It strikes me more every day how much life doesn’t change. You can try all you want, but you eventually realize you have become your parents. It’s inevitable. Always has been, always will be. I could follow my family tree for eons, and find the same thing; we start out young and stupid, yet think we know it all. Then in our mid to late 20s we realize we don’t know it all, and make an effort to learn everything. We read, we watch, we study. We raise a family and tell ourselves we won’t make the same mistakes our parents did. Unfortunately we still make mistakes, just not the same ones. Yet we think we do a good job. We become successful in our business or work. We work hard to prove ourselves worthy. We muddle along, just like our parents, and their parents, and their parents. Arguing about politics with our neighbor. Discussing the news, debating the current war, whether it was a world war, or a tribal war. There has always been war of one kind or another. We gathered food, then grew food, then we bought food. But our need for food has obviously never changed.
We lament the current state of the world and are convinced it was better ‘in the olden days.’ Whether that was 30 or 40 or 100 years ago, it was always better ‘back then.’ We watch as our idols die. In my mother’s time it was Frank Sinatra. Grandma remembered when Rudy Valentino died. (I’m sure there are some of you who don’t know Valentino was the heart-throb movie star of the early silent movies.) I remember when John Lennon was shot, r any kaWe learn that we don’t know everything but we run out of energy to keep learning new things. Our brains become full. We become convinced that we are right. We know it all, have seen it all. Just like our parents. And some of us stop growing. Become stagnant in our beliefs. Some of us choose to keep believing what our grandma used to tell us about how salt was good for you, or you needed cod liver oil every day, or that Blacks, or Hispanics (or women, or gays) should know their place and stay there. Preferably out of sight and not next door to us.
Once I realized all this was inevitable I was finally at peace with turning 50. It took me nearly three years, but I got there. I hate it. I hate that nothing has really changed. Sure we had the Industrial Revolution, the invention of the printing press, emancipation (for Blacks, for women, and now for LBGTQ). We’ve always polluted our surroundings. Don’t believe me? Look at London in the Middle Ages, or Paris, or Amsterdam. We dumped our waste in the streets, there was no trash pick up. The streets were dirty and full of animal manure, and when it rained, the manure and waste would be washed into the lakes and rivers which we drank from.
We have always loved our family and friends and hated our enemies. It seems we cannot change our black and white vision of our world. Us against them. Us being the religious, them being the Atheists. Those people–being anyone different from ourselves. When I was growing up long hair on men was not acceptable. And by long I mean 1964 Beatles long. Bald men were seen as less virile and less attractive. Now most men I see shave their heads. I can’t understand it. There is also the current trend of being completely hairless. Which I totally do not understand. I like a man with hair. Long, bearded, and with at least some hair on their chest. Where I come from good girls wore modest pastel dresses to church, bad girls wore bright red short-shorts.
Everything changes, and yet everything stays the same. All is cyclical. The phases of the moon, the tides, taxes, what is considered ‘good’ or attractive. And yet we like to think ourselves so much better than previous generations. We’re smarter because we know DNA sequencing, understand chromosomes and viruses, and own tiny computers. Imagine if you dropped Leonardo DaVinci into a Best Buy. How would Thomas Jefferson react to riding in a car. What would Cro-Magnon Man think of today’s cities? Culture shock for sure. Culture changes. The people, not so much.
So much of life inevitable, and impermanent. There will never be an end to religion, for religion has always been with us, from our pagan days to Christianity, to Scientology. People have a need to believe in something beyond this world. Even Buddhists with all their understanding of the cycles of life and the impermanence of everything believe they come back to the world to try to be better the next time around.
Humanists are a little different. They are like Buddhists in that they understand everyone has the right to happiness and to be treated with respect, but they don’t believe in an afterlife, or reincarnation.
I like to think we are not reincarnated or live in heaven, but our essence, or soul, or atoms are returned to the world via our bones and ashes. We become part of the world we left. We are in the worms and dirt. We are the grass and flowers and sun. Everything is one and we each play a part in the construction of the world. Leonardo DaVinci is still with us. He falls on my flowers as rain. John Lennon is still here as sand in the ocean. I will always be here, though you won’t see me, and I won’t see you.