America is often described as a young nation. Compared to many countries, it certainly is. That description is sometimes used to explain the characteristic impatience, urgency and hectic pace of Americans. But it doesn’t hold up since an American in his 50’s is the same age and had had the same amount of cultural influence on him as an Italian who is 50 or a Chinaman. A 1970’s book, “The Harried Leisure Class”, posits more and more stress even among those wealthy enough not to work, since there are more and more goods and services of higher and higher quality that it is only rational to want to have and enjoy but one’s time and energy for enjoyment is limited.
So, watch it. Try to learn to just let time pass sometimes, even when you SHOULD be exercising or reading or catching up on your sleep.
You may have heard of the slow-food movement, a deliberate attempt to avoid speed and rush, while cooking and dining. If you haven’t seen the movie The Gods Must Be Crazy lately, you might want to take a refresher look at the Kalahari bushman and his life of very few goods and possessions.
As you age, you may remember wondering what reaching a certain goal would be like: a new car, a long vacation, the publication of your book or poem or the purchase of your screen play, being elected to public office, getting a promotion. By the time you are 50 or 60, you will have achieved some of those goals, maybe several times over.
At the same time, you may have recently been surprised at what the passage of time manages to do all by itself. The town is much bigger. The town folk are more varied. The roads leading to town are bigger and faster. Maybe you can remember your grandparents talking about getting through high school with pride while your kids are working on their master’s degrees. You might know that your parents didn’t travel outside the US while your grandkid has married a citizen of a foreign country and now lives there with them.
When you were a child, you had never seen a woman physician or law enforcement officer. Now you now only see them all the time but you are not surprised to see them. You are not surprised to meet a house husband or a woman pastor or rabbi or a same-sex couple.
One way people sometimes get a time and change jolt is by visiting a neighborhood they lived in as a child. Maybe not even that far back. My undergrad college is nearly unrecognizable if I use the old landmarks to orient myself. I haven’t even mentioned new and different technology, which is so full change as to be bewildering.
Noting the changes, many of which I would not have thought likely, I realize that I live in a sea of change, with rapid adjustments and modifications and as well as slow, underlying ones that are harder to see. The minute hand on my clock, like the sun in the sky, clearly changes position all the time but I can’t really see the changes happening. But memory or markers do show me that whether I can feel or see time’s effects or not, they are always present, always shifting, creating and destroying.
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