New Year’s and All That Change

Columnist Len Bourland
Columnist Len Bourland

The gyms are packed (at least temporarily), the twinkle lights around town are gone, the traffic is back to horribly congested instead of immovable, and there’s certain grimness in the air.

It’s January. It’s cold, it’s bills, it’s the tax planning workbook in the mail, it’s flu season, it’s short days but a long month, it’s when we assess the rest of the school year, end relationships, make summer plans, diet, change jobs, address the State of the Union … ugh.

About that last thing, the state of this country: it was way back in November 2014, standing in what felt like America in the 1950s — that is to say the line at the HoneyBaked Ham store — that I had sort of an “a-ha” moment. After all, this was not a multicultural event. You won’t find a pork store on over half of the planet. No men sporting beards unless they’re from Duck Dynasty, no Muslims, no Jews, vegans, or hipsters were queued up, which kind of reminded me of my childhood.

Today’s America is not one my grandparents would recognize with iPhones and iPods, social media, hybrids and smart cars, car seats, bike helmets, leggings, pierced and tattooed bodies, hair every sort of color, MRIs and in vitro fertilization, Starbucks, and a babel of languages. However, they would have recognized everything in the HoneyBaked store: sweet potato pudding, green bean casserole, cranberry relish, and pies.

And their grandparents would not have recognized my grandparents’ world of radio, television, telephones, airplanes, cars, x-rays, and indoor plumbing. But they would have had much of the same (homemade) menu as the one in the HoneyBaked Ham store. Gluten-free everything, kale and Brussels sprouts, mangos with yogurt wouldn’t have graced their table.

This made me wonder what my grandchildren will remember when they are the grandparents: the quaintness of iPhones, of SUVs, of flat-screen TVs, remote controls, botox, eyeglasses, laptops, or what else? There will no doubt be exciting changes we cannot even conceive.

[pullquote-left] As much as we seek a little comfort from the past… innovations and new thoughts continue to press us forward with the more mundane tasks that are the Januaries of our lives.[/pullquote-left]

Just a couple of hundred years ago a person would be bled to “release the harmful vapors” if sick, which then often killed him. Windows in sickrooms would be kept closed to keep out the harmful night air, which only intensified the germ count. What are we doing now that will seem that deleterious to posterity? Chemotherapy or stents?

Will babies once again be placed on their tummies instead of on their backs, as was the norm in my young mothering? Will we return to the idea in my grade-school Weekly Reader that the earth’s core was cooling and we might be entering another ice age instead of the conventional wisdom of global warming today?

As much as we seek a little comfort from the past — whether in terms of what we ate, or some books, songs, and traditions that brought us joy, the possibility of the novel — innovations and new thoughts continue to press us forward with the more mundane tasks that are the Januaries of our lives.

For example, I took a course in theology for self-interest at Perkins at SMU, and in one discussion on the relationship of man to creation and nature, most of the class decried the current “rape” of the planet with how “piggish” (pardon, but I seem to have pork on the brain) Americans are with our carbon footprints and carbon emissions.

I’m old, so I cheerfully announced I fully intended to use fossil fuel. I supported the pipeline if we need more oil for planes and cars. And just as we are solving the ozone crisis, I felt confident pollution could be reckoned with.

One other dissenter felt we have everything we need to renew the earth, particularly any oil waste that is produced through leaks, spills, or waste disposal through the simple “development of a modular system using mycelium.” This guy’s into mushrooms! While living in Colorado, he dickered around with how they can break down and “clean” waste.

My jaw dropped. I realized I’d just heard a new innovative idea as he explained his own experiments that demonstrated it. I just want this man to patent his stuff and get a grant to introduce it. I wondered what in the world was he doing getting a degree in theology, but perhaps working to renew the earth and clean up waste is theology.

Although some might make a case that arguing, consuming, and pursuing the almighty buck is what Americans do best, methinks it is solutions, creativity, and imaginative invention. It’s changing us all the time. And it doesn’t have to come from the crowd at the HoneyBaked Ham store.

It is the rapidity of change that is jarring, particularly with age. Except some things never change. Like taxes. Thank heaven for comfort food.

Len Bourland can be reached at [email protected]

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