Another hundred years were ground up and churned, and what had happened was all muddied by the way folks wanted it to be — more rich and meaningful the farther back it was. In the books of some memories it was the best time that ever sloshed over the world — the old time, the gay time, sweet and simple, as though time were young and fearless. Old men who didn’t know whether they were going to stagger over the boundary of the century looked forward to it with distaste. For the world was changing, and sweetness was gone, and virtue too. Worry had crept on a corroding world and what was lost — good manners, ease and beauty? Ladies were not ladies any more, and you couldn’t trust a gentleman’s word.
There was a time when people kept their fly buttons fastened. And man’s freedom was boiling off. And even childhood was no good any more — not the way it was. No worry then but how to find a good stone, not round exactly but flattened and water-shaped, to use in a sling pouch cut from a discarded shoe. Where did all the good stones go, and all simplicity?
A man’s mind vagued up a little, for how can you remember the feel of pleasure or pain or choking emotion? You can remember only that you had them. An elder man might truly recall through water the delicate doctor-testing of little girls, but such a man forgets, and wants to, the acid emotion eating at the spleen so that a boy had to put his face flat down in the young wild oats and drum his fists against the ground and sob “Christ! Christ!” Such a man might say, and did, “What’s that damned kid lying out there in the grass for? He’ll catch a cold.”
Oh, strawberries don’t taste as they used to and the thighs of women have lost their clutch!
John Steinbeck, East of Eden 1952.
I’m sitting here on Halloween carefully unwrapping my meticulously organized miniature candies; just like I did as a kid — waves of nostalgia wash over me. I think back to just a decade ago when everything seemed so much simpler. As if I am still there I can smell the distinct scent of Jack-O-Lanterns and stale gunpowder. I can picture the Star Wars Episode 1 pillowcase I used to cram full of candy, and I still remember the mischief me and my group of friends got up to.
It was the good old days, it may have only been 10 years, but our parents let us roam free with all the other kids in the neighborhood. Explosives and sugar: what more could a kid want? We blew up pumpkins and had bottle rocket fights with the losers from the other school. The fear, the newness, and the debauchery made me think nothing could top Halloween night as a kid. I’d sit in my dorm room half-assedly studying and think of how much easier everything was back in high school. I’d come home from 8 hours of manual labor and dream of the time when $20 could get me everything I desired.
Then one day it just hit me. The present is the best ones life will ever get.
What once was does not matter. The past may give us perspective, but the present gives us our reality. The quote above was written in 1952; despite being fiction, it has the same sentiments as many of us now: things were better in the past, women and men alike were more virtuous, and culture these days is utterly fucked up. These problems are consistent through time. Human nature doesn’t change, only its expression in a given environment does.
If you’re not working for your future freedom what are you working for? If you’re not lifting because you want to look good and be healthy what are you lifting for? If you’re not approaching women to enjoy them, what are you approaching women for? If you’re not manipulating our current system for your own ends what is your purpose?
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