“Millions of men have lived to fight, build palaces and boundaries, shape destinies and societies; but the compelling force of all times has been the force of originality and creation profoundly affecting the roots of human spirit.” Ansel Adams
Most of us have a piece of history tucked away somewhere in our past. The latest desire to discover our ancestors and heritage is sweeping the country. We’re even asked to provide a sample of our DNA in order to find more in depth information.
Were your ancestors pillars of the community or were there some shady goings on in their lives? Were they rich or poor? Did they contribute to society or just take advantage of it? Were they famous or infamous?
Any information we gather from our family trees is certainly not enough to tell us what our forerunners were really like. What did they believe? How did the get through the perils of life that faced those past generations? What framed their personalities and character traits?
I came across the above photograph a couple years ago and decided to keep it. I don’t know who the people are in the picture. I can recognize some facial qualities that might lead me to my mother’s family. I will never know for sure. The thing that stands out to me in this image, is one of hard work, perseverance, determination, physical hardship and not a lot of joy.
Today photographs often include selfies – perfectly posed pictures – straight, whitened teeth and coifed hair. There is no dirt under the fingernails – no hefty work animals at our side – no sadness, grief or pain. We try to put the best image of ourselves out there for the world to see.
I wonder what future generations will say about us. As we look back, our vision of what used to be conjures ideas of difficult times – physical labor – oppression – fear of the unknown. In 2099 a whole new generation of geriatrics will walk the face of the earth. Will they recall sitting at a computer to compose a piece of writing or will that be overtaken by Alexa or some other robotic instrument? Will they understand the joy of lifting a paintbrush and creating a piece of art or will they have forgotten to enjoy art all together? Will it matter what they look like – their appearance – their beauty? Most will probably be cocooned within their own environment with very little social contact.
When you get old you think about things like this. The folks in the old sepia-toned photographs certainly didn’t seem to enjoy their plight. They existed. They carried on, but were they happy?
Every generation probably thinks there’s is the best. The experiences, the challenges, the desires are all part of the big picture. Life doesn’t change much over time. We invent things that make it a lot easier, but we are all still the same in God’s eyes. We can choose to complain about our lot in life or we can decide to live with it and make the most of it.
“The righteous who walks in his integrity—
blessed are his children after him!” Proverbs 20:7