Saturday, 14 February 2009

What a century!











In 1909 Robert Peary, the US Polar explorer, was the first person to "discover" the North Pole. Of course he made headline news and became a household name. In that same year Louis Bleriot built a 24hp monoplane and then flew it across the channel from Calais to Dover - his name too has gone down in history.
Even in 1953, when Sir Edmund Hillary and Sherpa Tensing reached the top of the world - Everest - on the same day as the Queen's coronation, it made headline news around the world and every schoolchild knew of the exploit.
Now we take all these things in our stride. On Monday Ben Saunders is going to set off from Russia alone, to travel over land and water in a straight line to the North Pole and then on into Canada. Alas, no longer headline news.
In that one hundred years since 1909 we can now routinely fly over the North Pole on a flight from the UK to the US. We take flying as a matter of course, no different from catching a bus or going by train. If you can afford it you can go to Antarctica whenever you like. I don't expect it will be all that many centuries before the same can be said of going to the moon.
I wonder if Peary or Bleriot ever gave a thought to what progress would be made in their field in the future - I am sure they did - but did they imagine it would be so rapid and that it would become so matter of fact?
Has there ever been a century where such progress has been made? Where we have gone from carrier pigeon, so to speak, to instant communication - and that's not to speak of the progress in the medical field and in other areas.
Has this been the "best" century for progress? I would be interested to hear what you think. And on not so very unrelated a subject when you think about it - isn't it interesting how Mother Nature keeps on ticking over at her own pace what ever the weather. I went round my garden yesterday; snow is still lying and the temperature is still around freezing, yet the Spring flowers that should be out now are out and they are struggling and pushing their way through the snow. This is the day when, by tradition, birds begin to mate - they will carry on regardless of the weather - nature - be it wildlife, mountains, poles, the air - it is all here and it will carry on regardless. The sight of the Gertrude Jekyll rose buds against the snow cheered my heart on a morning when I have lost a friend to the ravages of cancer. It all makes you think, doesn't it?

32 comments:

jinksy said...

Depends what you mean by 'progress'. So many of the so called forward steps have lead to destruction of the planet on so many levels,are we really going forwards, or backwards?

Dave King said...

It does make you think, especially when there are sensitive souls like yourself on hand to give it (or us) a gentle nudge in the right direction. Sorry to hear about your friend.

Derrick said...

Hello Weaver,

I would probably agree with you about the speed of progress over the last century. But I think that the momentousness (!) of events throughout each century before has had as great an affect on lives at the time.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

The problem with progress is that we mostly improve our machines without improving ourselves. And the faster we progress, the more the attitude becomes to embrace the new and toss out the old—it's a race for the latest, greatest, and never mind that stuff we used yesterday which worked perfectly well. It isn't just the latest gizmo, this attitude is increasingly to be found in everything from food to houses to music. A friend who teaches college history says he comes up against this all the time—who cares about what happened yesterday our several centuries ago, that's just old stuff.

So many things have made our lives better, true enough. But the improvement hasn't made our workdays shorter, hasn't drawn families and friends closer, hasn't lifted our spirits or positively influenced the human condition. We are creatures of body, mind, and spirit. We've invented more toys, but not an extra moment to play with them. We've gone "forward" but we haven't located the wellspring of peace or happiness.

And for all our triumphant grins, nature still rules earth and sky, wind and wave; the seasons still go round and round, one following another, in their ancient order which heeds only planetary tilt and a wobbly orbit.

I am so sorry to hear you've lost a friend. You will be in my thoughts.

The Weaver of Grass said...

I agree with what you say Jinksy but we cannot stop so called progress - it will happen anyway and we have to try to accommodate it into our lives or "move with the times" as they say. I am certainly grateful for the internet.

The Weaver of Grass said...

Dave - we must never stop thinking about these things - sure you will agree.
Thanks for commiserations about my friend - she had asbestos-related lung cancer and has been ill since last August - fantastic woman, she kept going living alone up to a fortnight ago'

The Weaver of Grass said...

I think you are probably right, Derrick - each century has its steps forward - I suppose they said that about the century when fire was discovered/invented, and the wheel and maybe even sliced bread come to think of it. Things just seem to have accelerated over the last fifty years or so.

The Weaver of Grass said...

Nature always will rule, Scribe - I agree with you. We are just one more cog in the wheel and it is big headed of us to think we are anything more than that.
Thank you for your commiserations about my friend. See my reply to Dave for information about what a brave woman she was.

HelenMHunt said...

Sorry to hear about your friend x

Reader Wil said...

It is as every progress has its bright side, but consequently also its dark side. The last 100 years has developed in a more rapid way than the centuries before. Though every now and then there are those programs on TV where you can see what, for instance, the Tudors did for you in the UK. Or the Romans for all of us in Europe.

Heather said...

So sorry you have lost a friend, your heart did need cheering this morning. Roses in February - that takes some beating - and your dear little aconites are so pretty. I planted some a couple of years ago but they didn't like my garden. My mother will be 101 in 10 days time and my father could remember the first car driving through his town, complete with a man with a red flag leading the way!! I must consider carefully to see if I have seen such huge changes in my lifetime as my parents have seen. Possibly wonderful changes in medical science and not so wonderful in general stupidity!

Elizabeth said...

