When I think about the many charming and valuable things that have begun to disappear, or have disappeared altogether, during the course of my relatively short life to this point, it gives me pause. Long-playing record albums, the art of writing letters by hand, hand sewn clothing, music made by actual, living musicians, beef Wellington, vol-au-vent, three hour lunches, sentimental songs, independent grocery stores, family-owned farms, children being allowed to explore outside unsupervised, pinball, foosball, black and white photographs, attending plays and movies without hearing a cell phone ring every couple of minutes: all of these things are gradually but surely becoming rarities.
Perhaps you will think I am a hopelessly befuddled romantic, a person who is stuck in the past. Perhaps you would be right. I can’t deny that change and “progress” are essential aspects of life. Of course nothing stays the same.
It does seem, though, that we are all in a bit too much of a hurry to let a great many treasures slip through our fingers in the name of “inevitability”. For instance, on a regular basis I see small businesses closing down to make way for supposedly more convenient big box retailers and international chain stores. Some of these business, like a favourite stationery store, a wonderful little book store, and an excellent local butcher shop (all of which have closed within the past year and a half) have been part of the community I live in for many years.
The fact that Vancouver seems to have little or no respect for the past is one of my least favourite things about the city I generally love to live in. Every week I see beautiful old houses being bulldozed to the ground to make way for faceless, tasteless townhouses and high-rise condominiums. Everywhere the fire of real estate greed is burning our common architectural past to the ground.
Is there a solution to this? Probably not. Trying to stop the loss of the past is like trying to halt the tides. But I do not agree that that we should allow it all to slip away too gently into that good night. I, for one, propose to support as many out-of-date businesses as I can. I intend to continue to develop my interest in “lost arts” such as embroidery and letter-writing. I intend to continue watching old-fashioned films, reading classic novels, baking my own bread and pies from scratch, going for long walks in the country, and avoiding the mindless stupor induced by watching television.
For me, all of that may be old fashioned, but it’s part of what makes up a life well-lived.