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COLUMN: The price of progress | Notice


“…a calm sea never made a skilled sailor, sometimes the best things come from the worst situations.” —Franklin Delano Roosevelt

Why do we seek out what is easy, what is practical, what makes us feel like we know what we are doing, when we should pursue what is difficult, impractical, risk failure?

Don’t worry too much about this human observation…it’s just what we do without even realizing it.

My wife and I were in the middle of another hike on the multiple, sometimes challenging hiking trails of Roman Nose State Park on New Years Day, when we hit several incredibly quiet spots where there are no noise other than a light breeze atop the trees, birds chirping and squirrels chatting to us occasionally in the distance.

It was loneliness on a mind-boggling level rarely found these days, with the incessant rumble of planes, trains and automobiles – to slip in a title of an ever-funny movie.

It kind of hit me as we plod along a well-worn path, daily losing things we’ve known for years – maybe our whole lives.

Of course, things change. We change, the world around us changes and it has since time immemorial – this place we refer to as a moment in the past that was so long ago that people have no knowledge or memory of it.

It made me think back to a story I’ve told many times from my Civil War living history reenactment days.

The Trans-Mississippi Rifles took part in a re-enactment of the Battle of Missouri, encamped in one of the countless camps I’ve been to over three decades.

I woke up to a very gentle trickle of a steady, rainy mist, craving coffee and breakfast in the solitude where we had to fend for ourselves.

No McDonalds, Braum’s or Starbucks nearby at this time.

We needed a campfire for cooking and brewing, and we had no such thing.

I went to our previous night’s campfire near my tent and started picking up twigs and several bits of dry paper I could find, including a hand-rolled black powder blank cartridge from my box of cartridges for my .58 caliber Enfield rifle. wear in a mock battle later that day.

Several friends watched from their tents on the wet early morning, giving me some good-humored heartache for trying to start a fire.

I used a stick to stir in the charred remains of some coals from the apparently dead campfire, used the twigs, paper and canister, and instantly started a fire, others quickly picking up some wood and helping me as they wondered aloud how in Hades I started a campfire in the wet weather.

Being a volunteer firefighter at the time, I warned them that firefighters know how fires start – and I burst out laughing.

It struck me then – and it strikes even as I write – a profound knowledge that I learned long before had moved my groggy mind to start a fire in a light rain.

Where does this knowledge come from? A young person in today’s highly technical, digital world is already made for you, will he have this basic skill?

I didn’t pass it on to my three boys, unless they remember I told this story.

You see, we lose skills almost daily.

It must have been the same for the agrarian peoples of this planet when the Industrial Revolution swept everyone away.

The skills they previously needed just to survive one day in their life were suddenly replaced by new skills.

You see, finding things that allow us to have the basics of life – not what’s cool or practical at the time – could make us feel comfortable, happy on a superficial level.

I can write this column on a laptop, go to the invisible internet to research, post it to our in-house writing site software, go to work, pick it up and put it on the review page, send it to the plater for our printing press, and then it’s delivered to you – digitally or as a newspaper – for all to read.

No pen-to-paper writing, no typewriters, just today’s digital world making our lives easier.

Along the way, I lost skills that we used for this daily process.

I know for a fact that you have all lost skills that you used in your daily life and no longer use.

I need to go eat a muffin for breakfast that I bought in a store – one already made for me, that 50 years ago I should have made myself.

Progress is a good thing, but as time passes it comes at a price we all have to pay.

Christy is an editor at Enid News & Eagle. Visit his column blog at




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