Saturday, January 14, 2012
Waiting for Columbus
During the holidays this year, we had the opportunity to have Christmas dinner at my sister and brother-in-law's home. After a fantastic meal, we settled in to view photos of their recent 17 day cruise from Barcelona Spain to Houston TX. Considering the fact that I've never even set foot in the ocean, this was an astounding feat! The cruise took them to the Canary Islands, (named after dogs, not birds). What's even more amazing is that the house that Christopher Columbus lived in there, is still standing, and looks quite nice after all these years. We all know the rhyme: "In fourteen-hundred and ninety two, Columbus sailed the ocean blue." It was lucky for him he didn't wait a year, as we might just be saying: "In fourteen-hundred and Ninety-three, Columbus sank to the bottom of the sea!"
At any rate, the fact that his home still stands, just as he left it, with all the surrounding houses as well, is simply astonishing. In fact in many of the photos we saw of Spain, entire towns were just as they were centuries ago, not as tourist attractions, but as every day homes for regular people.
I gave this fact a lot of thought the other day, when there was yet another video on the news of a perfectly good skyscraper being leveled. You might ask "why"??" Why to put up another skyscraper, of course! Tiger Woods's ex-wife is tearing down her multi-million dollar mansion to build, gasp, another mansion!
I cannot understand this throw-away society. We tear down perfectly good things, in order to build another perfectly good thing, which will also be torn down in a few years. There was nothing wrong with the old one, it just wasn't as modern, or didn't have the same features as the new one. Then, we fret over landfill space, due to the constant upgrading of our lives.
We buy new cars when the ashtray on our old one is full, new electronics when another, newer item arrives, and pursue new lives when the old one isn't prestigious enough. I suppose it has something to do with being Americans. We live in the wide open spaces of America (but mostly live in the congested cities), we tout our independence, (while constantly worrying what others must think), and only preserve our heritage when forced to. We want a constant stream of newness, and to always be able to "keep up with the Jones" What ever happened to "the simple life"?
We could just as easily be content with the status we have, and the lives we live. Instead, we beat ourselves up trying to "get ahead". Sadly, there is no ahead. Once that plateau has been reached, people realize that it's not as good as the next one, and the one after that. The existence can continue as long as the money holds out. When it doesn't, people are forced to regroup, and rethink their existence. That old car isn't so bad, that old cell phone won't get you on Facebook, but it will make a phone call! At some point, you have to wonder what all the fuss is about.
Columbus had to borrow money from Queen Isabella of Spain to make his journey. He wasn't a wealthy man, he merely wanted to find a new way to get to India for face to face tech support for his Microsoft product. He had every intention of returning to his home, and living out his life there. At no time did he feel like: "I've got my own holiday now, perhaps I need some new digs". This pragmatic approach to life should be a lesson for us all. Give thanks for what you have, and keep it in good shape. You may never get anything better!
And, most importantly, give thanks that 'ol Christopher decided to take matters into his own hands and find the new world, rather than sit home on the phone, waiting for tech support!