As I think back on the long line of ancestors all the way back to the beginning with Grog, then Tag and from Tag to Canute, from Canute to Soren, from Hans to Heber to Jim and finally myself, I am not sure I am too much different from them.
Certainly technology has changed things and hence how we interact with nature is different. I do not gather or hunt nor do I fish or farm. I shop and I consume, with a vengeance. I don’t have to forage for anything, unless you count driving up to the McDonald’s drive through for a sausage egg McMuffin and a little carton of milk foraging. I consume on daily basis many more calories than Grog or Soren ever did over any significant amount of time and the farthest I have ever moved to retrieve my food sometimes is from the TV room into the kitchen. I can travel farther in a shorter span of time than any of my Viking ancestors could have ever dreamed of. And communicate with people all over the world within a matter seconds, although not as intimately or as beautiful as the thoughts and ideas marked down in my ancestors journal and letters.
But despite the giant technological changes in production, consumption, mobility, communications and government, when I look at my ancestors I do not feel we are very different from each other. I do not think the modern Hansen is very different from medieval Hansen. I do not think the bonds, concerns, and relationships between Grog and Ida and their family and friends or Myrtle and Heber and their family and friends are not much different from those I experience with my wife and our family and friends.
Concerns about good and evil, right and wrong, despair and happiness still concern us as it did them. These were concerns families had before there ever were large societies, modern governments, or mass media set up to redefine families and morality. As John Steinbeck pointed in his novel East of Eden good versus evil was the first story told and every other story from that point on has just been a variation on that theme. Concepts such as love, hate, hope, despair, honesty and deceit, pride and humility, all some manifestation of good and evil have never really gone out of fashion and are impervious to even modern man’s attempts to change human nature.
I believe these concepts take on different forms as man’s relationship to nature changes due to technology, but they as underlying principles of humanity to change definition and are the underlying power of the humanity. I also believe that even as powerful as technology is in changing our relationship to our physical environment, that it too has to bow down to natural law or moral law in order prevent it from destroying the very society that creates it.
Wisdom, the application of morally correct principles, is in just as much short supply now as it was in modern times. A reading of our newspapers and review of our politicians at home and abroad would suggest that wisdom in just as much in short supply as it was back in Canute or Soren’s time. In fact, despite huge collections of data and bodies of knowledge, wisdom appear to be still wanting and progress in human relations is negligible, even though we have more and more civil rights than ever before.
Just as Grog, Tag, Canute, Soren, Hans, Heber and Jim experienced good and bad times I expect I will continue to see them as well. Just as they struggled with their weaknesses throughout their lifetimes I expect to as well. And just as they have all passed away, except for Jim, I know this is my destination as well. But as I have tried to learn of them, I hope that they have been watching over me and mine and that there will be some sort of family reunion, assuming I get past St. Peter’s gates, with Grog at the barbecue. I heard he does a mean smoked tri-tip.