Do You Yearn for “the Good Old Days”?
“THEY just don’t make cars the way they used to.” “Mom’s refrigerator lasted twenty years, but this is the third time ours has quit in two years.” “The old days seemed so much nicer, more peaceful.”
Do those remarks sound familiar? You likely have heard others speak that way, and may have said such things yourself. Many persons yearn for what are called “the good old days.” They remember fondly how things used to be, and prefer that to how things are now.
But were “the good old days” in all respects better than now? What makes this question even more interesting is the fact that the Bible counsels: “Do not say: ‘Why has it happened that the former days proved to be better than these?’ for it is not due to wisdom that you have asked about this.” (Eccl. 7:10) What is the point of that counsel? Does it mean that we should ignore the fact that crime is on the increase and that there is more family breakdown and pollution than in the past? What is the balanced view, and how can gaining this outlook contribute to our finding increased contentment now?
There is a variety of reasons why persons speak nostalgically of “the good old days.” Sometimes they have in mind the fact that products such as cars, appliances, clothing or houses seem to have been better in the past. Others may be thinking more about the general way of life or the atmosphere that prevailed in years gone by. It will be revealing to examine both aspects.
WERE ALL THINGS BETTER?
With regard to manufactured goods, there is little doubt that craftsmanship was generally better in past years. Workers used to take more pride in what they did. You could see that in the finished products. Years ago you were not as likely to find carelessly chipped paint or loose bolts on a new stove, automobile, or bicycle. The carpenter who built your cabinet probably was a real craftsman and he realized that he was working right in the community where he lived; as a result, he likely did a respectable job.
However, aside from workmanship, are today’s products inferior? In many cases, no. From a technical or practical standpoint most of them have improved. For example, recall how often Mom faced the messy chore of defrosting the refrigerator, which did not even keep things very cold. But if you own a newer model, it may have a separate freezing compartment as well as a self-defrosting unit. True, it is more complicated, having more features that can malfunction. But do you not enjoy these features? Would most persons readily go back to the type of refrigerator that Mom had or the simple icebox Grandma had?
Similar points could be made about new houses or automobiles. Someone may think of his old car as being more sturdy than that of today. Yet, was its ride as comfortable and safe as that of recent models? It probably was harder to start on cold days, more difficult to steer and took more effort to bring to a stop than today’s models that have better ignition systems, better power steering and improved brakes. Perhaps you used to consider it normal to change the oil in your car after 2,000 miles (3,200 km.) and put in new spark plugs after 15,000 miles (24,000 km.). With today’s advanced engineering you may go 9,000 miles (14,500 km.) before replacing the oil, and your plugs may be good for 30,000 miles (48,000 km.).
As to materials, plastics or polyesters may not have the same natural or rich “feel” as wood, leather, cotton or wool products that were common in bygone years. However, they have their own advantages that we may tend to overlook. Ask a woman who each week used to have shirts to “blue” and starch if she misses that task. Modern shirts and blouses made from blends of natural and synthetic fibers usually need less pressing and are more stain-resistant. And they may cost considerably less than all-natural products.
No, without doubt, there are certain good aspects of today’s products. Usually they wear longer, require less maintenance and have many laborsaving features that are valuable in the fast-paced system in which we live. Why, then, do so many persons nostalgically recall “the good old days”? What was different then?
For one thing, it seems that much of the technical progress has been made at the cost of more pleasant living conditions. To mass-produce the more complicated technical products, industrialized cities with many factories have been built, and these are recognized as chief contributors to the present pollution problem. The industrialized way of life has had its effect on the workers too. They have been pressed into leading more hectic, nervous lives, as well as living in dirtier, less healthful surroundings. This has taken its toll on the emotions and stability of people. True, the Bible says that mankind’s Creator disapproves of ‘those who are ruining the earth’ and He purposes to cleanse the earth of them. (Rev. 11:18) But as of now the distressing problems associated with today’s industrialization still exist, causing people to be unsettled and to long for “the good old days.”
MORE THAN “THINGS”
But there is more to the widespread yearning for “the good old days” than just an overlooking of the technical progress mankind has made. As mentioned earlier, some persons particularly long for the way of life or the atmosphere that used to exist. They may recognize that today’s manufactured goods are in certain respects superior to yesterday’s products, yet that alone does not bring them contentment. They personally may sense that some fundamental need is not being satisfied to the extent that it was in former times. Furthermore, some thinking persons may wonder whether this basic lack of satisfaction may be contributing to the general moral breakdown that we see abounding despite man’s material progress.—2 Tim. 3:1-5.
Let us, then, examine why it is that a different spirit or atmosphere seems to exist today, and what we can do about it.