29 August 2007

Norman Rockwell and other random stuff

So, this is totally out of the blue but the other day I was glancing at my bookshelf and noticed a large coffee table size book of Norman Rockwell that I own. It made me ponder the strangeness of how things change. I thought of how you often hear people say that they wish that things were the way they used to be. When this quote is made, it is often met with a response much like this one: "things were never simple, times were hard and we had to walk to school (all kidding aside), and we didn't have the technology we do today. People stayed married, there wasn't as much violence, etc." In response to their response, I've often said, "yes" on many levels you are correct but on the other hand there does seem to be a simplicity that the older generations want to get back to. In light of all these different perspectives of the "good old days" I pondered Norman Rockwell again, specifically the picture that shows the family saying grace before dinner. I began to ask myself if these were better or simpler or just different times?

What I began to think was this: in many ways that life that we think would be simpler is not because we imagine all the business of our lives today, the running around the the rat race of work gone and we think of a country table with a simple dinner and sitting around the fire at night. What we don't think of are the long days that people put in when they lived in the country, getting up with the cows and often working the land until the sun went down. Perhaps, like many people suggest about all aspects of our lives, is that we should seek balance. Today my life seems busy and much of it is tied to the ideas of money and technology. We are inundated with messages about where to go, what to do, who to do it with and how, everyday. We feel the pressure to not only educate our kids but drive them to soccer, ballet, library time, swimming, tai-kwon-do and piano lessons. Perhaps our kids only need one activity at a time. Think about the fact that if we are tired of running them around all the time, they might be even more tired from being run around all the time.

This "argument" doesn't have a neat tidy bow to wrap it up with. In fact, it doesn't even have any real resolve to it at all. I suppose I'm posing the question for myself and for all the people who have said that they wish life were "simpler." Instead of trying to make life like it used to be, accept the fact that we live in a modern world with computers and cell phones and email and wireless internet. Embrace the fact that we want our children to be well-rounded individuals and instead of trying to do it all: drive the mini-van with the cell phone on taking the kids to 7 different activities........shut off the stereo, sit on the couch and make a phone call to a friend, drive your kids to something you can do together, answer your emails with a cup of coffee.......

Life will never really be simpler but the choices that we make can be. Oh Norman, what would you say to us now? What would you advise? Did you really live in "simpler times" or did you long for the simplicity you painted?

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