Sunday, July 26, 2020

Dreaming of Bygone Days

The Catholic Times' Eyes of the Believer column has an article by a lawyer who dreams of a time when life was more uncomfortable. He begins with lamenting the loss of the flowers in the area of Seoul in which he lives. The leaves of the bush of flowers have fallen to the ground because of the rainy season and he recalls when this was a common sight. 
On the outskirts of the big city in which he lives, going back a few decades, the tallest buildings in the neighborhood were three-stories and even though it was the main thorofare, each of the houses had a small yard out in front. However, it became a subway transfer station and ten-story buildings appeared, the neighborhood was transformed into one-room buildings, and all the yards disappeared. His house remains from the old days surrounded by high-rise buildings.

A real estate man in the area when he meets the writer's mother asks: why don't you sell the property or put up a building with 20 studio apartments? You could be making over 8,000 dollars a month. This is the temptation always present. 

 When he wakes up at dawn and looks out the window, lights are on in the surrounding studios. What are you doing all night without sleep? Is it playing computer games? In the morning the leftovers are at the front door—packaging containers, plastic bottles, and disposable garbage.

He misses the old days when family members in one room looked at a computer or TV screen together. Where did all the children playing in the alleys go? At that time, moms went to the market with a shopping bag, bought mackerel, bean sprouts, ate at home, the garbage was minimal.

Today, if you buy a take out cup of coffee, the aluminum quickly becomes thrash. In economics, it is recycled, wages are paid to the workforce in the process of making cans those who provided the money gain a profit. What's wrong with that? However, not all of them are recycled. Considering the energy consumed in the process of making and supplying these cans is it not wasteful and unnecessary making an aluminum can so one can drink a cup of coffee? In this case, our descendants will be paying the cost for our convenience.

Our generation is undergoing tremendous change. His wife is from an area close to Seoul, in middle school she did her homework with the help of a kerosene lamp. But now, he makes a video call to a grandson in the United States for free. The "development" that took place is astonishing. During the process all the houses with the front yards are gone, families are scattered, single-person households are the mainstream, and online promotes exchanges among people, but self-assertion and self- expression fill the world rather than solidarity.

On summer vacations, people fly around the world in airplanes. How much oil will go into flying that heavy plane into the sky, and how much is the pollution that remains? But we do this to satisfy our curiosity.

'Development' means that there is a lot of money to be used, and that money guarantees my convenience, so development is usually going to encourage our selfish attributes.

This passage appears in Pope Francis's Encyclical LaudatoSi#208/210: Disinterested concern for others, and the rejection of every form of self-centeredness and self-absorption, are essential if we truly wish to care for our brothers and sisters and for the natural environment... We need to criticize the "myths" of a modernity grounded in a utilitarian mindset (individualism, unlimited progress, competition, consumerism, the unregulated market). 

He closes with strange-sounding words. Can we choose a house that blooms with flowers in the front yard and resist the temptations of 'development'? Is it possible to overcome self-centered attributes and gather together as a family instead of alone in a studio room? Can we say no to the selfish conveniences of the energy-filled modern civilization, a world filled with disposables, and return to the inconvenient life of the past?

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