Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Fruere in hodiernum diem!

Taking all things together, if you asked me if I preferred to live in the 1200s, during the rise of Thomist philosophy and an interesting era of political and social change, I'd say, "No, I prefer porcellain toilet seats."

So okay, I do a lot of griping about What's Wrong with the World Today. Knowing a little bit about human nature, I don't believe life would be hassle- or idiot-free even if Catholicism were the only religious option available and nobody had a problem with that.

But I read Msgr. Charles Knox's post on complaining, and saw a slightly edited version of Louis CK talking with Conan O'Brien about how Everything's Amazing and Nobody's Happy, and it sent me into a — well, not precisely nostalgic mood, because nostalgia tends to paint the past in rosy colors [Billy Joel: "You know the good old days weren't always good, /And tomorrow ain't as bad as it seems"]. No, I just had to marvel at the changes in technology that have occurred in my just-shy-of-fifty years of life.

Louis CK talks about the rotary phone. I remember, when I was six and we were moving into the house I gew up in, how excited I was that we would have the "Princess" phones Bell had just brought out with PUSH BUTTONS!

The first rock 'n roll song I listened to (Creedence Clearwater Revival's "Have You Ever Seen the Rain") my brother Ted had recorded on a miniature reel-to-reel tape recorder. This was seven or eight years before we saw our first cassette tapes (and five or six years before the blip on the historical radar that was the 8-track tape). And it was only a few years later that KEZO 92.3 FM, an easy-listening station in Omaha, switched its format to become Z-92: the Home of Rock 'n Roll — radio in stereo!

You don't like MS Word? Try cranking out an essay or a report on a Selectric typewriter! Twenty years ago, finding a job meant my spending all day either driving around or riding in buses in my Sunday best to put in three applications (which I filled out in long hand on-site); now I can slam out at least six résumés before I finish my first cup of morning coffee, without changing out of my sweats or slippers. And then I can write my opinions for my blogs and have them ignored within minutes, instead of mailing my opinions to the newspaper to be printed and ignored a week from now (those few times the editor didn't beat the readership to the punch by ignoring them first).

And I don't need to worry about missing a prospective employer's call if I leave the house. I can just take my cell phone, which is not only smaller than the walkie-talkie-sized unit my mom bought in the 1990s, but smaller than the communicator Capt. Kirk carried in Star Trek. And it has more apps, too ... could Kirk take pictures or play Angry Birds with his communicator? My brother Ted has an iPhone with GPS; does anyone else remember having a glove box full of maps that you could only re-fold differently?

Now, someone may say that you have to have done without these things in order to appreciate them; and, so far as that goes, I'll agree. But even We Who Have Known Hardship can forget what it was like, and take the ease, comfort and convenience of modern tech for granted ... such as the difference between flying from New York to Los Angeles and taking a wagon train just from Omaha to LA: four hours versus several months. Heck, even to drive a car from New York to LA is only four days (if you have no mechanical problems and avoid the tourist traps); imagine spending that time on horseback only to get as far as Philadelphia!

All of this has come with some costs, the extent of which few people truly realize. And I may post on The Other Blog about that. But in the meantime, just take a moment to appreciate the good side of today. Pop a frozen meal in the microwave. Find a halfway-decent movie or TV show on cable, or pop a Blu-Ray disk in and watch it on your hi-def screen with the home-theater system going full-blast. Listen to some Gregorian chant or Renaissance polyphony on your .mp3 player. 

Or watch a YouTube clip. Enjoy the present day!