Monday, July 5, 2010

A 4th of July Perspective

I'm writing this post on July 4th, 2010 - Independence Day. If you're an American, I hope you had a really good one.

Today, one of my July 4th memories is that of the bicentennial, the 200th anniversary of the birth of the United States, which was celebrated back in 1976. At the time, I was in the Army, stationed in Germany. My wife and I took some vacation time and flew to London. It was summer, and the weather was lovely. 

One of the things we saw was the London Philharmonic and Choir presenting Beethoven's 9th Symphony outdoors in front of St. Paul's Cathedral. When we got off the subway we asked a kiosk vendor for directions. He was an old stout man with a gray beard. He looked at us, smiled, and said, "Happy birthday."

It was a thrilling concert. I remember thinking about the founding fathers and how long ago 200 years seemed to me. I was 31. I had been alive for only 15% of those 200 years.

Now I'm 65, and even though 1776 is now 234 years ago, that time seems much closer to me. The reason is that I've been alive 28% of the time since then, more than a quarter of the history of America. Kathleen says that's because I'm really old. She says that with a smile. 

Both my grandfathers lived to be over 90, and I'm in better health than either one of them were at 65. There's a chance I'll live to be 93, too. If so, I will have been alive for over 35% of the history of the U.S.

Why all the math? Because it confirms the feeling I have that America is a really young country. When I was 31 and serving in Germany, I visited a small town about 30 miles east of Kaiserslautern, on the day the town was marking its 700th anniversary. The parade had six floats. One of them had to do with the new wine that had been produced that year. We drank their wine and toasted the townspeople who drank with us. 

1776 was only 234 years ago. Probably you don't think of it this way, but the truth is, that was practically the day before yesterday. And not on a cosmic time scale. On a human time scale.

Post by Dennis E. Coates, Ph.D., Copyright 2010. Building Personal Strength . (Permission to use photo from Creative Commons 2.0 generic license.)

1 comment:

Sean said...

234 years is a long time. I don't feel that the USA is a young country. I think we're old and suffering the problems of an aging bureaucracy.

Our government is older than Russia's, Japan's, Germany's, China's, India's, France's... you get the idea. Sure they have more history, but so what?! In most cases their history is also our history.

Anyway it's far more important to consider where we are going than where we came from.