Do you ever think turning back time would create simplicity in your life?
Thinking of 108 years of well-lived life of my Great Aunt Iris (see her birthday post from my mom at GriggsDakota), I have put in plenty of thought into what it was like in 1905 on the hot, open prairies of rural North Dakota, where Iris was born and raised.
No trees. No running water. No air conditioning. One school. One teacher. No school lunch guidelines. No cars. No tractors. No refrigeration. No deep freeze. No washing machine or dishwasher. No modern-day conveniences I take for granted. There wasn’t corn or soybeans in the newly broken virgin prairie fields. There were cows, beef and dairy and hay made from grass to feed them. Horses helped with the work and transportation. And there was wheat. In 1905, the Titanic wasn’t built yet.
The 19th Amendment was nearly 15 years away from being passed by Congress to give women the right to vote.
President Theodore Roosevelt was in the beginning of his second-term as President of the United States of America.
On his March 4, 1905 inaugural address he said, “Power invariably means both responsibility and danger. Our forefathers faced certain perils which we have outgrown. We now face other perils, the very existence of which it was impossible that they should foresee. Modern life is both complex and intense, and the tremendous changes wrought by the extraordinary industrial development of the last half century are felt in every fiber of our social and political being. Never before have men tried so vast and formidable an experiment as that of administering the affairs of a continent under the forms of a Democratic republic. The conditions which have told for our marvelous material well-being, which have developed to a very high degree our energy, self-reliance, and individual initiative, have also brought the care and anxiety inseparable from the accumulation of great wealth in industrial centers. Upon the success of our experiment much depends, not only as regards our own welfare, but as regards the welfare of mankind. If we fail, the cause of free self-government throughout the world will rock to its foundations, and therefore our responsibility is heavy, to ourselves, to the world as it is to-day, and to the generations yet unborn. There is no good reason why we should fear the future, but there is every reason why we should face it seriously, neither hiding from ourselves the gravity of the problems before us nor fearing to approach these problems with the unbending, unflinching purpose to solve them aright.”
Modern life is both complex and intense. Indeed. Still today. And I think it is easier.
But there is no good reason that we should not use every fiber of our being to continue to develop. I believe, looking back at Iris’s 108 years of life, all that she has seen, lived and experienced, it is my job to continue in her footsteps, to pioneer to create a better life for generations ahead of me.
I didn’t have to save money for years through my childhood by selling eggs until I had $500 to attend a university and pay for my first year’s tuition. Iris did that and she graduated from the University of North Dakota in 1928. My grandma, Iris’s niece graduated from college in 1950. My mom graduated from college in 1976. I earned a partial track scholarship for my university education. And Iris wrote me letters of how proud she was. I graduated from the same university Iris did in 2002, with Iris living blocks away from my campus, 74 years after her graduation.
Together, we progressed. Each generation advanced.
Iris has never wanted to go back to where she started. She quietly lived her single life with dignity and purpose. She progressed. She evolved. She tells stories to our kids every time we visit of the life she once lived and has she recently told Elizabeth, age five, “life was hard work” when she was five.
I don’t want to go back. I don’t want to go back to that life Iris was born into on the rural prairies of North Dakota where my great-grandfather, Odin welcomed Iris as his new sister, 1o8 years ago. But I look back to remember my roots and all that we have accomplished since that time.
But I thought about it, going back to 1905 or anytime long before my time, especially when my husband and I visited a nearby Hutterite colony to see their communal living while integrating technology into their farm and manufacturing. Even the Hutterite culture that has preserved centuries of tradition and faith has evolved and isn’t looking back to the way they used to do things. Their turkeys and hogs are raised in barns because it is the most clean and safe place for them to be. They raise more corn and soybeans than their animals eat and the Hutterites sell their grain. They aren’t just sustaining. They are thriving.
Yet this week, I am going to spend a day in food grade soybean fields with farmers and business owners to who sell domestically and export food grade soybeans globally for foods like tempeh, tofu, natto and soymilk. Food grade soybeans are non-gmo. 20 years ago, all the soybeans were non-gmo. We didn’t call them food grade soybeans. But times have changed. I am not going back. There is technology. There is change. It differentiates. We can do more with less. And it gives me hope, purpose and promise that I can live a life, like Iris, with no fear of the future like President Roosevelt said in 1905 when she was born. But facing the future with serious purpose, I will.
I am not going back to the way it used but I will look back with respect and appreciation on the path blazed for generations to follow. I will not fear the future and will work with “unflinching purpose” to solve the problems at hand.
How about you? Do you want to go back to the ways things used to be? Or are you looking ahead to the future, to the problems at hand?