Variation of “What He Didn’t See” originally posted at ergo:Village
Imagine a small group of Greeks gathered under a grape arbor for a leisurely afternoon discourse some 2,500 years ago. During their conversation they touch upon a subject that begs input from a missing comrade, who that day is regrettably some ten miles away. While bemoaning his absence–and the impossibility of easily fetching him–a stranger from the future suddenly beams down and proceeds to enlighten them on how easy it would be to bring their friend to the gathering…if only they would be willing to undertake the following…
He then described how they could drill oil wells, build pipelines and refineries and factories and roads and vehicles, etc., etc., and then, in a trice, they could easily drive over and pick their friend up! Or better, give him a call, and invite him to drive over himself. He then concluded with a brief slide show giving them a glimpse of the many additional wonders they would discover as a result of their effort.
When finished, he asked if they might like him to stick around for a bit to help get the process started. They talked among themselves briefly, and then politely declined. He asked them why. They explained that while the end result might be appealing, the cost of achieving it was far beyond their means…as well as their needs.
“Yes, but think about your children,” he said. “Think what you’ll be doing for them!”
They studied him carefully for a moment, and then replied: “That’s precisely why we must decline. Because it is not so much what we would be doing ‘for’ them, but ‘to’ them.
The Greeks then invited him to have a seat, relax for a bit, and take a look at something they thought he should see before he returned back to his future.
He thanked them for the offer, but instead beamed himself quickly away. Which is too bad, because this is what he would have seen had he stayed:
A bee is defined by the overall dynamic of the hive. It does not see the hive from the perspective of the world beyond…it defines the world from the perspective of the hive.
The analogy of the Greeks reminds me that a simple, sustainable lifestyle was still very much the rule for many in this country as little as 100 years ago. They, too, would probably have declined an offer to trade the simplicity of their everyday life for the nightmare of waste, complexity and conflict offered by the fellow from the future…especially just to have ‘wheels’ and/or the ability to make a phone call.
My mother, for example (the eldest in the photo below), born in 1905, grew up in ‘the middle of nowhere’ Nebraska. It was, to say the least, an austere beginning. There was virtually no dependence on the ‘outside world’ for anything essential. Life was lived almost exclusively from what could be planted, cultivated, and harvested from the surrounding soil. Water was collected in hand-dug cisterns during the rainy season, and hand-pumped or carried by hand to the kitchen in wooden buckets to use for cooking, washing and drinking. There was no toilet. (And if there were, who would carry and waste all that water to flush it?) There was no refrigerator (or freezer). Food was preserved by drying or canning, or stored ‘live’ in a hand dug root cellar. The idea of wasting anything–much less food–was unimaginable.
As an example, until the day she died (at age 84), she would use a tea bag until it no longer colored the water. Only then would she put it in the compost bucket for later use on the garden. She wasn’t that frugal only because she didn’t ‘believe’ in being wasteful. She was that way because she had so little to waste.
I assumed it must have been a miserable life, but whenever she was asked about it she would instantly glow with a rush of fond memories. “Oh, no!” She would say. “We had a grand time. And I can’t ever remember it being work. Probably because we had so much fun doing it.”
If she were alive today, and I had a magic wand, she’d be our next president. And her first task? To take everyone out behind the barn and give them a good spanking. Then she’d pat them on the head, smile, and tell them it was time for them to grow up.