Thursday, February 27, 2014

The Best Time To Live - Nostalgia Is A Lie

We, as a species, have a habit of lying to ourselves, a lot. We often regale each other with stories of times past, painting them in this memorable light of perfection, as if we really enjoyed that moment more than now. But it's all a lie, really, a lie we tell ourselves. Being an emotional species we have a tendency to recall the extremes more than other things, like extreme happiness, fear, sadness, or even anger. But our minds focus more on what makes us happy, what makes us want to live, basically.

On it's own, this lie is not harmful, it keeps us going, we try to repeat those feelings of joy and enjoyment. But in the long run it can be very detrimental, if we insist on living in the past times we felt this way, we may lose the drive to move forward. We see this problem very clearly in those who reminisce about things they don't even recall, times they didn't even live.

Renaissance fans are probably the most notorious, they paint this era as perfect and rosy. Yet that era was full of disease, everyone was dirty, and you were lucky if your own food didn't kill you. People killed each other in the streets, law was only for those who could afford it, and pests were your pets. People knew almost nothing, other than who not to piss off in their neighborhood. Most children were abandoned or orphaned at young ages. People were not kind to each other in any meaningful way.

There are people who think the 1980s were so great too, simple lives, with no care in the world. I grew up in the '80s, trust me, it sucked, it sucked so much I do not miss anything in my childhood. People were still pretty violent, and rude to each other. The music was just random noise set to a beat with random words for lyrics. Art was bland and often monochromatic. Computers were still bulky machines that were just glorified calculators. Illnesses plagued us, even the common cold could kill you. Also, people denied most of the scientific understanding we had then, which was still very little compared to the best time to have lived.

The 1990s were not much better, we did get a handle on violence. Video games offered us better entertainment. Movies improved, so did the music, but the art was still horrible. Slang became very strange, the word "like" was abuse more than any other word in the English language. Medicine did improve a lot, but still had some major problems, diagnosing conditions was less than adequate. Technology finally matured, we got connected, began filling this new world with every bit of information we could find. But it was still far from great.

The 2000s are the best, right now, here, today, this very second. However, that will change, next year will be the best, then the next year, then the next year. Our species is always improving, that's a given, it's the fundamental drive for all living organisms. So yesterday will never be the best time to live, because today is always the best time to live. In 2050, when I am old and growing tired of living, I will look back on this and smile, because even when I am tired of living I will still know that I am in the best time to live.

Oddly, this is the thought that keeps me going, keeps me working to live in spite of the problems I face. Who knows, maybe tomorrow someone will find a way to make my problems better, that's the greatest thing about tomorrow, you never know what will happen. So if you ever hear anyone say they wish they had lived in some past era, point out all the great things we have today, here's a list we have this very moment that should make you feel proud to be alive today:

1. This is the most peaceful time in all human history, ever, in all ways. Sure, we have room for improvement, some locales are having problems, but over the face of the Earth, humans are kinder to each other now than any time before. This is a trend that has been going on for as long as we have been paying attention, people want to work for peace.

2. Information is free, and almost complete. We have access to the answer for almost any question you have about almost anything you could ever need, at the touch of a button or screen, in an instant. Technology is constantly improving, being updated, modernized. People are always adding what they know to this great pool of information that the technology records for us, from videos to maps, science to opinions, everything ever known.

3. Survival is not a struggle anymore, for most of us. Our medicine, our science, has made survival almost too easy. We don't have to toil in the fields all day just to eat, don't have to hunt our own food. If we are hurt we can get medical aid to help us heal, when we need a friend for support we can text or call them at any time. We have enough time to enjoy lives, to play games, read books, explore our world without the pressures of nature hounding us.

4. Illness does not mean a death sentence. In times past ailments would often mean death, you had no way to defend against them. Today we have vaccinations to prepare us against the worst, and medical technology to make sure a broken bone heals properly, and doesn't get infected. We have access to these everywhere too, though some people are restricted access by their governments, we're working on that problem. But it's there, it's possible to survive things which would destroy you.

5. You will never vanish, there will always be a record of your existence. In the past billions of humans have been completely forgotten, never shall we know what they knew, felt, or thought. But today everything about you gets recorded, you are here forever, this world shall not forget you exist so long as it keeps spinning. That is the closest thing to immortality you can have, no memory of you will be forgotten completely, ever. A thousand years from now something you post online may become the most important thing that saves humanity from destruction, and you will be there for it, because you will be remembered.

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