Sunday, January 07, 2007

... no one here but us chickens

Blog trolling, I found the following quote referenced:

"There were no formerly heroic times, and there was no formerly pure generation. There is no one here but us chickens, and so it always has been: a people busy and powerful, knowledgeable, ambivalent, important, fearful, and self-aware; a people who scheme, promote, deceive, and conquer; who pray for their loved ones, and long to flee misery and skip death. It is a weakening and discoloring idea that rustic people knew God personally once up a time -- or even knew selflessness or courage or literature -- but that is too late for us. In fact, the absolute is available to everyone in every age. There never was a more holy time than ours, and never a less." -- Annie Dillard, For the Time Being

It's a great quote and there is a lot of truth to it.

What's with the nostalgia for a "simpler" time? Do we really know what we are longing for? Is the past attractive just because we don't actually remember it fully? Every thing bad that happens in the present is not tempered by the passage of time. We mostly remember the pleasant and heroic from our past. It's a defense mechanism.

Is it that we are afraid of progress? What is progress? Can morality progress or evolve? Those that believe in absolute morality would say no.

We need to stop striving for an elusive and ultimately nonexistent ideal from the past. We need to face our current world with open eyes, new methods, and cognizance of the mistakes of the past. Don't try to get back to an earlier time. Make the current time the ideal.

"It is because Humanity has never known where it was going that it has been able to find its way." -- Oscar Wilde

"Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything." -- George Bernard Shaw (Irish literary Critic, Playwright and Essayist. 1925 Nobel Prize for Literature, 1856-1950)


Shawn said...

That is an awesome quote. It's weird but I was just thinking something similar the other day - although a lot less coherently and succintly. I keep hoping that at some point in human existence we will try to strive for something new - a peaceful co-existence devoid of war and needless violence. It would be nice to try something that hasn't really been tried before.

CyberKitten said...

Can morality progress or evolve?

Maybe. Morality was different in the past and will undoubtedly be different in the future too. Will it 'progress'? Difficult to say as I'm not sure if such things as morality can be said to progress or evolve...

Nostagia for an 'ideal' past is caused by a fear of the future. We have lost our confidence in Progress, hence we become nostagic with the belief that a better future is in the past.

dbackdad said...

Shawn said, "... a peaceful co-existence devoid of war and needless violence". Hear, hear.

The thing about progress is that it's all relative. Some (hopefully most) would consider the abolition of slavery (and lessening racism) as "progress". Unfortunately there is certainly a group that doesn't.

And that goes for women's issues too.

I guess the thing that I'm saying is that morality can't be static. It has to be constantly reevaluated.

CyberKitten said...

dbackdad said: I guess the thing that I'm saying is that morality can't be static. It has to be constantly reevaluated.

Indeed. I totally agree. I just have an issue with the idea that cultures 'progress' in the same way that, for example, technology does. We can certainly view the abolition of slavery & the emancipation of women as progress (which I think they are) but future societies could view them as backwards steps - they'd certainly be wrong from our point of view but from their *own* point of view they would consider themselves as right. The problem is that a culture independent scale of morality doesn't exist - well, at least as far as I know.

Kvatch said...

What's with the nostalgia for a "simpler" time?

On a similar thread, regarding nostalgia for the 1950's I recently read the following, "Republicans want to go home to the 1950's, and Democrats want to work there."

No truer words.

greatwhitebear said...

Carly simon was right... these ARE the good old days!

dbackdad said...

Welcome ... and that's a great quote. Just checked out your blog, blognonymous. Great blog. I'll be adding it to my list.

Carly was a smart lady. :-)

Shawn said...

Morality was different in the past and will undoubtedly be different in the future too.

Good point. Morality is definitely relative. Unfortunately, there are many people who think morals are absolute. That's where a lot of our problems arise - people trying to impose their absolutes on situations where they may not apply or just aren't the accepted norm.

Or, in the case of a lot of evangelicals I know, they refuse to believe there can be valid morality outside of their religious viewpoint. For some reason, a lot of right-wing Christians seem to think that people can only have morals if they believe in biblical teachings. But that's a whole other styrofoam cup of worms.

By the way DBDad...I don't think it's really fair that you got to have three great bowl games in your town this year (including one that might go down as an all-time great game). I'm trying to get over my jealousy.

dbackdad said...

Shawn ... It's even better than you think. I actually live less than a mile from the Cardinals stadium where the Fiesta Bowl and BCS bowl were. It's been nutty here for the last few weeks. We went to a big block party in downtown Glendale Friday night and there were 70,000 people there and both marching bands. It was pretty cool.

Unfortunately, I didn't manage to get tickets to any of the games ... too steep in price for my blood.