Treading lightly the path to enlightenment.

Posts tagged ‘Brave New World’

Brief History Of Humanity And Thanksgiving Of The Future

Careening through our techno-modern society, it becomes easier with each passing day to imagine life in the Jetsons Age. Futuristic societies, such as the Space Federation that governs the U.S.S. Enterprise in Star Trek, or the United States from which the Robinsons launched before they were Lost In Space appear to have homogenized their days. No one different from the next.

Captain Kirk and his crew, Captain John Robinson and even George Jetson live in worlds where all the most basic needs are met by machines of technology. Environment, the very air we breathe, the food served, transportation to and fro are accomplished without a second thought, without a first thought, by these inhabitants of the future.

George Orwell painted a grim scene in his view of the future, 1984.

Aldous Huxley took us out to the twenty-sixth century in Brave New World.

While the former works are adventurous looks at futures living with space travel, or a comic strip depicting lives in the Space Age, the latter two present more sober views.

Orwell and Huxley don’t simply tell tales of Buck Rogers lifestyles, but present us with questions. With options. With choices.

How will our future world develop? How will we choose the paths to take? Who will decide? How will we select those things to be left behind, cast aside, and which we will carry with us into future generations? If everything comes with a price, what will be the costs?

Humankind has run several circles around itself with its concepts of truths. Origins. Our very existence. The purpose and value and duty of human beings. In a brief ten thousand years, not even a tick on the Earth’s four billion-year-old clock, we have gone from savages to gods.

On the Salisbury Plain of England and across the Yucatan, humans built great stone clocks. Humans were linked to the stars. Things that were solid, consistent, predictable, reliable. Surely a conscious mind must have designed and fashioned these elements. In Egypt, pyramidal stone spires also reflected the constellations. The Pharaohs themselves Earthbound deities awaiting their return to space and the afterlife.

In a few thousand years, separated in a time without cell phones and CNN, belief systems developed. We followed these as our paths to higher callings. Things that would help us to understand –or at least endure- the harsh world as infant mortality topped fifty percent, children were buried before their tenth birthdays. Mongol hoards pillaged our villages, volcanoes buried Pompeii, the Black Death and the Yellow Fever felled people like trees before the woodsman’s ringing ax.

Christians, Jews and Muslims alike recognized and observed festivals and feasts related to their religions. Holidays to mark the creation of the world, miracles granted to ancient brethren, the crucifixion of a martyr or a savior. A day to mourn and pray for the dead, a day to celebrate resurrection.

They say ancient Rome was almost a constant party at one point. The term “Roman Holiday” refers to any given day turned into one. Every third day, on average, there would be revelry, Gladiators, Christians fed to the lions and other fun stuff. As humankind advanced through the centuries, we began to settle into more workmanlike schedules. Fishermen needed to sail on the sea, farmers needed to work their fields. Eventually, children would be sent to schoolhouses, at least ‘til the age of ten, and the teacher’s job would be full time. Elsewhere, the burden of building a modern society took up much of what once was idle time.

Science and technology make their grand entrance to the story with Galileo. The future clashing like a warrior with the past. We can see the planets. We can demonstrate scientifically that we are not at the center of anything. We all know how well that went.

Time marched on, and after seeing the undeniability of Galileo’s observations, we slowly allowed our brains to begin to trust in the truths of science. Stone temples made of 100-ton boulders were no longer needed to keep time when pocket watches and calendars took their place.

Heathenish practices like human sacrifices and the worship of stars and other deities were shown to be superstitious. Enlightened people of the world began to seek peace, engage one another with respect, courtesy and tolerance. Persecutions were recognized as an offense against mankind itself, and a new and democratic world began to emerge. Where one was free to believe and pray and celebrate the rites of one’s belief without interference.

We’re far now from the 180 Roman Holidays per year that sought to recognize every festival of every belief and season. Our industrial society has forced even the most zealous to contain their beliefs to their personal time. On Saturday or Sunday. Or maybe you could have just one big holiday so it would be easier for everyone. We have schools and State workers now, and we embrace everyone’s right to pursue one’s own religion, but there needs to be a limit. We can’t close the schools, the banks and the government every third day like Rome.

