Driving through the inky darkness on a blustery, bitter cold morning, cocooned in warmth, the dashboard lights a faint glow, a Beethoven sonata playing on the stereo, it struck me just how far we have come … technologically.
My young granddaughters have never known a time without modern, comfortable automobiles, music (and even videos) to keep them entertained as they are chauffeured thither and yon — they can only marvel at the ancient earlier era automobiles they see in movies and in museums.
While I remember, as a kid, travel in autos and pickups that were subject to frequent breakdowns (a 25-mile trip to the next town on gravel roads was as often as not calculated in number of flat tires as in miles per 15-cent gallon of gas), most of us seldom give a thought to the countless incremental advances over the decades that have made today’s far safer, comfortable, and relatively trouble-free automotive travel possible.
We have so much these days: nice vehicles; supermarkets brimming with food of variety that could not have been imagined in my childhood; comfortable houses that cool us in the summer and warm us in the winter; computers and a vast array of electronic devices that make our work easier and our leisure entertaining; and on and on — the changes that have taken place in the lifetime of any person of grandparent age are astounding, would once have been considered miraculous.
And we take it all for granted: that we flip a switch and the lights will come on; that a touch of the thermostat will keep us comfortable year-round; that when we go to the store the shelves will be stocked with food; that when we turn the tap for a shower, hot water will flow.
How far we have come in terms of comforts, and technology, and things.
And yet, as we celebrate another season centered on peace, goodwill, and brotherhood, we seem to have not made that much progress with each other: Religion condemns religion, party condemns party, basic civility seems an increasingly scarce commodity, terror which once was in distant lands is now, thanks to jet travel and the Internet, everywhere abroad in the world, and man’s inhumanity to man seems to know no bounds.
In our beloved country, long a beacon of hope and freedom and opportunity envied worldwide, we now find ourselves in an economic and political quagmire that has ensnared millions of our fellow citizens and has cast a pall on the futures of our children and grandchildren.
We have all, as Americans, been blessed with so much … and we have lost so much. The shining star of hope for all mankind that lit the sky over Bethlehem seems now more distant than it was two-thousand-odd years ago.
So much accomplished. Yet, so little.