Well, the 20th century was exciting - pretty much like all other centuries -- however, it was pretty terrible for CARNAGE and the invention of awful weapons.
Antibiotics on one hand and the a-bomb on the other.
Gosh, you do pick big themes to make us think.
I'm sure there is still much adventure to be had on this planet.
And yes, I love the way nature just keeps plugging away.....as per the pathetic fallacy.
Happy Valentine's Day

Leslie said...

I am sorry about your's passing.
You always make us think about what has been and what might happen. Thanks for sharing.
Hugs~~~Leslie

The Weaver of Grass said...

Yes reader wil - you may well be right - the Romans transformed our country in the first centuryAD - my goodness me - the things they introduced - it may well be a contender for the most progressive century.

The Weaver of Grass said...

Thanks for the sympathy Helen.

The Weaver of Grass said...

Heather - sorry your aconites didn't like it in you r garden - I understand that often the mice get them. I must say mine were given to me by some Dutch friends and they are very beautiful but not spreading - rather diminishing each year.
My father, too, used to talk about working in the fields and seeing a man with a red flag and running to see what it was and it was a car.

The Weaver of Grass said...

Glad I make you think, Elizabeth!
Yes the carnage has been awful in the last century but then I expect it always was as there have been some terrible wars and catastrophies way back in history - it is just that weapons really are of mass destruction now. The fact that people make these weapons with the sole purpose of destroying life hardly bears thinking about.
On a jollier note - happy valentine's day to you too.

The Weaver of Grass said...

Thanks for the sympathy, Leslie.

The Weaver of Grass said...

Thanks for the sympathy, Leslie.

Hildred said...

Oh yes, progress in technology has leapt ahead in great bounds but my fear is that we have become so dependent upon it that in the face of a real catastrophe (not the media inspired kind) there might not be the kind of knowledge and creativity to set us back on the civilized path again. So many millions have lost touch with the land and the elemental knowledge for survival,- and the spirit of independence.

So sorry about your friend Weaver, - I am losing my dearest friend to Altzheimers....

But anyway,

Hildred said...

oops...Happy Valentine's Day

Coastcard said...

I am sorry about your loss. Please could you share with us whether today has a special name (for the birds nesting) other than Valentine's Day? The sparrows were very active in our hedge.

Annie Wicking said...

Today, I watched the last episode to 'The Victorian Farm' and the thing that stood out most to me was when they were using a machine to cut the wheat and had an old man who used the machine went he was a lad. They are him which would he rather use a tractor or the horses without hesitation he said the tractor. We can stand in our moment of history and look back with romantic eyes and see the beauty in the time before without know the real hardship the people of that time suffered. The three historians living and working enjoyed their timetravel and was sad to see it come to an end. The people who lived through the Victorian times, could only pray that times would get better for them. I think we are in those same time now as we all turn back to our Gods and start praying for better times ahead.

Great posting, Weaver.
God bless you and your dear friend.
(((Hugs)))

Cathy said...

My great aunt and I used to talk alot about the changes in the last century before her passing 2 years ago. She was 98 and so determined to make 100 just to see what else might happen. She always focused on the positives never the wars and corruption. She was so happy that women had more options and were better educated. She liked being on the receiving end of new medical breakthroughs. She said once "there will always be sadness along with happiness".She preferred to focus on the happiness.
I am sorry to hear about your friend's Passing. Cancer is an ugly disease. I celebrate each year since I was pronounced cancer free. I can't wait to make it to my 5 year mark. She must have been very brave to stay on her own. Not enough bravery stories heard in this world.

Poet in Residence said...

Weaver, you might be interested in today's picture of the day (15/2)on my bard on the run blog - it's an amazing shot of the Seal Mountains in Antarctic.
Gwilym

EB said...

Another lovely post. Sorry from me too about your friend.

My mother's mother died just before I was born, but she had been told I was on the way. The turning wheel of life was very close to my mother at the time.

I remember though the day my grandfather died hearing birds singing and being terribly angry, that they could - even though I was 14, it was so close and so bitter.

Centuries... hmm. I think in some ways the 19th is a candidate for most change, althogh maybe more in towns than in rural life. The 18th, with enclosure and the French Revolution? The 16th - the Reformation, Dissolution, the American colonies, and the massive growth in vocabulary and shift to more modern English you see in Shakespeare... - The 17th, union with Scotland, civil war, constitutional monarchy, enormous scientific discovery, influence of classicism in lots of the arts...

The Weaver of Grass said...

Hildred - I too have a friend slowly slipping into oblivion with Alzheimers. It is a cruel disease.

The Weaver of Grass said...

Caroline - I don't think there is any special name for the day the birds traditionally start mating. But we always said this as children and that was really before Valentine's day became popular.

The Weaver of Grass said...

Annie - we too have enjoyed Victorian Farm. The farmer has really loved it with all the old machinery which was around in his father's day.

The Weaver of Grass said...

EB - I think you could argue for more or less any century. I suppose the century we live in always seems to be making the most progress - but of course now we learn about any new thing through the media or the internet - in past centuries it was often by word of mouth - which meant it spread more slowly.

Bdogs said...

We were talking about progress night before last, and all we could come up with were technological improvements (which included medicine, as well as convenience and travel, etc.) Much has been lost, as well, with the ravages of development upon the land, the loss of small farms in this area, the decrease in abundance of wild things. It's amazing to me how much you have retained of these natural riches in a country like England that has been lived in densely for so much longer than ours.

I lost a very close friend in Sept to pancreatic cancer and it was a profound blow. Not fully over it yet. I feel for you in your loss.

Coastcard said...

Thank you for answering my query.