Somewhere between assimilation and rebellion, is a creeping acceptance of change. If our species had a Wikipedia entry written by curious visitors from another planet, the first term used would be "adaptable". Considering that our wild ancestors were African hunter/gathers, we've come quite a long way baby.
I have just started reading a book written by an English teacher (in both senses) who takes herself off to a remote village in western Mongolia to live and work. This is going outside one's comfort zone on a grand scale, and it's absolutely not something all of us could cope with. The fact that she does, and enjoys it, says much about her as an individual, but also quite a bit about us all. It says plenty about those who have made this incredibly inhospitable wilderness their permanent home for millennia - they even admit life is tough there, but they stay. Their diet for most of the year consists of mutton and tea, occasionally relieved by vodka. I consider myself an adventurous type but I am not going there.
It led me to thinking what basic needs really are. I suppose:
1. Warmth. The idea of sleeping in a tent in winter certainly doesn't appeal to me, but more to the point I think it could be positively dangerous. We do have a physical need to be warm, and to know we can stay that way. That the fuel won't run out, that we have enough layers of clothing to insulate us. It's most definitely a survival issue.
2. Food. Again, not just having food in our bellies, but knowing there is more. That we will be able to eat tomorrow and the day after. Having access to a continual food supply (and associated clean water), therefore, is a fundamental requirement, and again, a matter of survival.
3. Safety. One could include both of the above in this of course, but it goes far beyond that. To function properly we need to feel that we are not in imminent danger. This is something that is often overlooked by those responsible for the needy; you generally find subsidized housing in the most notorious parts of town due to a vicious cycle of crime and low property values. There is so much more to this aspect that one could write a whole book on perceived safety (and its trade-off with freedom). Another day.
I don't know about you, but I would not be happy living at such a level that while these three needs are covered, that's about it. I'm used to having secondary needs fulfilled such as socialization, entertainment, education, and, quite frankly, life's little luxuries. I'm not satisfied with a warm bed, I want it soft and scrupulously clean too. It's not enough that I don't go short of food, I want it to taste nice. I like to feel so safe that I can completely relax, sleeping naked with my doors unlocked. I value these things. I'm fully aware how fortunate I am, and this is why I'm utterly fascinated by the lives of those who cope with so much less.
And yet, I am also aware that compared to the decadent lives of some, and not only the stinking rich, I tolerate quite a bit, make selective sacrifices, and accept this, even though it's out of necessity rather than choice. We all do. Very few people get all they want. We are told it isn't good for us, and it probably isn't. We adapt to our circumstances, we get on with it, grumbling occasionally.
I've noticed that some of the things I wouldn't tolerate when I was young are quite tolerable now, while other things seem to have grown in importance. I absolutely refuse to eat bad food these days. It's not like I need the calories, and I certainly won't spend money on it. But many of the chop wood and carry water tasks I used to resent now seem quite comforting, in a rhythm of work sort of way. We definitely change with age, but it's quite noticeable that some do so more than others.
I have noticed a distinct "grumpy old person" attitude happening to people I've known a long time. It's not because of their aches and pains, or because they aren't as rich as they expected to be by now. It's resistance to change. When we were young we were frequently annoyed by older people who poured scorn on our music, our clothing, and other choices. Now I see so many people turning into those boring old codgers, apparently unaware of the hypocrisy, or having forgotten what it feels like to be young.
I suppose we can't enjoy all the changes. This is no different to the fact that when we travel, we can't like all the food, and not everything will appeal to us. It just seems to be an attitude of intolerance and a desire to keep things as they used to be, for what? Comfort? Familiarity? Is the past a security blanket?
The funny part is, this seems to happen with every generation. It's not a new phenomenon. The young tend to be more progressive, the older people more conservative. And always despite the actual benefit or value of the thing being changed or preserved.
I don't want to be a grouchy old person, forever looking backwards. I am absolutely determined not to fall into that trap. I think the risk is low, as I tend to have such eclectic tastes that new ideas fit right in. I enjoy the company of young people. I love to learn, to explore, to experiment. I won't say that I follow fashion (following is really not my thing), but I don't consider myself to be frumpy either. I certainly reject the idea that as a middle-aged woman I should buy clothing marketed towards middle-aged women. I don't even look in that section of the store.
New is good. Old is good too. Why not get the benefit of both? We've been flying to ancient locations for a while now, haven't we? So, now we use the GPS on our smartphones to find ancient ruins. Why is one technology better than another just because it's been around a bit longer and feels more familiar? Ah, yes, it is that security blanket isn't it. Fear of change. Fear that things are moving too fast, out of control. Every generation has felt that. It's an illusion. It's all about fear.