Tuesday, July 01, 2014

A time-travel question

If you could go back in time (to live, not with the ability to change the course of history), how far back would you go?

I wouldn’t go any farther back than 2006.

Why? That was the year the FDA began requiring disclosure of trans fats on food labels. (Even then, it took me a few years to know exactly what trans fats were and why I should stop eating the unhealthy amount that I was.)

Does that seem nitpicky? My point exactly. For all the fondness people have about the past, you can always find something (or many things) that would make daily life miserable for someone accustomed to today.

Strange diseases. Less-safe everything. Different political climates. More rigid social mores. Entire groups of people without equal rights. Now-unacceptable language. Not to mention having to relive some terrible events.

As bad as today can seem at times, we’re at least aware of our problems, and that we might have more problems down the line. We don’t live in an era where people smoke everywhere and where processed food is universally hailed for its convenience. Gas-guzzling cars are rightfully criticized. It’s not cool to demean minorities and gays. Climate change is taken seriously by people with the potential to do something about it.

That’s why it’s a privilege to live today. We have the ability to take everything that was good about past eras and apply them to now, and leave the shortcomings behind. And if we’re good enough at it, a future generation will say, “Man, I’m glad we're not living in 2014.”

Wouldn’t that be great?

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