Old Diary

Living on a Moebius Strip

We spend half of our life running upside down. That’s because life is rather like a moebius strip. There is no end at which you can say: I’ve arrived.

Take a piece of paper, give it 1/2 a twist and fasten it back upon itself. It’s the never ending race course; the track without an end.  Run the length of the original piece and you end up on the other side of the paper.  Run the length again and you’re back on the first side.  You’ll never get to the end of the paper.

Have you ever thought about human society as being roughly equivalent to living on a moebius strip.  The tragic events of yesterday at one Connecticut elementary school — an event that has echoed around the nation and the world for 24 hours — is but another example of a world upside down.

I’ve been thinking about this for some weeks now.  It seems to me – having been born and raised in a very different world than I inhabit today – that everything I know has pretty much been turned upside down.

I grew up in a time when age was valued.  Old age was a good sign.  People liked long lasting companies; they didn’t trust start-up companies.  Older people were thought to have some wisdom and writings by them were generally treated with some respect.  No one wanted to be the first person to buy a new product because there were sure to be defects (there being no such thing as ISO certification back then).  People held “values” like honesty & integrity, and they believed that work should actually produce something.  Religion was still popular and people actually thought that there was a way they were supposed to live.

Today there’s a lot of talk about religion but fewer and fewer people are practicing believers.  New companies are the place to be.  New products are not only welomed, we rush to stand in line to buy them. Software has us thinking that products may or may not be tangible and we now have people with huge wealth who have not produced anything but who have leeched off of the productive part of society by doing nothing more than buying and selling, speculating on price and making and breaking markets.

Most of what I grew up thinking was good has little value today — a point that was made quite graphically when we decided to downsize our possessions.  The one abiding, amazing, nearly unbelievable reality was that people were willing to spend ridiculous amounts for things I thought worthless, and things I thought had some value were deemed disposable.moebius

I have always welcomed change — and on most levels I still do — one has no choice but to keep running around that Moebius strip.  I’m not morbid about what has happened, but the reality of life is that change eventually brings you back to where you began.

The microcosm example of this is fashion.  Mens’ ties have been narrow, and wide and narrow and wide and whatever they are now — which is mostly not worn.  Women’s skirts have been long and short and long and short — eventually you have to go back to where you came from.  And no matter how much men might like short skirts, there will come a time when people will get tired of seeing flesh all the time and fashion houses will want an excuse to sell people more clothing and the “style” will change.

About some things we are slow to change.  Most of my life government has been trying to get American drives to “like”  small, fuel-efficient cars.  As long as gas prices stay high American buy smaller cars.  When gas prices start to dip we flock back to our huge land yachts by the hundreds of thousands.  As eaters we have known for half a century the dangers of sugar and poor diet, we have had the resources to eat healthy, and what do we do:  we have eaten ourselves to the doors of the fat farm, adult onset diabetes is an epidemic, and there’s little indication we have learned a gosh darn thing.

Carousel Lavender_WagonIn time we may learn; in time we may change.  We’ll all keep running around this great big Moebius strip we call life and we allwill find out what it’s like to have life change right around you.  Younger readers can laugh all they want — but assuming that you live to a ripe old age, you’ll have the same experience we are having now.  When I was in my 20’s we knew an old gentleman who was 100 yrs old.  When driving him home to the South Side of Chicago from the Loop he would tell us stories about how he had moved to Chicago from Philadelphia in a BUCKBOARD. He showed us where he first lived — next to a giant willow — and that was nearly in the middle of downtown, a site which is currently all concrete, steel and glass.  His generation went from moving at the speed of horses to flying to the moon.  In my generation much of the change has been in less visible forms.  The first computers weighed a ton, required constant refrigeration, clean rooms in which to be installed, and cost immense amounts of money.  Today, the average cell phone has more computing power than the computers that took men to the moon, or that powered huge corporations.  We think of these things as virtually throwaway tools because each time a new model comes out we rush to replace our aging ( 2 yr old ) phones with the latest and greatest model with the newest operating system.

How change will manifest itself for this next generation has yet to be seen.  When I look out at the job market and wonder what my grand-daughter will do I am happy I grew up when I did.  When I view the industrial pollution that has fouled water supplies, killed off thousands of species to extinction, consider the chemical food additives that seem to be poisoning the food supply — well, I’m glad that I’m at midpoint of my life and not at the beginning.

It troubles me that there seems to no longer be anything like innocence. I don’t understand why parents are in such a big hurry to wean children out of childhood, but dont have time to spend with them.  It’s cliche I know to say that when I was a kid I only had one thing to play with: the outdoors.  But I find it incredibly sad that parents are too fearful of their children’s safety to let them out of the house to play in their own yard.  I used to leave the house in the morning and never return again till the street lights came on — Paint-PaddleI was too busy having fun to worry about stopping to eat — but then I’d scarf up everything in sight when I walked in the door.  My parents owned a mom & pop hardware store.  My most common “toy” was a paint mixing paddle, a couple thread spools, and  a few brads.  My buddy and I would make boats out of 1 paddle each, a spool of thread, nailed to it, and we’d spend the whole day floating them down any old creek we could find.  I know, I’m easily amused.  But I learned to occupy myself and I learned to appreciate what I had.  I wish my grand daughter could do the same.  Instead, for her “excitement” is rummaging through urban detritus — called URBEX-ing.  I seems strange that in 50 yr’s life should cycle so that prospects of the future see urban destruction and decay rather than the unlimited opportunities what we saw when we were kids.  I don’t know how to change that.  I think we have a pretty good relationship between generations in our family but there are times I have no idea how to inspire that same unlimited optimism that I knew in a world where gun toting shooters kill innocent children for no obvious reason.

I don’t have answers; I have a lot of questions.  But one thing for sure.  I’m on this Moebius strip and I’m running like crazy because I sure don’t wanna fall off.  And don’t nobody get any ideas about pushing me off either cuz I’m a cantankerous old geezer.