The world is changing…
If you are familiar with The Lord of the Rings you have come across this quote. In the first film, The Fellowship of the Rings, the elven ring bearer Galadriel says it in the very beginning. In the books, Treebeard the Ent says it in the chapter called “Many Partings” in the third volume, The Return of the King.
Indeed, the world is always changing. That is in its nature. But as I woke up this morning, on Christmas Eve 2022, in Seattle, Washington, with rain falling outside and melting down the snow and ice that has clung to the ground the past few days, certain comparisons came into focus in my mind’s eye.
In the 1970s, I hitchhiked across the United States and around Europe. Many other young people were doing the same. But I didn’t stop there. I then hitchhiked across the Middle East, through Turkey and Iran and Afghanistan and Pakistan and India. Could people do that now? I don’t think so. To be fair, on my second trip (I did it twice) Iran was already in the process of closing up and Pakistan was extremely dangerous. Now, though, I don’t think anyone would even attempt the journey. Do people still hitchhike now? Maybe some do, but it certainly isn’t the accepted travel phenomenon that it was back then.
I also thought of mobile living situations: camper and trailer and van dwelling. I have never lived fulltime on the road in a vehicle in the United States, but I traveled all over Italy and Greece in various types of vans and campers, and eventually I purchased a Mercedes Benz camper van, which our family of five, me, wife, and three sons lived in fulltime for months before we settled in Greece. Just a few years ago, fulltime mobile living was celebrated in the book and film Nomadland. However, this lifestyle is changing too, becoming precarious and dangerous as more and more towns and cities declare legal warfare on the homeless (or as van dwellers prefer to say: houseless) and attempt to drive them away from their communities.
I also thought of COVID-19. It’s hard not to think of it these days, isn’t it? This plague has disrupted and changed lives all over the world and is still far from contained. And I thought of the vaccine certificates that everyone had to carry back in the 1970s and 1980s when I was traveling fulltime. They were bright yellow documents that were stamped when you got vaccinated against deadly diseases such as smallpox. Nobody thought anything of it. I just tucked it safely somewhere along with my passport and showed it whenever I crossed borders. No big deal. Nowadays, though, many people are terrified of vaccinations. They would rather die, wheezing for breath as their lungs fail, than be vaccinated against COVID, and vaccine certificates have become political hot topics, increasing the polarization already rampant in the United States.
I do not intend to get political. I have tried to avoid that in this blog, choosing to focus instead on more universal themes. However, regardless of personal beliefs, the COVID pandemic has changed the world, and the ensuing isolation has brought on not only fear but also analysis and introspection. We can only hope that these thoughtful attitudes can eventually lead to some solutions. I don’t have any – other than a general feeling that somehow, despite our differences, we have to tear down the walls dividing us. They are composed of lies and distortions and insinuations and hatreds and irrationalities so complex that it sometimes seems impossible to untangle them. In our hearts, though, we are all human people with the same needs, longings, and aspirations. I wish we could all somehow remember that.