Wednesday, February 2, 2011

A Time To Live

I was talking to the old folks last night at cocktail hour and I stated that if I could pick a span of time in which to live my life, it would be the span that my grandparents lived: From 1905 to 2005, give or take a few years. I said that was easily the most exciting time to live in the history of man.

The old folks pooh-pooh'ed me and gave me the old "you ain't seen nothing yet" adage.

But seriously, my grandmother got to experience a world without light bulbs... and then one day, dad switched on a little glowing orb of glass over the kitchen table. One day, my grandmother heard a recorded voice for the first time in her life... then a radio... then a telephone... then a television. Every common appliance we see around us was at one time an amazing new invention to her.

My grandmother was witness to the greatest horrors mankind had ever visited upon itself. She saw the worst as it was happening, not knowing how it would end. She suffered through the greatest depression and knows what it is to really and truly go without.

She watched as America went from an along-for-the-ride player in world politics to the most powerful country in the history of the earth, leading the way in science, culture, and business. She got to hold her breath as those first space flights lifted off.

How paltry to speak on the first mobile phone when compared to the experience of speaking on the first telephone. How gimmicky to see high-definition TV for the first time after having seen the first grainy broadcast images. Man may someday fly to Mars... but it still would be the second act of man's play in the stars. Man may light a sun on earth to create fusion... but it is still an increment of progress begun with Edison's work in Menlo Park.

No, I disagree with the old folks: The most astonishing and ground-breaking of man's accomplishments, the foundation of our modern architecture to which every subsequent step forward is fastened, occurred in its greatest frequency in the 20th century: a time in which I wish I could have lived.

And, if there are any future horrors yet to be visited upon us that shame the 20th century world wars and other tastes of the apocalypse... well, I would just as soon miss those as part of the deal.

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