-free public buildings and antibiotics for deadly infections and clean water for drinking and bathing, anytime I want it, at whatever temperature I choose.

I probably will always find the past fascinating and instructive.  Most likely, I will always love historical fiction that takes me on imaginary adventures in different places and eras.  And I find it hard to accept the argument that students need not learn history to have a complete education.

In spite of all that, though, I am glad to live in these times.  Aren’t you?

22 Comments

  1. Julia, I love to romanticise the past, but when it comes down to the thought of actually living in those times, I find that I’m quite content with living in the present 🙂

    • I agree! I like reading historical novels where some of these less-than-ideal circumstances are mentioned here and there, just to keep us grounded in reality. Bill Bryson’s book At Home is an eye-opening nonfiction book left me feeling very thankful for living into the 21st century.

  2. Of course I am.
    I was thinking about something else.
    We all tend to glorify the years (and the songs, the artists, the culture….)in which we were in the prime of our youth. Ask me and I would say the 80’s and 90’s were the best.
    Even those who lived a thousand years ago would have been happy the same way. Who said human beings are an unsatisfied lot? 🙂

    • Good point. I certainly do exactly what you have described; I tend to think the 70’s were best, at least in terms of airline travel and rock music. I think we are all more content than we realize. It’s good to be reminded of that now and then!

  3. Sheila

    I feel that every day is a blessing! History is our foundation, in so many ways. If it wasn’t important why has it been taught all these years? The 50’s were my preteen years. I think we grew up in the best of times. I don’t live in the past but I really love recalling those special times! Have a great day. Remember, you’re making history! 🙂

    • We are all indeed making history; a sobering thought! Over the years, it has seemed to me that perhaps no school subject has been the subject of so much derision as history. Kids (and some adults) usually mention that as the prime example of “what does this have to do with the real world?” And if you tell someone you are majoring in history in college, very often the immediate response is “what do you plan to do with that?” Since Drew has spent more years in school now than even his father did, all of them focused on studying history, it will be interesting to see how he answers that question! 🙂 Hope you have a great day. It’s warming up a bit here and should be pretty although rain is in the forecast for later this week.

  4. I too used to look on the past with Romanticism and think how fun it would be to travel back in time to live in a previous era like the Regency in England. Until two things occurred. I read a time travel novel set in the Regency and the modern character lamented the lack of chocolate of quality. Chocolate as we’ve cone to know it (refined and sweet) hadn’t been invented yet. And PBS created those reality shows that put a family in a house to live historically for a month or a year or whatever. All the little things we take for granted were fascinatingly brought to light on that show. Now I’m happy to be right where I’m at. 😉

    • Wow, I need to look up that PBS show. Do you remember the title of it? That sounds like one reality TV premise worth watching! I hadn’t realized that previous generations had to live without good chocolate! That’s a deal-breaker for sure. Electricity, plumbing, CHOCOLATE!

  5. Carolyn

    Yes, it is a great day and I’m happy to be where I am today. Great marriage and wonderful and friends, Friday I will turn 69 and most of the years have been good. You know all about some of them. Well yesterday the trip to the doctor wasn’t bad. I have a bad cause of bursitis, and they gave me an injection of a corticosteroid med into the bursa to reduce the inflammation and pain. So for it has help. I hope I got all the words spelled right. Glad I decided to add another doctor to my list. Tell Matt I know how he feels. that sweet boy has been through so much. You all have a great week. Love and hugs to all.

    • Carolyn, HAPPY BIRTHDAY on Friday, one day before my blog birthday! I hope you will be sure to come to the online party that day. I didn’t realize you were as old as you say you are; I guess the years have flown by too fast and people tend to “freeze” in my mind until I see them again in person. I hope your shoulder situation improves soon. Matt says thank you for your good wishes!

  6. MaryAnn

    Some reminisce about “simpler times”. I say that I would not relish outdoor bathrooms, carrying water from the spring (to drink, cook, bathe), washing clothes in the creek, etc. Such was the life of my husband’s mother. Happy to see that others in your blog appreciate our current living luxuries. I like what you say about “contentment”. It is very healthy to count our blessings each day! Thanks for the reminder.

