The Simplicity of the Past

I noticed a recurring theme of the romantic ideal throughout our four readings for the week. Each piece deals with the narrator’s attempt to return to a simpler time, similar to The Sound of Silence.

I started with The Happiness Metric. The opening paragraph sets up the differences between past and present Bhutan, which will come to be detailed by Drexler. The first few lines are as phonologically smooth as the dances themselves, thanks in large part to the author’s use of the “s” sound: “…slow dance. Swaggering teenage boys, arms slung over each other’s shoulders, speak in surprisingly gentle voices. Stray dogs assertively cohabit the city. One often hears singing” (Drexler 95). There is a gentle flow present throughout the given paragraph, highlighting the blissful quality of the region. As Drexler explains the concept of Bhutan’s Gross National Happiness, she mentions the intent of his travel is to uncover how exactly GNH policy “plays out in real life” (95). Has Drexler fallen victim to Western culture in that she doesn’t believe such a policy can possibly reach success, or have any real impact, in “real life”? The Declaration of Independence states all citizens have the right to “Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.” Yet it seems our search for liberty has become of the upmost importance. We’re so busy fighting for our rights (such as the right to bear arms, to use a current example), we’ve almost forgotten to just be happy. The people of Bhutan possess their own sense of nationalism, but religion appears to override politics. Drexler asks, “Will the country’s traditional foundations of happiness erode, to be replaced by a surfeit of stuff?” (96). The question pertains just as much to the West as it does to Bhutan, which I believe is Drexler’s overall purpose. The U.S., and Western nations in general, are typically viewed in a dominant light. But, have we sacrificed our essential human right to be happy? Have we really “become modern without losing [our] soul?” (98). There are several features which encompass GNH, with two being a citizen’s right to “meaningful work” and “how people perceive the quality of their natural surroundings” (99). This is very much a romantic notion, as well as a transcendental attribute. Throughout Walden, Henry David Thoreau discusses the need to remove oneself from labor which does not heightened one’s spirituality. Thoreau found work for profit to be a greedy pursuit. Bhutan aligns with Thoreau’s thinking, and in my opinion, the inclusion of such principles within GNH is a thing to be applauded.

Moving from The Happiness Metric to Land of the Lost, I was overwhelmed by the narrator’s dark tone. The beginning paragraph uses phrases such as “dark stairwell” and “shadowy crows” (Benz 57). The narrator is “plundering” into darkness on his way to work, just as Moldova has undergone a social and economic downfall since gaining independence (Benz 57). Benz periodically comments on the guards stationed throughout Moldova, with one at the school and one at the park. The people of Moldova are guarding the last semblance of past society they have left and “[celebrating] anything and everything with enthusiasm and aggression” (Benz 64). Land of the Lost relates to A Tale of a Tub, as Marx brings up her childhood and emphasizes how the ultimate sense of imagination experienced in youth is lost upon today’s adult. Marx consistently alludes to how little the ship has in regards to entertainment. There’s not even “Netflix streaming” (Marx 155). But, in Marx’s listing of all the items she’s brought along for the trip, I’m wondering how necessary such products are in general. Can we go without “two Kindles” and “a USB drive with more movies than are watchable in a year”? (Marx 154-155).

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One thought on “The Simplicity of the Past

  1. I really like the connections you made between these stories. I had some trouble with this for this week’s readings, but your observations about the authors desires to return to a simpler time (perhaps away from the stresses of technology and our fast-paced lifestyles) really helped me to begin to see that although the writers went to very different places, their reasons were doing so were quite similar.

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