A country founded by Christians and being predominantly so is likely to recognize the holiday for the birth of their savior. Jewish holy days, older than Christianity itself, were given the respect due. (Though it seems only in recent years will schools close for some Holy Days)

Galileo and his science was a chip in the mortar of many belief systems, and for other reasons that perhaps remain unknown, many religions are now shrinking. Churches and temples closing, consolidating. Maybe there’s just too much competition for time and money. Maybe modern science and medicine has caused people to turn from faith. While many traditions remain for the sake of tradition, some aspects are seen as superstition, or exaggerations of ancient storytellers seeking to add power and impact to their words.

There is little mentioned in 1984, in Brave New World, on Star Trek or Lost In Space about religion. Belief. Practice. Holy Days (the origin of the word holi-day) No Hanukkah, no Christmas, no Ramadan. If this is an accurate look into our homogenized future, I can only hope Thanksgiving is spared.

It may be based on mythology, or perhaps it’s factual. It may have first been celebrated by the Christians that invaded this continent, but in historical tellings it is celebrated equally by the natives, who were not labeled Christians. It brings people together, not to celebrate a religious rite, or to observe an occurrence in ancient times. It is not a gathering seeking absolution, nor to testify to the power of gods.

It is the simplest affair, really. Just a feast. A meal with persons we are most thankful to have. A day and time to stop, to pause and reflect on the good and glorious in our lives.

Our American Thanksgiving Holiday is not a religious observance. If it makes sense as part of your belief system, you can give thanks to whatever powers you choose to. If you prefer, you can simply observe your thankfulness in your heart for those things in your life that are appreciated. It is the very name of the holiday, and its intent is to inspire folks to be thankful, yet also it is a gathering. It is a get-together without a solemn religious purpose. It is a feast with family and friends. A holiday that has not yet been thoroughly smothered and overtaken by the greeting card industry and other hawkers of goods. There is no perfect tree or obligatory gift, no case upon case of lights and garlands to display.

One of the wisest prophets of our time, Dr. Theodore Seuss Geisel, known to most as “Dr. Seuss”, delivers the message eloquently, quoting How The Grinch Stole Christmas. After the Grinch steals every last speck of the Whos’ holiday-the trees, the decorations, the wrapped gifts, even the feast itself, the Whos of Whoville emerge at dawn to hold hands in a circle, and sing gleefully. Mesmerized, the Grinch ponders this.

“It came without ribbons.

It came without tags.

It came without packages,

Boxes or bags.”

 

Though I call it homogenization, I embrace the welcoming of our new world. We are at the brink. We are moving from tolerance through acceptance and on to welcoming. Tolerating something implies opposition to its premise, and a tenuous acceptance. We are beginning to welcome all. All colors. All religions. All belief systems and self-orientations.

These are fine achievements for which humankind should give itself a pat on the back.

It is not difficult to foresee the Space Age and its all-inclusive spirit. If trends continue in the shrinking of religions and the following of science, one can envision a time when an observance from one tiny sect of an ancient religion might no longer be a broad tradition, celebrated by a holiday for much of the populace.

Still, in our most-distant futures, our 2540 A.D., won’t there still be love and beauty, caring and comforts? If our offspring leap from tubes at the age of three or our parents are from two different galaxies, won’t we still love one another?

At the Robinsons’ camp on an unidentified planet, aren’t they still glad they have each other? Parents, a son, a daughter, a son-in-law. Won’t they be thankful their food machine still works or they are able to grow odd science-fiction plants to feed themselves?

In the cold expanse of space, light years from home, isn’t Captain Kirk glad to have First Officer Spock, “Bones”, the ship’s doctor? Lieutenant Uhura and Mr. Chekov, loyal friends as well as shipmates? Won’t there still be beautiful worlds and possibilities to embrace?

