My childhood is now but a distant dream and the places where I lived the dream belong to history. From time to time, when the hour is late and darkness has thrown a blanket over the hustle and bustle of the city, I let my spirit drift back to those times. I see the meadows, fields and forests, I see all those places where once I roamed and played. There are times though, when I wonder if I really see those places with the same feelings as I did when first my eyes touched their shapes and colors and printed an image of them in my memory. Have these regenerative images of places, things and events from my youth become painted with brighter and more lucid colors as the years went by?
I still remember events or something that took place a very long time ago and I do so with an intensity I find quite remarkable, especially considering that some of them did not seem to be of any relevance or significance. Why is it then that some events that were important in my youth and of which I should have very clear recollections now at best are faded, out of focus pictures? My confirmation in the Lutheran faith at the age of 14 is a good example. It was a very significant event in a boys or girls life in Denmark, since it was the stepping-stone into adulthood. A big party was given for the celebrant after the church service. No matter how hard I try, I can’t remember more than a few small details from it. I remember getting a wristwatch from my parents, and of special noteworthiness, a fishing rod equipped with a light casting real, which were just then coming on the market. I went fishing on the Sunday morning, a week after my confirmation, when I was supposed to go to alter in the church in the early afternoon. Circumstances would have it that I came home a bit late, and boy, was my father mad. He confiscated my beautiful fishing rod for a month, even though we made it to church just in time. That, by the way, was the last time I ever went to altar in a Lutheran Church in Denmark or anywhere else, for that matter.
At times, something triggers my memory banks into releasing recollections of an event or place or perhaps a person, I hadn’t thought about for a long time, maybe even since the event occurred. It can be a sound, a smell or seeing something, that triggers it and like an image projected on a screen; there it is, laid out in front of me as clear as the day it happened. A hologram of the past, projecting both happy and unhappy events. I had experienced many bad things during the Second World War in my early childhood and sometimes repressed images of them resurfaced.
I guess I’m guilty of using the same old phrase as thousands of generations have. “The good old days” they said, “That’s when life was worth living.” But is this really quite true? I often heard my grandparents talk about it or refer to those times. When I asked them for a realistic assessment, they admitted that life today, in some ways, were better than it had been when they were young. Both my two sets of grandparents said that there weren’t as many poor people today, as then and life was not quite as hard as it had been in their youth. Technology had removed much of the dreary, backbreaking labor they had experienced during a good part of their lives. The quality of life, however, was a different story. The way people lived and interacted with each other were incomparably better when they were young. There was more respect, more politeness and less crime and violence. People depended more upon each other and this dependence lead to a closer-knit society.
Do I agree with all that? Well, yes and no. Looking at life, I find that we are still eating the forbidden fruit. The creative genius of the arts and sciences constantly reach higher into the tree, searching for new fruits with which to tempt the masses. They turn yesterday’s forbidden fruit into today’s daily bread that everyone consumes with a convincing certainty that no harm will come of it. Nothing in life is stagnant. Change is the norm, but change is creation and destruction wrought in the same forge. Evolution in social behavior has made yesteryears acceptable standards or yesterdays forbidden fruits, into old-fashioned concepts, no longer worthy of consideration. To corrupt the basic standards of good behavior and acceptable social ethics with new ideas, new frontiers, and expansionist views on moral limits can only result in severe debasing of human dignity. In this aspect, I agree with my grandparents and I have adhered to those concepts of behavior that they, as well as my parents, taught me. The violence, the sexual immorality, the demand for instant gratification and the complete lack of respect found so prevalent amongst teenagers today, begs an explanation. It’s tempting to begin a discourse on the reasons why, but I won’t. It would take a few hundred pages and I neither have the time, nor feel kindly disposed to the problem. When children start shooting each other or their teachers in the school or kill for the sake of some misconstrued perception that it’s OK to do so, then I get angry at the society that created an environment where such events have become all but trivial.
I lay no claim to the moral high ground. We all have some crosses to bear and I certainly have mine. I will emphatically state though, that the kind of rage and unruly behavior so prevalent amongst today’s youth was unknown when I was a teenager. That’s not to say that I and my contemporaries were considered angels by society when we were young and full of piss and vinegar, and that’s the whole crux of the matter, you see. Good or bad behavior is relative to what is socially acceptable at a particular time and what we did was often considered unacceptable. Compared to what kids do today however, rest quite assured, we were the purists of angels. Will today’s youth be able to say the same when they reach my age? I hope not. Such a society would be utter chaos and calamity.