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Front Page » July 24, 2012 » Opinion » Thoughts from a peaceful hammock
Published 640 days ago

Thoughts from a peaceful hammock


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By By RICHARD SHAW
Sun Advocate publisher

As I laid there thinking about the peace and freedom that came from hanging mid-air between two pine trees, high in the mountains, with grand kids voices laughing in the background, and beautiful white clouds on clear blue skies, I had to look over our times and what it meant to be an American in today's world.

The vacation had brought its trials and tribulations, but what other few places in the world could be so open to an average citizen with such a variety of choices available. Other countries have just as beautiful of spots as the high Uintahs, but in some of them the ability for a common person to enjoy them is restricted by their own means or possibly even the government that rules their land.

While many in this country are hurting, with the economic downturn that still has its grip on our economy the cause, we still have a population that continues to do much of what it wants to do, whether it means going out to dinner or buying a new car.

Materially we are still fairly well off in this country, despite those that say we are headed for the precipice.

Our economy is in the worst state it has been since the great depression, with some saying things are as bad now as they were then.

Of course the perception of that all that depends on which end of the dollar bill you are on.

I can't say for myself, because I wasn't around for the Great Depression, having been born 12 years after it had ended whether our present state is much like that one was. And most of those that do remember it, remember it as kids that were growing up. Generally those memories are colored by youth. Some even say though they were poor during the Depression it was some of the best times of their lives.

It's very difficult to measure our troubles today with what went on in the 1930s Only being able to view it through history books, newspapers and media clips from the time, this looks much different to me. There may be millions of people out of work, but there are many millions still working at good jobs. Many who lost jobs in the last four years had a much higher standard of living before their loss than those who lived and lost in the Great Depression. In the 1930s there were many less social safety nets for people: no unemployment, no Social Security, few people had any investments, etc.

The difference was in the 1930s was that people believed in saving. They believed in paying for what you bought when you bought it and not on a time payment plan. My parents for example saved for 13 years before they stopped renting and bought a house outright paying cash. They were young during the Depression years, but indebtedness was something they totally shunned as part of the Greatest Generation. They saw what happened to people that had owed a lot and then lost their means of support. Their house was their modest little castle, but it was a castle they owned.

Much of the wealth that we have accumulated (and lost) in the recent economy was just on paper. In the 1930s home ownership was much lower as the Depression set in, but many who owned their homes actually owned them; they were paid for. What we call home ownership today is very different. Almost everyone has a mortgage. Almost everyone owes someone more than they should.

It has become the American way.

For those that have been really hurt by the downturn, there is nothing one can say to make them feel better. My father always used to tell me the only time Americans really think there is a recession or downturn in the economy is when they lose their job or their pay is cut. Those that go on just as they were before a recession seldom feel it much. In fact that kind of slide in the economy is often good for them because while their income and security continues, things get cheaper and they can often scoop up deals they would never see when the nation is under what is considered full employment.

This always has been a country of haves and have nots, it's just that the have nots were usually people who came from lower economic backgrounds, not those that were formerly middle class.

It's easy to sit in a hammock in the mountains and imagine that everything is hunky-dory. Watching the clouds drift by, the occasional thunderstorm do its thing and the birds and butterflies fly by, it is easy to dream of a perfect, peaceful world, one where everyone can enjoy beauty.

But I realized how lucky I was. Some would say blessed, although I would never use that term. Despite minor setbacks my life is good. When you sit in that position it is easy to see the rest of the world with a pair of colored glasses on.

But peace and security are elusive. No one truly has them all the time or even for a good span of time. The materially richest person can lose their fortune in a the blink of an eye or their health can change at the drop of a dime. No one is safe from what might happen, what could happen and what does happen to people, even good people.

People can complain all they want about what they don't have, can't have and never will have. But remember even if you don't make much money in this country, as an average around the world, you are in the top 10 percent of wage earners, maybe even the top 5 percent. The poor in our country would be considered rich in many countries where people are lucky to have a safe place to sleep at night.

Relativism is real. Relatively, my hammock hanging between those trees was my bastion of peace and plenty. But when I took it down, rolled it up and put it in a plastic case to carry it home, it became just a bunch of cords rolled up in the back of my truck. Without that place and time it became only a thing, a symbol remembered, not a power in of itself.

And could it be one day it will be the only place I have to sleep, or maybe it will even be gone?

No one should consider themselves so smart or so special that they are insulated from what goes on in the world outside their small universe. Small changes at one end of the human races pond can become large waves by the time they reach the far end where other people reside.

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