Yeah, those were the days!
Somehow the months in the wilderness had dulled their memories. Gone was the Israelite's recollections of the beatings, the torture, the backbreaking labor, the slavery, and the death. As they wandered in the wilderness with only manna to eat, their vision of Egypt became one of three square meals a day, the security of a place to put up one's feet at night, and the certainty that tomorrow would bring more of the same.
But now they were free men and women, and the responsibilities of freedom were greater than they could bear. Time truly changes perspectives, and they did not yet have Solomon's perspective, for Solomon's observations led him to proclaim, "Do not say, 'Why is it that the former days were better than these?' For it is not from wisdom that you ask about this." (Eccl 7:10 NAS) "The good old days", perhaps, were not as we remember them.
I remember how uncool it seemed when Dad would tell those stories about when he was a boy. "Why, when I was your age .", and off he would go into a land that I could barely believe existed. No television? Nickel ice cream cones? Doctors making house calls?
The real "good old days" that my father faced was a quart of milk for eight kids, 20% of the workforce unemployed, and a devastating storm in Europe that would consume millions of his generation. But he remembers his baseball card collection, skinny dipping in the creek, and beating up the boys who were picking on his brother.
These days I find myself echoing my father as I tell my kids about my "good old days". And the stories somehow don't include the assassinations of a president, a civil rights leader, and a presidential candidate. They don't include crawling under one's desk for an "air raid drill" that we all knew wouldn't save anyone's life. The stories don't include the concerns about an ill-conceived, decade-long "police action" in Asia for which we were being groomed as cannon fodder. I conveniently forget the race riots, the student demonstrations that turned bloody in the name of peace, the virtual impeachment of a president, the gas lines, and the hyper-inflation of the 1970s.
My "good old days" stories are about pick-up baseball games, boyish pranks at school, tackle football in the street, the dark-haired girl I was too shy to ask out, and the first dollars I earned umpiring little league.
Tell me: what was it that made "the good old days" good? Were they really that good? Would we want to go back?
"Do not ask, 'Why were the former days better than these?' For it is not from wisdom that you ask about this." (Eccl 7:10 NAS) I wish I could ask Solomon why it is foolish to ask about this. Maybe he would tell me that someday these will be the good old days.