Apr 28, 2010

Do things really change?

Wish you had a dollar for every "times have changed" or some such well-worn cliche you come across? If you follow press releases or marketing PPTs of software companies, among others, you often come across this message that somehow in the last few years, times have changed and therefore we have to do this or that differently. Globalisation, Internet-age, MTV generation, 21st century, these are all often used as keywords that tell us that we are in some drastically new era that is vastly different.

Many a times we also come across anecdotes or incidents or flashes from the past that remind us that, times may appear to have changed but in some respects, not much has changed. Let me give you a few..

I like Gary Hayden's articles on "philosophy" that features every week in Singapore's Straits Times. Now we all get scared when hear that p-word but he really conveys simple messages in a simple and straightforward way which is not so easy. Recently I looked up his blog and he has posted a link to one of Seneca Jr's writings sent to him by a reader. Gary considers this article, along with a few others, as potentially 'life changing'.

This guy Seneca is from the first century (50AD), that is almost 2000 years ago. And the quoted article starts like this ... "... we are born for a brief span of life, because even this space that has been granted to us rushes by so speedily and so swiftly that all save a very few find life at an end just when they are getting ready to live".

Who would have thought that back then life goes so swift that you don't have time to live? We normally assume that even 50-60 years ago life was laid back and relaxed and it is only in this bullet train internet tweet era that things are moving fast. After all our parents did not have to tweet every movement of theirs or blog every thought as we do :-) but then they had other things...

Then there are others...some researchers recently compared paintings of Last Supper by various painters over hundreds of years, to conclude that our meal or portion sizes have grown steadily through the ages (presumably implying that we are overeating)....with all respects, have they found something new? There is this Egyptian saying supposedly engraved on a 5000 year old pyramid "you live on one fourth of what you eat, your doctor lives on the other three fourths"...so over-eating is probably not a new fad at least not for the affluent.

We all have also heard "today's kids are so different" so often. It seems that is exactly what some ancient Greek thinker also said, 3000 years or more ago...

I am sure you have come across many such cases.

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