Listen to Pilot Light

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Where as well as when

The other day Dagny and I were talking about places we haven't lived, where it might be fun to live. There are fewer now than their used to be, largely because some places have fallen off the desirable list. I sometimes feel that McDonalds and I live in mutually exclusive worlds. Globalization is making problems for folks like us who like to drift about. Information begets more information and governments are best at increasing and complicating paperwork for doing anything. And then, places have changed since we last visited (had it really been twenty odd years since we were in Bali?) and the way the place is now is often quite different. The current edition of the place often gives romantic tinges to the memories. Although it brings advantages, globalization is also homogenizing things in ways that I find unpleasant.

What we realized is that it isn't just the place, but the time that matters. For instance. Dagny lived in Kenya a long time ago. The climate sounds perfect. She liked it. Current reports (both in the media and from people who visit Africa) make it sound less than ideal at the moment. Not that the country suddenly became a bad place, but because it is caught up in the swirl of chaotic stuff that I find uninteresting when I am feeling kindly and unpleasant when I am feeling more critical. Perhaps it is (currently) a great place to visit, but not one I would go to live (a notion subject to change). And sometimes I think of Paris. But when I see pictures of modern day Paris, I realize I am thinking of Paris in the 30s (I was there briefly in the late 50s and that would do). Not quite the same place.

I suppose this is all inevitable and I am not railing a particular place or against the forces of entropy and change. No, I am being nostalgic for places and ways of living that don't exist any longer and made unhappy by people thinking that if they have the same stores and silly crap the rest of the world has they will somehow be happy when it is quite clear that the folks who already have them are far from happy. A nice beach is pleasant. A nice beach with a guest house is fine. Add a high rise and it becomes unpleasant. Add a few boutiques and why is it different than Hawaii?

Technology is a fuel of this shift. High-tech communications and travel give people the wants. Now let me confess that although I am not a Luddite, recently I feel Ned Ludd gaining ground on me. His hot breath is on the back of my neck.

Take a look around me. Well, since you can't, I'll tell you that I have no smart phone, no tablet computer. I don't think I need them. So far, I don't want them. If I had a tablet, then it would likely be my everything computer, as this laptop is now (it replaced my desktop, so I adopt, albeit at a pace that allows glaciers to whiz by me).

I used to, when young, often feel out of place. I have lived in many, many places, giving me a lot of places to feel out of. Now I feel more out of time. Perhaps that is inevitable. Perhaps it can be cured. But the places I want to go are increasingly rooted back in time a bit (sometimes more than a bit).  Maybe if I stand still long enough, I can write contemporary novels and label them historical and thus find my niche. So you see, there is a silver lining to all this change.
(Thailand, without riots.)