My mind wandered into fantasy land while I vacuumed my car’s carpeting. I imagined what it might feel like driving my dream car, a Ferrari F40. There is a newer stretch of four-lane highway near town that would be a perfect race course. In my mind, I swiftly shifted through the gears of the perfectly engineered transmission. The powerful engine brought the speed to 100 mph within a few seconds.
Suddenly, I remembered that the Nebraska State Patrol arrests a higher than average number of speeders on that same stretch of road. That problem brought me back to the reality that I was cleaning the interior of a Toyota Camry. My old four door sedan was proof positive that practical transportation has served me through good and terrible stretches of highway. This year, the Camry will be twenty two trouble-free years old. I doubt an F40 could make the same boast. Besides that, the Ferrari would be completely useless in a Nebraska winter. Oh well, maybe someday I could rent a Ferrari for a day, just for fun.
My parents were practical people largely because they grew up during the Great Depression. Nearly all of my friends and acquaintances have had practical dispositions, as well. The influence of family and friends rubbed off on me, to mostly cancel my impractical nature. Living a practical lifestyle has made for a good life. It’s good to be able to be self-reliant yet still know when to request help from my even more practical friends.
At times I wonder about how people lived in the past. Although I have no desire to live in the nineteenth century nor the early decades of the twentieth, the inhabitants of those times were largely more practical-minded than we are in the twenty first century. There are a few practices from the past that can serve us well in the present. However, I do not fetishize old techniques and lifestyles. I have no desire to go down that rabbit hole.
I feel more secure thinking and living according to modern, contemporary tastes and values. There are many more advantages to modern culture over the practices of the past. If I traveled back to the 1920s, I’d have to cope without the aid of modern medicine, safer food, a microwave oven, computers, the Internet, nor even my trusty Toyota.
Even though it’s fun to fantasize about the past, I doubt that I’d fit in because of the outdated social norms of those days. The 1920s were rife with racism, sexism, homophobia, and jingoism. Such modes of thinking were considered acceptable in those days. Although modern times have their own problems, my practical experience allows me to better cope with contemporary difficulties not old-fashioned ones.
Of course there are qualities that provide practical helpfulness regardless of which eras people have lived. Among the most practical are kindness, even though it seems outdated to some folks. Truthfulness and keeping one’s promises are important qualities that enhance life and have practical benefits. While vice has the endorsement of certain public figures and institutional leaders, it is virtue that continues to serve us well. Living a life of integrity is timeless and exceptionally practical.
Wise people understand that it is better to live as one can if one cannot live in the Utopia of fantasy. To regard one’s current good circumstances is a more practical way of thinking than dwelling upon what certain qualities have been denied. In my opinion, the practical way of life includes vision about the past and future. The lion’s share of attention goes towards practical application of vision plus the realities of the present in order to pay the bills.
The Blue Jay of Happiness quotes Oscar Wilde. “People who count their chickens before they are hatched act very wisely because chickens run about so absurdly that it’s impossible to count them accurately.”