Incremental Change

We live in the here and now. And although your "here" and my "here" may vary, we share the same "now." Nothing remains the same, however. We are all moving forward through time at a steady rate, and while today is not much different from yesterday, and tomorrow will be very similar to today, the sum total of incremental changes over thousands and thousands of days is very great.

I was thinking about this the other night driving to work, about how the climate and the flora and fauna are pretty much the same from one mile of road to the next, but when you drive a hundred miles along the same road, the gradual incremental change is much greater. There are thousands upon thousands of places in this country, each a little different from its neighbors but sharing more in common with them than with other places more distant. When driving between them, the change is subtle. When flying to a distant city, the change is far more obvious. If I had driven up I-75 to Detroit, I would have gradually seen the palm trees and the palmetto scrub disappear. Flying there, I just got off the plane and they were gone!

The slow incremental changes from day to day are pretty much invisible. It's only later that we look back and ask, "When did that change?" Because, ultimately, everything changes: Clothing and hairstyles, the types of music and films that are popular, automobile design, household furnishings, the food and drink in the refrigerator, the cultural artifacts that are all around us. Human nature doesn't change, so people remain pretty much the same, but all of the things that surround them and define them are in a constant state of flux. I think that is why I find those vintage photographs so fascinating, because they open a window into the way people lived in the past. As L.P. Hartley noted,"The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there." And even if it is a foreign country where you used to live, you can't go back again...