The"Simple" Myth

I've been beginning to suspect that looking back on earlier times and thinking of them as being "more simple" or "less complicated" is a human tendency handed down through generations. For some reason past pastures aren't necessarily greener, but they are more rosy.

It may seem easy to compare our present with the past, but while our perceptions make it seem like the past was more simple, that seeming simplicity came at a cost - less medical advances (that's a biggie!), reduced traveling opportunities, less food choices, less education, less technology in general, more complicated food preservation, less hygiene, less equality, etc. Now, you may think all of that is grand and you wouldn't mind stepping into that time period. Great for you! I'm with you on a few of those things, though I am really loving electricity! But let me let you in on a little not-so-secret secret: The past is dead, I'm afraid! There's no going back no matter how much you think the idea of a time-traveling Tardis really could exist.

Besides, if most modern people are truly honest with themselves, is the cost of going the route of a simple life something they're willing to pay? I don't think so. When people reminisce about simpler times, what are they really saying? Is it really about simpler times of the past or is it really about less technology to fill our bustling, bursting lives? I'll let you ponder on that one.

So, how far back do these nostalgic "simpler times" feelings go in our society? I'm not sure exactly, but I was completely surprised to find this article by Don Herold in the October 1948 issue of Reader's Digest. I think it's very inspiring, but really striking for the time period. This is supposed to be one of those times that we look back at and wax poetical by how simple everything was! I am happy to say that this man has burst that little bubble for us.

Yeah! Indiana! I love that he mentions my home state.

Fantastic! I couldn't have said it better myself.

Now, even though the idea of past simplicity is a myth when we really examine it, there are things that we can do to incorporate certain aspects of the past that would greatly simplify our present. They will come at a cost, though. You will need to trade some things in. Things such as far less TV time for more reading in the cooling shade of an oak tree. Less texting & e-mailing for more face to face interaction or even *gasp* handwriting a letter! Less rushing around in our car in endless errands for more leisurely walks along tree-lined lanes. Less eating out and ready-to-make meals and more made from scratch, however imperfect at first. Depending on what level of simplicity we want to have in our lives, we can choose skills and traits of the past that we can use to learn from and make apart of our lives now. And in our pursuit for a reminiscent simplicity, I feel we can achieve that peace and quiet that we all crave.

How about instead of looking back on a strange and distant "simpler" past, that we choose to make our future simpler?


  1. My favorite is "They just don't make things like they used to. I have a [whatever] from [the past] and it still works great! Not like [thing bought recently]." Well, yeah. If something exists from 100 years ago, it was made sturdy! But we don't see all the low-quality garbage they made, because it BROKE.

  2. Jana - oh man that is so true! They made plenty of cheap junk back then, it just maybe wasn't from China. Haha! I think that's so funny to think about. My friend just finished studying archaeology in Scotland and she made a remark about during a dig getting past "the Victorian junk" to get to the good stuff underneath. I was mildly offended, but she was right really. We history-lovers tend to glorify antiques, but the truth is, some of it really was cheap-o junk.


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