The Passage of Time

One of the themes I’m working with in writing is the passage of time.  When we look back over the history of the human race, the 20th Century is just a blip.  On the other hand, the 20th Century was a pretty amazing period.  For the purposes of our Jewpanese family tree, it was an extremely eventful time, and that is what is in much of my writing these days.  Both Becky’s and my families immigrated to the United States at the dawn or in the early years of the century.  The map changed dramatically during the 20th Century, if you think about it.  Germany, Poland, Russia, and India all looked different.  The Middle East as we know it didn’t exist.  In the US, the top causes of death were pneumonia/influenza and tuberculosis.  Heart disease, number 1 in 2013, was number three.  2013’s number 2, cancer, was 8th in 1900.  TB isn’t in the top ten today, while pneumonia/influenza is 9th.  Polio was stopped in the US during the 20th Century and smallpox was eradicated in the wild.  Commercial radio, television, and films replaced the stage.  Record players came and went.  CD players rose and now appear to be fading in the early 21st Century.  I was alive for the last 31 years or so of the century.  I was born mere months after men first walked on the moon.  In the time he lived in Hawaii, my great-grandfather saw the distance between the land he was born in and the land he would die in shrink when measured by time from days to hours.  He arrived in 1899 and died in the mid-60’s.

It’s an interesting exercise to try to imagine ourselves in another time.  My great-grandfather almost certainly moved from an outhouse to an indoor toilet in his lifetime.  Probably from an o-furo to a shower too, although some people never got used to it.  I read one interview with a shihan who said that O-Sensei didn’t like the shower in a hotel he was staying at and so had to be moved to a home of someone who had an o-furo in their house.  This was mid-century Hawaii, so it might not have been super uncommon, just kind of uncommon and quaint.

The reality is things change over time.  Comforts can go up or down, but things will change.  In rare cases, like the 20th Century, the changes are fast and disorienting.  Adapting to the change is what really counts, what really makes one successful.  And it’s probably not nearly as seamless as one sees in these time-travel movies or TV shows.  Anyway, more food for thought.

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