There Will Be No Return to the Same Normal

And That’s Not Necessarily Bad

I am not only thinking about Covid-19, but also four years of egregiously bad government and a badly divided populace that has replaced reason with gonzo conspiracy theories.

There will be a lot of fast growth once the plague tocsin has stopped ringing, but the economy is not the only thing that needs to be rebuilt. For one thing, the younger generation (whatever we choose to call it) must have more to look forward to than ill-paid temporary gigs while a college loan Sword of Damocles hangs over its head. This is just one of several things that have to change.

I strongly suspect that one change will be a continuing diminution of the influence of Christianity on our lives. And very soon, we have to come to our senses about the fact that the weather is changing. Maybe not permanently, but remember we have come out of a mini ice age that began in the 18th century. And the earth will, for the time being, continue to warm up.

Look for It To Re-Open Soon

Will we continue to be a beef and potatoes nation? I don’t think so. I think we are headed toward plant-based substances that are a substitute for red meat.

The one thing we can depend on is change. Edmund Spenser had it right when he wrote:

Mutability

 When I bethink me on that speech whilere,
 Of Mutability, and well it weigh:
 Me seems,that though she all unworthy were
 Of the Heav’ns Rule; yet very sooth to say,
 In all things else she bears the greatest sway.
 Which makes me loathe this state of life so tickle,
 And love of things so vain to cast away;
 Whose flow’ring pride, so fading and so fickle,
 Short Time shall soon cut down with his consuming sickle.
 
Then gin I think on that which Nature said.
 Of that same time when no more Change shall be,
 But steadfast rest of all things firmly stayed
 Upon the pillars of Eternity,
 That is contrare to Mutability:
 For, all that moveth, doth in Change delight:
 But thence-forth all shall rest eternally
 With Him that is the God of Sabbaoth hight:
 O that great Sabbaoth God, grant me that Sabbaoth’s sight.

“All That Moveth, Doth in Change Delight”

William S. Hart (1864-1946)

William S. Hart (1864-1946)

Today Martine and I went to the William S. Hart Ranch and Museum in Newhall. Around this time of year, the docents and other volunteers make the place all Christmassy. With the Grier Musser Museum yesterday, a visit to the Hart Museum today made it a real holiday weekend.

As I was watching a video of Hart’s Hell Hinges (1916) in the Ranch House, a somber thought came to me. Hart’s career lasted only about twelve years, from 1915 to 1927. How many people alive today remember him, have seen his films, or even know who he is? Hollywood does not even make Westerns more than once in a Blue Moon. The lovely house on a hill in Newhall, which Hart called La Loma de los Vientos (“The Hill of the Winds”), may fall into ruin because it commemorates the life of a silent movie star who is all but forgotten.

At the same time, I am reading Marcel Proust’s final volume of In Search of Lost Time series, Finding Time Again. In this book, Marcel finds his world has all but disappeared with the start of the First World War. At one point Marcel the narrator muses:

In short, fashionable society had become disenchanted with M. de Charlus, not because it had seen through, but because it had never begun to penetrate his uncommon intellectual worth. People thought him ‘pre-war,’ old-fashioned, because the very people who are least capable of assessing merit are the ones who, in order to classify people, are quickest to follow the dictates of fashion. They have not exhausted, nor even skimmed the surface of the men of merit in one generation, and suddenly they have to condemn them all en bloc, because now there is a new generation, with its new label, which they will not understand any better than the last.

As I watch Marcel working his way through a Paris, lit by floodlights, zeppelins, bi-plane fighters, and a young generation in charge that has seemingly sprouted out of nowhere. In the same way, I marvel at all the young people crossing the busy street while checking their e-mail or texting to their buds.

I should know better. Edmund Spenser said it all half a millennium ago when he wrote about mutability:

Mutability

When I bethink me on that speech whilere,
Of Mutability, and well it weigh:
Me seems,that though she all unworthy were
Of the Heav’ns Rule; yet very sooth to say,
In all things else she bears the greatest sway.
Which makes me loathe this state of life so tickle,
And love of things so vain to cast away;
Whose flow’ring pride, so fading and so fickle,
Short Time shall soon cut down with his consuming sickle.

Then gin I think on that which Nature said.
Of that same time when no more Change shall be,
But steadfast rest of all things firmly stayed
Upon the pillars of Eternity,
That is contrare to Mutability:
For, all that moveth, doth in Change delight:
But thence-forth all shall rest eternally
With Him that is the God of Sabbaoth hight:
O that great Sabbaoth God, grant me that Sabbaoth’s sight.

As the year 2013 winds to a close, think for a moment of all the changes that sweeping your world away. I wouldn’t worry excessively about it, because the same winds of change will likewise sweep the fashions of the newest generation away. All the Ugg Boots, Jeggings, Razor Scooters, Smart Phones, and Google Glasses will go the way of suspenders, cowcatchers on locomotives, transistor radios, and pogo sticks. Right now, all these things are in the ascendent—but they won’t be for long.

Three from Robin Tanner

Three Interesting Quotes on How Life has Changed

Three Interesting Quotes on How Life has Changed

We mourned for a lost Eden. Farming was becoming a noisy, mechanised, stinking business. Wagons, ploughs, and the horses that drew them were all disappearing. Wood and stone were giving place to asbestos and corrugated iron. Care and grace, and the old slow pace and the old thoroughness and craft were all abandoned. The farm tractor was now king, and speed was all-important. Thatched ricks, cut-and-laid hedges, shocks of corn and cocks of hay, handmade wooden gates and stiles, were rare sights now. The stone-breaker was no longer needed since the white limestone lanes were tarred. Flowers that were once common had become rare, and only a few of the old mixed pastures escaped the zeal of farmers keen to sow ‘leys’ without a ‘weed’. Those who never saw Edwardian England can have no idea of its beauty. Old photographs show this with great poignancy. True, the children in them often looked cowed and ill-clad, and the men and women are bowed with labour, but that need not have been the heavy price paid for beauty and naturalness: the brash angularity of today, its harsh shapes and unsympathetic textures, its litter of poles and wires, its makeshift, temporary appearance lie like an ugly palimpsest upon the old countryside.

* * * * *

In the sleepy England of my childhood it was an event to see a motor car, or watch a biplane for the first time until it became a speck in the distance and vanished. Nothing ever changed. Sugar was twopence a pound, and a letter required a penny stamp. Yet the ugly and stupid technological revolution was imminent. Over the years I have watched the change from age-old agriculture to a mechanised ‘agro-business’. Horses and men have gone, and traditional farming craftsmanship such as rick-building and thatching, coppicing and hedge-laying has been extinguished in the process. A hedge has become an obstacle to be removed, and wild flowers troublesome weeds to be exterminated.

* * * * *

Year by year we lose more and more of the things we have loved: ancient woodlands, flowery meadows, handsome old farm buildings, stiles and gates of oak and ash; things made of wool, linen or silk; cloth-bound books of lissom paper, their sections properly stitched so they open easily; and a multitude of domestic things that were good to handle – all made before the fatal invasion of synthetic substances and shoddy methods.—Robin Tanner, Double Harness (1987)