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Sunday, November 26, 2006

Better days?

It's conventional wisdom (or at least common nostalgia) that the past was a simpler, kinder and gentler time. I'm as guilty of buying into this notion as the next guy, but this MSNBC article is a good reminder that it likely isn't true. Here's a sample:

"Perhaps such mercy [in punishing lasciviousness] was a nod to human nature. After all, according to [University of Virginia anthropologist Lisa M.] Lauria’s estimates, up to 50 percent of Plymouth colonists had premarital sex, despite the laws. Some were gay or bisexual. There were bad marriages, cheating wives, teenagers flooded with hormones. Life was complicated."
I think as a society, we tend to assume that morality is an admirable yet old-fashioned concept that is falling out of favor. That may well be true, but articles like this one (and there are many) suggest that we've been pretty equally good or evil, depending on your perspective, for awhile now. Granted, we have access to more innovative and advanced ways to lie to each other, steal things and explore beastiality (assuming on that last one, I am...) than ever before, but it appears that there was plenty of wrongdoing going on way back when in the snowdens of yesteryear, too.

Does this all come down to a control issue? Is it mainly about us as individuals beginning to accept our own mortality and the surety that we will eventually be left behind by time? Are we reminiscing for what is long gone and most familiar about our individual childhoods or adolescences? Or do we tend to focus on what was good about the past and overlook what was not so good? Maybe it is that the past is a known and (relatively) fixed thing, while the future is unknown and possibly frightening. When we can look back and "know" that things were better "then," at least we have something. The future is a promise we may never see.

One thing I know for sure is that I'm not going to answer this question tonight or anytime soon. But I do find it fun to wonder, since we don't often stop to explore the reasons why we do the things we do. Maybe the reasons aren't as simple as we think.

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