Even in the Spacely Sprocket world of The Jetsons, they are family. “Meet George Jetson”, the theme song sings, “His boy Elroy. Daughter Judy. Jane, his wife.” And they have a dog. There may be no churches or temples or trees or birds, but they still have one another.

 

I can only hope, (and dare I say- pray) that the high-tech, homogenized, all-inclusive, automated future will hang onto this vestige of the nineteenth century. That they will park their hovercars and shut down The Transporter for just one day.

One day that was never foreseen by Orwell and Huxley.

A day to take stock of the good in our lives.

The Thanksgiving of the future.

 

 

Gathering

 

When you rise in the morning, give thanks for the light, for your life, for your strength.

Give thanks for your food and the joy of living.

If you see no reason to give thanks,

The fault lies in yourself.

 

  • Tecumseh

 

Seek peace, and Happy Thanksgiving.

 

Paz

Brave New World

These days I seek to simplify. Like Thoreau at Walden, I’m not entirely removed from my local world, but surrounded by it.

I see people, the masses, by and large, hurling themselves daily through a Brave New World, in many ways unrecognizable from the world of my youth, a brief half-century ago.

Everyone must work now, it seems. There are few Moms these days. I mean old-fashioned Moms like June Cleaver, my mother, the Mom on Father Knows Best.

Not to begrudge women their opportunity to be a “whole” person unto themselves, capable of doing truly great things in our world. Discovery, Leadership, Industry, Medicine, Education. It appears, however, that most of this working is born of necessity. “We need the money. There’s no way we could do this without both of us working.” (The ultimate irony: complaints about the cost of daycare, which consumes much of the second check.)

I’m not sure I don’t hear some degree of selling out in these statements. Things were not “easier” back in the when. When Harold and Marie welcomed their boy into the Brave New World of 1959.

Moms were home when I was growing up. I wonder how many people, if any, realize the great and simple value in that. Moms were always there.

Whether it was my Mom, available at a moment’s notice to find another hat, serve an extra sandwich for a lunch guest, bandage a boo-boo or give us a quarter to take to the General Store at McMurray’s boat livery. Keith’s Mom was home at Keith’s house, and Randy’s Mom was home at Randy’s house. We didn’t even need to think about it. In the event of any calamity or emergency, large or small, someone’s Mom was standing by for rescue.

Nowadays it’s a complex mix of afternoons at the Youth Rec Center or Daycare Provider, (in the old days we called that “babysitting”), or an after-school program for latchkey kids. Moms arrive home with Dads at 5:30. When we raised our kids, Mom stayed home until they went to school. After that, Mom got a job that allowed her to put kids on the bus in the morning, then greet them as they disembarked in the afternoon.

The difference, it seems, is that the children I thought I grew up with apparently never grew up. Somehow, I’m the only one of my childhood contemporaries that has made the leap to full-on adulthood. You know, adulthood, where we take most seriously our duty and obligation to our families. The Adult-hood of my world is a direct result of observing the adult-hoods of the adults around me as I grew up.

Adults work hard and save their money. They save their money to buy a house one day (if that’s your preference). They bought Savings Bonds for babies that would mature when junior was ready for college (or a car and a job). They saved their money for two years for the family vacation. They vacationed at the cabin on the lake a hundred miles from home, or the Jersey shore, two hundred miles from home. They didn’t charge three thousand dollars to a credit card to fly the whole family to Florida to see Mr.Disney’s park. (Okay, so, Mr.Disney’s park was only in California in 1965, I think). They saved four hundred dollars to drive to Old Forge, New York, to Frontier Town. Or saved two hundred dollars which was enough for gas for the boat and food for two weeks of camping on Scout Island.

Adults handled their money responsibly. They didn’t spend three hundred dollars on a new iPhone while complaining the School Tax was too high. They didn’t run up credit debt equivalent to a year’s salary then call the debt consolidator. They kept the old car for another year, or bought another used one with the money they had. They didn’t run out every three years to roll over their lease on a brand new Jetta, all the while complaining that Town Taxes were too high.