  7. Oh yes, I am very happy to live at this time in our lives…

    • We owe much to those who have gone before us, and made our present existence so much easier and more beautiful. I have to remind myself to be grateful sometimes, but I truly do feel very fortunate.

  8. Makes me wonder if we’ll ever be a lost civilization only to be found 1500 years later. I’d love to visit Naples some time and tour the city of Pompeii. I watched a really interesting documentary a number of years ago, the plaster casts of victims of the tragedy are eery. I’m sure they were pretty advanced for the time they lived in.

    As you say it can be more ‘romanticizing’ than true life when we think about the past. I really tend to gravitate to music, clothes and cars from the 40’s but in reality, it was a terrible time for the worlds security and families were separated by war. There was rationing here, hardships and atrocities abroad. So it seems I look at the time with rose coloured glasses. Maybe it’s human nature to only remember the best parts of our times, the alternative can be pretty upsetting really.

    • The plaster castings at Pompeii are eerie indeed, and the ones I saw were inside a fairly dark building (one of the better-preserved ones) in a warehouse-style hodgepodge without any markers to call attention to them or explain anything. The ones of people were mixed in with bowls, tools and other artifacts, and one truly grotesque casting of a large dog. It’s like a huge, tangible reminder of how fragile and uncertain our existence on earth is, then and now.

      I think rose-colored glasses (like temporary or partial denial) can be a coping strategy, if used wisely and with awareness of reality. I think that one reason we remember times such as the 40’s with nostalgia is that sometimes hardship and sacrifice look quite beautiful from a distance. We are inspired by the discipline of the men and women who lived then, but to them it probably just felt as if they were wearing out, straining, holding on and enduring. I think that was the brilliant message of Saving Private Ryan, where that theme lies quietly underneath so many of the scenes. The climax for me was when the two soldiers were fighting with each other and threatening each other and the Captain interrupted them to say “I’m a school teacher.” These were everyday people such as we are, just caught in extraordinary circumstances. They inspire us to be ready to call out our inner strength when it is needed.

      • Yes, just ordinary people, you make a very good observation Julia. Who knows what you can live thru until you HAVE to. Humanity has proven to be resilient even when faced with the unthinkable. I’ve never seen ‘Saving Private Ryan’ in it’s entirety. The first 10 minutes were to hard for me to watch and I left the theatre, then came back, then left again. Sounds silly doesn’t it. It just really affects my psyche and takes me a long time to get over. So I just avoid films of that nature but do admire them for their craftsmanship and for education of society.

        • I know many who had that same reaction to the movie. I think it’s easier to watch the whole thing than just the bad scenes, because it’s made in such a way as to alternate quieter scenes with horrible ones, much like life itself. Although the scene that gets me most is the one where the mother is washing dishes at the kitchen sink and looks out and sees what every military wife or mother dreads – the car pulling up and three men in uniform getting out. Years ago Jeff told me if you ever see that, you will know what to expect. She walks out to the porch and then when the priest gets out of the car she just falls down from the grief and shock even before they say a word.

          Have you seen Life is Beautiful? By a coincidence we saw it the next night after we saw Saving Private Ryan. It helped put some perspective on why the war happened. However, it’s a wonderful, romantic, funny and relatively gentle movie although in its way, just as hard-hitting as the other one. It’s one of my all-time favorites. It was all the more magical to know the screen couple is really married to each other in real life. Perhaps that explains why the love between them was so believable.

  9. Maybe someday, I’ll try and see ‘Saving Private Ryan’ again. The scene you describe sounds earth shattering. I always think when I see a these scenes, “and that’s why NOT EVERYONE is an actor”. Wow, to be able to LIVE written words on queue and affect viewers so deeply, it’s just astonishing. I actually did see ‘Life Is Beautiful’ and thought the Oscar for Best Picture was well deserved. It was probably one of the most moving films I’ve ever scene. That, and ‘The Pianist’. I pretty much cried all the way thru both films, but I suppose it was the lack of brutal battle scenes that I was able to watch them. Both movies that stay with you long after you leave the cinema.

    • Yes, I loved the Pianist too. I have the CD of music from Life is Beautiful and also the VHS tape (for which I hope my VHS player will last!)

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