“Nothing is more responsible for the good old days than bad memory.” — Franklin Pierce Adams. 1881–1960.
Whether you’re like me, a giddy grandpa writing advice letters to his newborn grandson, or like my grandson, dewy eyed and literally squealing with joy at everything he experiences for the first time…
Whether you’re a wide eyed teenager falling in love head over heels or a newly-wed working eighty hours a week just to make ends meet...
Whether you’re a college student by day and Uber driver by night or a rickshaw driver by day and student at night…
Whether you’re standing in line buying groceries or standing in line at the welfare office…
I suspect there’s one thing that is true for all of us.
Whether you’re an African child learning the alphabet on a chalkboard in a mud hut or an American child with an iPhone, an iPad, and a Sony PlayStation…
Whether you’re a mother picking up her child from daycare or an activist demonstrating against Trump at Mar-a-Lago…
Whether you’re an evangelical Christian who thinks the world is going to hell in a hand basket or a devout Muslim who thinks we’re all unrepentant sinners…
Whether you’re young or old, rich or poor, sick or healthy, man or woman, black or white…
I suspect we all have one thing in common.
I suspect you, like me, will look back on this, on today, on now, as the best days of our lives.
This moment we are in right now is the best there has ever been for pretty much every single human being alive today.
If you don’t believe me, just think back fifty or a hundred years. Think about the life your grandparents lived or the one their grandparents lived…
Think about the world wars, think about smallpox and influenza, think about illiteracy and famine, think about the Bubonic plague and the Salem witch hunts, think about the crusades and the Mongols, think about the Great Depression and the holocaust.
If you’re worried sick about Corona virus, remember that it has killed only about three thousand people so far while the Spanish Influenza killed well over fifty million people just a century ago.
The reason you’re so worried is that we’re bombarded with negative information at all times, not that things are actually worse.
Think about pretty much any moment in human history and you will find it wasn’t nearly as nice as nostalgia would have us believe.
Chances are, you will look back on this moment we are inhabiting together right now as among the best of our lives. It doesn’t get any better than this. We’ve never had it this good.
The cynical among you will point to everything that is wrong with the world today. Yet, there’s probably not a single human being alive today who is not significantly better off than their grandparents in every measurable respect.
Next, the downtrodden among you will list all your grievances. You were born on the wrong side of tracks. Your wife doesn’t talk to you. Your boss doesn’t listen to your recommendations. You can’t afford to pay the rent. Life just isn’t fair and why do you always draw the short straw anyway?
Trust me, I’ve been there — in my own way. And so has pretty much everyone else around you — in their own way; and we all have our stories to tell about how and why life is so difficult. But, is it? Is it, really?
We all love to bitch and moan about how hard we have it. But, do we? Do we, really?
You’re probably not fighting in a war; you haven’t been apprenticed to the blacksmith in the village center at age twelve nor are you milking cows on the farm; you don’t have to use kerosene lamps to push back the dark at night nor do you have to walk a mile to fetch water from the well; you’re not suffering from polio; you haven’t lost your family to the Irish potato famine; you’re not a target of Apartheid or Communist purges; you’re not a slave or a serf; you’re not dying during childbirth; you’re not illiterate; you’re not traveling cross country for six months just to get from New York to San Francisco… and you’re definitely not dying or worse, resorting to cannibalism, just to do so!
At best, you’re slightly uncomfortable in a middle seat for six hours and eat greasy food while staring at a screen and flying at supersonic speeds. And then you bitch and moan about how unfair life is and how hard you have it. I know. I’ve been there.
I can keep going but you get the idea.
So, if this, if now, if this moment, is the best there has ever been, why are we going out of our way, thinking long and hard, to find reasons to hate each other? Why do we keep finding topics to fight over? Why are we working so hard not to be happy?
I claim it’s because our lens is too narrowly focused. Most people living today don’t remember a world without electricity or central air conditioning, without cars or running water, without refrigerators or televisions, without vaccines or high speed travel. Or, for that matter, a world without the internet. Yet, that’s the world pretty much everyone inhabited until very recently.
We insist on seeing how and why we’re different from each other when, in fact, we’ve never been more similar in character, more healthy in physical condition, or more connected in spirit — as a species.
Open the aperture on your lens. Look back fifty, a hundred, two hundred, five hundred years. And you’ll see that these are the best of times.
Stop bickering. Stop fighting for no good reason whatsoever. Stop arguing over dogmatic beliefs or about how others should live their lives. Stop complaining about how hard life is.
It’s really okay, believe me, if you don’t give the finger to the guy who cut you off in traffic. It’s really okay, you’ll have to take my word for it, if you don’t hate Muslims so much. Or rednecks. Or republicans. Or evangelicals. Or immigrants. Or gun owners. Or the Palestinians. Or the Israelis. Or the Rohingya. Or Brexiters. Or whatever the current hot buttons are.
So many labels, so little time. We all do it and we all need to stop doing it.
The past is nothing but a memory in our collective minds and the future is yet to be. As the brilliant Sam Harris once said, “It’s always now.” And we have full control over what “now” looks like, every minute of every day.
We’re living in the best of times. And it’s only going to get better from here on in; I promise.
If we only let it.