Thursday, March 18, 2010

The Permanence Of Change

It has taken me 77 years to become 77 and it's become a cliche among my friends to regard our lifetime as witness to the most astonishing changes in human history. Here's the question: Have these past 77 years been all that or did those who exited this world 77 years ago feel the same way about their 77 years and so on? Consider the fine run they had, having been born in 1856.

They marveled at telephones, electricity and its many offspring, movies, cars, planes. Slavery, gone. suffrage, universal, Indians, ethnically cleansed. The greatest migration of people from one continent to another. Freud, Marx, Einstein, Whitman, Darwin, Joyce, Babe Ruth, Charlie Chaplin and Picasso. Coca Cola, Olympic Games, Nobel Prize, World's Fair, World War, God,dead then making a comeback, jazz, antiseptics, aspirin, pasteurized milk and lawn mowers.
How could anyone live through all this and not be rattled and raptured? Both inscape and landscaped so thoroughly ushered into a new land.

Or consider this imagined year-end letter written by a Chinese youngster circa 200 BC.

It is a great time to be alive here in Xian province. Papa’s oxen furrow our field pulling a new marvel called plow. Emperor Han’s doctors have mapped our bodies; blood rivers like the Yangtze, run inside our village leader, neither to be clotted nor spilled. Papyrus has given way to paper but we have no word yet for these many wonders. Some write the ideogram of body leaping. Kites have come to our town. Paper birds fashioned with whistles bring music over rice paddies. We are blessed by the wind’s thousand lutes. Some denounce sudden change but Grandfather’s wisdom is always new. We have made room for brother Wu’s bride, now living under our roof. The cut worm welcomes the plow and multiplies.

Maybe everyone has been awed by the changed landscape during his/her lifespan. Have we been changed accordingly? Ah, the subject for another day.

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