Nowadays, it seems the adults just never grow up. They’re buying toys for themselves (as well as for their kids) as quickly as they can be released. While literally reliving their childhoods by purchasing every item for which the whim strikes them, they’re also apparently making up for their own less-than-perfect childhoods that did not include hundreds of dollars in the bank and thousands available on credit cards. Meanwhile, they vicariously re-live and repair their tainted, impoverished childhoods (a time when you didn’t have a TV in your room {GASP!}, when you waited for the first day of school or a birthday to get new clothes {those poor children}, or when you didn’t have your own phone and computer {what’s a computer?})

Our boys had friends in their class that lived not far away, brothers. They lived with their Dad, kids of divorce. For every birthday and Christmas, our boys would regale us with the tales of lavish gifts bestowed upon these kids. My guess is their parents were trying to relieve some guilt by spoiling the kids a little. Frankly, I’m for spoiling kids within reason. Remember how much we love them?

But these kids seemed to get everything all at once. Things our kids wanted but hadn’t received yet. A shelf stereo, a boombox, a Walkman, a Nintendo game, a mountain bike, a thirteen-inch color TV for their room. These things were “regulated” in our house. You could get a Walkman if you were over ten. You had to wait ’til thirteen for the shelf stereo or TV in your room. And a telephone extension in your room? My daughter counted the minutes until her fifteenth birthday when she could have one. (google “extension phone” to find out what it was. You may have to add the word “wired”. Or maybe “antique”.)

Partly it was money. We literally could not afford to go out and buy everything a child would ask for. Partly it was the simple life, and the simple concept of having something to look forward to. We reasoned that there would be no “big present” for Christmas at twelve, fourteen and sixteen if we gave them everything before their tenth birthday.

I blame the Simpsons. The mother and father are dolts, and Bart the insolent smart-mouth. I love the show and the humor and the laughs and even Bart, but it seems that show was the catalyst for change. Pre-Simpsons, children respected their parents and their parents’ authority more. Some out of fear, but many out of honor for their parents, traditions, civility. Kids were expected to be respectful of adults (and- brace yourself—polite!) Grandfather was the patriarch, the wise old man. Even if grandfather was fading into his twilight of life, he was respected for going to war for liberty, for building the American Industrial Machine, for being a part of The Greatest Generation, taking our country from the aftermath of the Civil War, Gold Rush expansionism, Teapot Dome, Seward’s Folly, the Great War and the depression to the height of free democracy and economics, all the way to the moon!

In a post-Simpsons’s world it seems nothing is sacred, no one is immune from biting sarcasm and harsh ridicule. Respect appears to be garnered only by the rich and famous and beautiful. Rappers, Sports Superstars, Super models, movie stars, dot-com billionaires, the Bill Gateses and Mark Zuckerbergs.

Sadly, this has become the life view of so many children, and now the grown children (I hesitate to use the term Adults), of the Simpsons’ generation.

In Brave New World, Aldous Huxley takes us to the year 2540. The book, published in 1931, observes modern man and all he has become, and relates a sort of Tarzan tale of finding a primitive people that live the way they had centuries ago. The primitive man marvels at the Brave New World, but the modernistas also marvel at the primitive one, unveiling subtleties that may have been lost in the conversion to modernity. Primitive man finds the New World too fast, impersonal, cold, filled with rules that appear to have left the human touch behind.

Simultaneously, Modern Man in the story travels to the primitive place, an oasis that missed modernization, and discovers that people are closer to animals than machines. The things deemed important in the visceral primitive world are people, babies, community, fairness, solidarity, art, appreciation of nature and beauty, and other things long-forgotten in the twenty-sixth century.

So, Orwell’s 1984 has come and gone. Lost In Space, set in 1997, is retro in reruns. Strange Days, a futuristic story of the millenium, is 16 years old now.

We have a long way to go to get to 2540 (if we do).  Let’s all re-read the book now, and see if we don’t want to pause and think of the things we’re discarding.

Put away your credit card, snuggle in with your kids, and have a good old-fashioned read. Let’s see if we can’t shape a better Brave New World.

 

Seek Peace,

 

Paz

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