Look how far we have come

The temperature was close to 90. I was cruising down the Thruway at about 70 mph. The highway was so smooth, and my car was comfortable.

It felt like I could have easily been on one of those fabled flying carpets. Except that I was listening to a CD that was playing some beautiful music from an orchestra supplied with a host of talented violins, while the air conditioner in my car kept everything cool and comfortable. Flying carpets never had such luxuries.

When I got home I opened the garage door by remote control from the car as I approached the garage. I stepped into the house, which has central air. I just leave it set at 70 degrees. What a nice feature on a 90-degree day. The refrigerator had a refreshing beverage for my relaxation, and a freezer with some ice cream should I so desire it.

I considered what I might put on my kitchen’s easily operated gas stove for a meal. After a brief rest with a beverage I went into the bathroom and took a shower. To set the temperature of the water to suit me, was simply to adjust the hot and cold faucets to meet my desire.

What a life! I wonder if Benjamin Franklin ever dreamed we’d get this far.

I’m not sure we truly appreciate the wonderful circumstances we have. Everything I have written to this point is a relatively new development. Kings never had it so good! Most of the luxuries I have described didn’t exist in my youth. Autos were a far cry from what we drive today. There was no TV, no computers, no cell phones, no engine powered lawn mowers, no chain saws, no thruways, and no airline transportation systems. There were only railroads, or ships. Refrigerators were just coming in, but most people had what they called an ice box. Every day the ice man would come and sell you a block of ice to keep the milk from going sour.

There were no big trucks with attached snow plows to clear the roads. We did have radios for entertainment. The telephone was fairly new. Most people had a party line, which meant that there were several homes on the same line and you couldn’t use it if your neighbor was on it.

You could pick up the receiver though and listen to their conversation if you were a gossip. The rings were coded, so the way it rang was how you knew if it was for your house. When I was nine years old we visited relatives in North Dakota. They didn’t have electricity at the farms out on the prairie. Gowanda had its own power-generating plant using a dam on the Cattaraugus Creek to create a waterfall. Most of the modern things that give us the leisure we have today have come to us in my lifetime.

I often wonder what George Washington would think if he could see how much the world has advanced since his day. I’m guessing that if he saw how unhappy many of us are, and how much we complain about things, he would think we were a bunch of spoiled children. Maybe we are. I don’t think that modern society has yet become fully adapted to the world we have created. I also wonder, how much different the world will be in another 100 or 200 years (if we haven’t destroyed it by then). Will they look back on us as being as primitive as we see those from the 18th century?

I believe the destiny of mankind is to progress, and develop, guided by our gifted, understanding, intelligence. That’s really what we have been doing, slow but sure, throughout history. We have always thought we were living in the modern world with an understanding of reality, but people like Albert Einstein, and Martin Luther King Jr., keep coming along with new ideas, which change our view. What we should have learned by now, if we haven’t yet, is that nothing is impossible. Your life is what you make it. Our world is what we make it. May God bless America.

Richard Westlund is a Collins resident. Send comments to editorial@observertoday.com