Retirement Talk

WHAT to do with the rest of your life?


Episode 737 The Good Ol’ Days

This is Retirement Talk. I'm Del Lowery.

"The good ol’ days". Did the good ol’ days ever exist? I've heard people talk about them all my life and yet I have never had a desire to revisit any of my old days. Not only have I not had a desire to visit any of my old days but I have never had a desire to visit any old days. Not any. Not anywhere and not any time. The only good ol’ days I know of are the ones I'm living in right now.

People always talk about how the world is going to hell today, kids don't know what work is, politicians are all corrupt, the world can't go on much longer like this, seems like folks don't have any values today, kids don't show any respect these days, all these old white men running our governments have to go, or… you can fill in the blank.

Years ago I wanted to establish and teach a class at the high school level entitled "Manners and Morals". This was during the sixties when kids had baggy jeans, long hair and carried a guitar to class. The powers that be told me that it was a topic that might stir up controversy and suggested that I rename it. I did. It was called philosophy. The title was praised and I taught the class all the remaining days of my career.  It focused on ethics or an understanding of manners and morals in thought and practice.

Young people were under constant ridicule by the culture during the sixties. They were condemned for their dress, their hair, their music,  their unwashed bodies, the role drugs played in their lives and their politics. They were called hippies even if they only took on one of these attributes. They were ridiculed and mocked.

It seemed to me that there was no way to know if the youth of our country were going to hell unless we had some historical perspective with which to judge. That is why I wanted to head towards a class in morals and manners. How can you judge the current conditions and practices unless you have a grasp of the past?

It is this grasp of the past - history - that I sometimes think is missing from our minds and in our society. And that is why some folks are always considering the past as some golden age when all was peace and prosperity. All were in their proper place doing just what suited them best; a true utopia. Contentment and happiness wrapped life in a comfortable blanket. Of course this has never been the case. Only people who have never studied the past would assume such a world ever existed.    

For my money the golden age or good old days is the one in which we now live. Certainly we could all list the problems that we now face. We could talk about nose rings, tattoos and skateboards. We could talk about bank failures or global warming. We could talk about the negation of scientific thought or about the widening gap between the rich and poor. All of these are problems of our day along with many more. We have our share.

But with just a cursory glance back I see wooly mammoths stomping on our children, Roman soldiers annihilating entire populations and leveling cities, visigoths and huns devastating the landscape, the bubonic plague blanketing populations, the Inquisition burning people at the stake for their religious thoughts, European explorers decimating indigenous people across the globe, American democracy/capitalism trumpeting the annihilation of the Indian and the enslavement of blacks. The list is endless.

On top of all of this was the lack of scientific thought that has led to the creation of medical science. Who among us would like to go back to the days of dying from a tiny scratch, a minor virus, a broken bone, bad water. Folks in the old days did not have to wait for heart attacks, cancer, or old age. They died young. When we feel ill today we sit down at the computer and a wealth of information comes flooding onto the screen. Immunization, medication and medical procedures ease pain and prolong life.

No, for me the golden age is right now. What with all of our problems I still enjoy my retirement. Retirement in the 21st century. I have central heating and indoor plumbing. Imagine. We even have bicycles, refrigeration and computers. We have a coffee shop just down the street and we haven't been shot at during our entire lifetime. I have never even seen anyone lynched or burned at the stake. We can drink a beer or stay home on Sunday morning without fear of societal repression.

The golden age is now - at least it is for me. They say you are free only where you know you are free. The same applies to retirement and the good old days. The value comes from knowing what you have and appreciating it.

This is Retirement Talk.

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