As you know I’m working really hard to finish Through Fire, interrupted by some health stuff which is getting me down. So the world’s most awesome husband took me away from the keyboard yesterday night and on a date to the Denver zoo, to see the Christmas lights.
It was just starting to snow, as we approached and we were afraid we’d get frozen but it was surprisingly mild the entire time we were there, and the lights were awesome.
We’d gone once with the kids, when they were little, and the lights were mostly stationary, but now there are a number of moving light shows, and also stuff like oriental lanterns in the elephant area.
Because we went relatively late (had an appointment that let out at six thirty, so no choice there) and because it was starting to get nippy, we weren’t as mobbed with kids as you’d expect. At the end, we might have turned around and gone again, except there was a light drizzle of snow falling. So we adjourned to Pete’s kitchen, where we sat at the window, watching the snow paint patterns in the window and the wind shake the lights outside, while we sat inside all snuggly and warm.
Did I have a point to this, other than bragging about my husband?
When I was a very little girl, I thought the holidays were magical. You see, they used to outline the little medieval church tower in white lights. In a village where streetlights were few and far between and most of the houses not only had only one lightbulb per room (usually naked, in the middle of the room and like 40 watts, no matter how large the room,) but everyone also kept an oil lamp or candles, because the light was off as much as it was on, the lights outlining the tower in the dark (glimpsed from my window late at night) was a miracle.
Fireworks were miracles too, particularly the more complex ones that made pictures.
And of course, festas in summer were a thing of beauty, because of all the light and sound. In retrospect, these were rather pokey ambulatory festivals, mostly booths selling crafts (only these weren’t cool crafts, just most of the stuff around there and then was hand made.) And there were maybe three rides, one of them the obligatory tethered airplanes and the other probably bumper cars, leaving the third to either a roller coaster or a carousel.
Why am I going on about this, just now?
Because in the middle of that amazing light show it occurred to me “as bad as things are…” As in, back then, my little self would have thought that lighted zoo a wonderland out of dreams.
My kids, of course, take it for granted.
But there is a difference between taking it for granted and imagining that, somehow, strangely, the past, with its privations, the past without any of these marvels, was a wonderland.
I’m not going to say my childhood was awful. In many ways, it was a magical place. But it was a magical place despite the privations and the lack of entertainment.
I was blessed with a father who would walk with me through the local fields and woods and not only show me the local fauna and flora (and tell me stories about it) but also read the inscriptions in Roman ruins we stumbled upon. I had a father who in the summer would walk me to the nearest pond to see the fireflies over it, and who taught me to make a pan flute out of reeds. (And who would also take me on an expedition to feed and observe the ants in a massive anthill down by the fields. And always, always, be ready with history or legend, or poem to illustrate something. And I was blessed with a grandmother (dad’s mom) who made up stories for me involving an alternate of the village populated with shape shifters and magical beings.
Add to that a brother and a cousin who were willing to let me tag along with them on their expeditions and who tolerated my thievery of their books, and it was a very good childhood.
What it was lacking was more on the material front: non-scratchy clothes, heated rooms (and bathrooms!) in winter, medicine that wouldn’t be available for decades and – well… entertainment.
Look, I’m a very boring sort of person. Even now, my favorite entertainment is reading. Surrounded by games and movies, I choose books.
But back then even the books were limited. Not only couldn’t we afford them that often, but fewer were printed than here, so the choice was far more limited.
Of course we read everything – I read history and mystery and romance (and when my brother found it SF) because I read everything everyone in the family bought.
Even the newspapers’ serializations of old books ended up clipped out and kept to re-read later.
I don’t think any kid born here and now understands that re-reading wasn’t a choice. You re-read because you simply couldn’t find enough to read.
That today I can research anything – I was just looking up hot buttered rum (shut up) – by typing a sentence on the net, would be enough to make me think this was paradise when I was a kid.
And this is why all the programs of the progressives have been outstripped. They had plans and ideas to bring about equality in 1930s terms. One stack-a-prole apartment, one ration of chicken a week, two suits of clothing a year: EQUALITY.
Instead, we have people living wildly divergent lives in the way they want to live them, and all these people can do is bleat about class and equality.
How do you determine class when, even if I were twice as rich, my life wouldn’t be much different day to day? I’d still live in a house that’s warmed in winter and cooled in summer; I’d still have light and music for the asking (I remember my brother’s transistor radio being a seven day wonder in the village.) I’d still have a computer and be able to read a vast amount of things for free. (And write with minimal effort.)
How do you determine equality when how happy and contented people are has a lot to do with what they choose to do with this immense common patrimony of science and abundance we have?
How can you even insist on equality?
In the end all their bleating is revealed for what it is: a plea for power. They want to control who gets the light, and who is shunted off into the dark.
Well, they’re going to have to think again.
We won’t go quietly into that good night. We’ll stay here and bask in moving pictures made of light.
They like the past so well, they can start their own self-restricted communities. We can always use more Amish at least for the cheese.
As for me, and my house, we’re going to go see Interstellar again tomorrow. We might even go do it in Imax. Because we can.