Sunday, January 1, 2006

Other Times

For some odd reason this New Year brings to my mind the poem Miniver Cheevy by Edward Arlington Robinson. For those of you who don't remember the poem, it tells the tale of Miniver Cheevy, a man who longed to live in the days of old, as a knight in the Middle Ages or a warrior in ancient Greece. Instead, he was simply a drunk in the present day. I am sure that all of us at one time or another have thought about living in a different time. Indeed, there are times that I sometimes think I was born too late. I am not at all always certain that I was meant to be a 21st century man.

Indeed, while I am not a drunk, I do have one thing in common with Miniver Cheevy. I have sometimes thought that life might be better in the Middle Ages. I must admit that the idea of wielding a sword and wearing chainmail does have its appeal. I can't deny that I sometimes wish I was a warrior of old. And I sometimes wonder that my values aren't more in line with medieval thought than it is 21st century thinking. But, truth to be told, I don't think I would enjoy the Middle Ages very much. In fact, I might not even be alive. Without modern medicines, something as mild as the flu could be lethal. And then there is the fact that later in the Middle Ages, after the conversion to Christianity, personal hygeine was not high on most people's lists. As much as I might fantasise about it, I don't think I would much care for living in a world where the lifespan was considerably shorter than it is today. I suppose if I could live in a pseudo-medieval, fantasy world, like Middle Earth, that might be fine....

Of course, I must also admit that the Thirties and early Forties always appealed to me. I have always loved the movies and the music of that era. Let's face it, the Universal horror movies, King Kong, Bringing Up Baby, It Happened One Night, Casablanca, and many other period films number among my favourites. And Porter, Gershwin, and Berlin number among my favourite composers. I also love the cars and fashions from that era. This was also the era when many legendary pop culture figures were born: Flash Gordon, The Shadow, Doc Savage, Superman, Batman, The Lone Ranger, and so on. That having been said, the era from 1930 to 1945 would have its downside as well. For much of that time there was a Depression going on. It is quite possible that if I had lived in that time, I might not have a job or even a home. After December 1941, there was World War II. Like many men, I could well have been draughted. And like many men, I could have died in battle. That doesn't hold much appeal to me. I guess I don't have to point out that medicine was less advanced then than it is now. While the flu wasn't as deadly as it might have been in the 5th century, there were many other diseases that could take one's life--polio and tuberculosis were two of them. I don't think I want to leave in an age without innoculations against some of the deadlier diseases...

I was alive in the Sixties. Unfortunately, I was also a very young child at the time, so I could not exactly appreciate much of the pop culture of the time. At any rate, the decade has always resonated with me. Those who have read this blog for some time know of my love for the British Invasion bands--The Beatles are my favourite group of all time. And I think that the Sixties were the height of American television. The Monkees, The Wild Wild West, Star Trek, Batman, Bewitched, The Dick Van Dyke Show, and many other classic shows aired in that era. British television had a heyday, too. It was the era of Steptoe and Son, The Avengers, Danger Man, and The Prisoner. And I love Sixties fashions--button down shirts, turtlenecks, and, as might be expected of a heterosexual male, miniskirts... Of course, I suppose the Sixties were not the most peaceful of eras. There was the Vietnam War, racial unrest, protests... And I must admit that I have never found the concept of Free Love very appealing--I'm too much of a romantic for that.

While I must admit that there are times that I think I would be better suited to another time than this one, I must also say that all eras have had their upsides and their downsides. As much as might find living in the Naughts to be something of a drag at times, it is possible that I might have felt the same about the Thirties if I had lived then or the Sixties if I had been an adult then. I suppose that it is natural for people to think that times past must have been better than the time in which they currently live. After all, if this was not the case, there would not be such a thing as nostalgia.

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