In 1976, you could drive to the United States Capitol, park there and be greeted by police officers who acted as tour guides. You could stand on its steps and watch the city wake up in the morning. Today, this is not allowed.
Welcome to the irony of the country’s greatest symbol of freedom in which liberties of the past are in the past.
As a child, I would watch planes circle the skies and imagine the freedom that birds enjoy floating through space. These days, when I use my cellphone, I wonder if the plane flying above me is listening in on my conversation. Welcome to the age of communication that allows us to reach out to others more extensively but one that also has diminished privacy dramatically.
We now possess high-speed automobiles that ironically often end up crawling because of congested traffic. We live in an age of fast food aimed at cutting time and speeding up eating habits. It is also the age of indigestion and the loss of enjoying slowly savored food.
We are never bored thanks to cellphones and home entertainment centers. Ironically, in the process, smelling the roses is becoming a lost art. Welcome to a new inventive world that is diminishing the art of silently enjoying the outside world.
Ironically, for every forward step we make, we take two steps back. Why is this? One reason is that even though we live in a world of novel inventions that are signs of progress, these inventions also have the potential to become addictions.
Speedy cars, lightning fast computers, larger television screens, bigger sound systems and phones that can be used for more than talking are just a few of the exciting inventions of our time. And yet, in employing them, we find ourselves taking two steps backs because of new needs they produce.
These uncontrolled needs drown us in anxieties that go with maintaining them. How do we prevent this from happening?
Ancient Greek philosopher Epictetus tells us, “If one oversteps the bounds of moderation, the greatest pleasures cease to please.” Moderation is one good way we can avoid addictions that have the potential to consume us.
And, too, the privacy that seems to be fading into the past need not be if we take steps to protect and cherish it. We have technology that allows us the physical freedom to carry a phone wherever we go, exposing those around us to what we are saying to others. Yet, we should avoid this practice out of respect for the privacy of others and our own.
All it takes to go forward and not backward in this age is to be in control, to see the good in modern invention, while avoiding its pitfalls.