In my pursuit of an English literature degree, I studied a lot of Victorian literature. One professor pointed out that the beginning of Queen Victoria’s reign was very different than the ending. In fact, so much change was happening during that monarch’s period that, if a person time-travelled from the start of that time and plunked down into the ending, she would not recognize the world.
The same could be said of our time. Things are unrecognizable. Just 50 years ago feels like a fictional world. Watching Mad Men…Women really wore girdles? Men had to wear hats and ties every day?
Yes. And that was the least of it. Hats and underwear are very personal individual choices and experiences. What about the everybody part of life?
I find myself running up against the idea of institutional change again and again. Things we assumed were solid pillars of society are revealed as non-essential. The load bearing walls must have had their loads redistributed because they are being moved. Let’s hope the loads are redistributed.
I am a naturally conservative person. I like to be certain. I remember making a bohemian friend in San Francisco, and saying to him “You wear your freedom like a denim jacket. I wear mine like a prom dress.” I am not sure who had the right idea. Maybe there is more room for error than I’ve allowed myself. Maybe life is far more wash-n-wear than I’ve supposed.
Things are changing. We are in motion. This is not a theater with a preconstructed set; we are living in real time. Which is terrifying. How will we know whether the change we make will save us or kill us?
My individual choices only affect me, right? Sort of. What about all the individuals that make up the institutions we rely on?
How will the electric company respond to these changes? How will churches and governments? Change is happening, will happen and has already happened.
Will the next 50 years be at volatile as the last? What are the constants in these changing times?
There is so much I don’t know. I have to start with me. That’s what I am surest of. What I know of right and wrong, of love and truth will have to be what I rely on. I hope the institutions can find the same compass points.