The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 7, Issue 2 (June 1, 1932)
Keeping Up with The Times
We talk of the trend of modern times as if modern times were something new, whereas Modernity is as old as the history of Cheops or the mystery of sausages. Every era of existence has boasted its modernity from the moment Adam raised Cain when he considered Eve was dressing above her means.
The truth is that all “moderns” have always flown off the handle because the handle belonged to a stick in the mud. They represent the natural human reaction to inaction. To-day they precede precedent, to-morrow they are as outworn as unbrowsed eyebrows, original skin, and face values generally. They only serve to show that we are here to bray and gone to-morrow.
Looking back on the ancient “moderns” is like getting a glance at to-morrow yesterday, or collecting the spirit of recollection through a petrol pump. For who to-day is more “modern” than Christopher C. Columbus was, when he set out to lay the foundation of the great American gum-booting industry? What was more up to the time-table than Noah, when he launched his famous joint-stock company and made Arrowroot a houseboat word? What of Alexander (the dead one) who toured India with his rag-time band and played “Havoc” with variations wherever he went? How about Cleopatra—well, perhaps there was a little too much “how” about her. Consider Robert Bruce who introduced the money-spider into Scotland, George Washington who invented truth-in-advertising, and Methuselah who introduced life insurance. What of Lot's lot when his wife asserted her feminine franchise by proving herself to be the salt of the earth and a pillar of society?
After all, the only essential difference between the ancient moderns and the modern ancients is that the first are historical and the last are hysterical.
The Course of Events.
Every word has been the last word since the first word took the air, and the last of the last words is as far distant as the utterance of an unformed thought of an unborn dumb-waiter.
Modernity is a synthetic synonym for Progress, and Progress is a Purveyor of Pace. Pace is a manifestation of Modernity and an emissary of Emancipation. Pace is the goggle-eyed god of the modern mile-masticator. It is accepted by him as a matter of course and by the pedestrian as a matter of curse. Time-slaving and time-saving are the primary industries of the infuriated futurists and internal combustioneers. But all things being sequel, and time being only the ticking in man's mental mattress, he is no wealthier by saving it than he would be by waiving it.
No doubt speed is merely man's gesture of revolt against the ambulatory limita- page 50 tions of his perambulatory pebble-pounders, which are about as adequate to cope with the perpetual commotion of his daily delirium as the frost-bitten flippers of a senile seal. Consequently man has made the world a place fit for horrors in his endeavour to override Nature's under-estimate of his understanding.
Per Petrol Motion.
What becomes of all the time he saves per petrol motion? If Time were jam he might spread it to advantage over his daily dread, but being a prodigal son-of-a-gun, he wastes more time than he saves, and his celerity is as little use to him as a water-blister in the Sahara. The situation is summed up with celerity by the Bard of Bowser, in free air, thus:
“Where are you going to my pretty mad?”
“I'm going a'gadding sir, by gad!”
“But why all the scurry and why all the buzz?”
“Well, why not, I ask you, when ev'ryone does?”
“But why in the name of all reason and rhyme,
“Do you spend your brief brevity cutting down time?”
“Oh, ‘can’ all the carping and don't be a ‘fuzz,’
“Why not, you old fossil, when ev'ryone does?
“You surely don't want me to get on the ‘blink,’
“And use my mentality merely to think,
“When Time is important and Rush is the rage—
“Go step on the gravy and be your right age!”
History and Histrionics.
Contemporary existence is a contagious disease, or a gold rush for wheel or woe. But has it not always been so? Perhaps the Present is no more perfidious than the Past. Our scuffle with the “ad valorem” is only a repetition of the ancient repertoire, and if history were free of histrionics it would prove that the dead past was not so dead. But history is only hearsay, and hearsay is the shadow-soaring of ghosts and, like the tales of “the men who go down to the spree in sips,” must be taken with a good deal of water. The past looks passable only because it is past; otherwise it has no visible means of disport, apart from the persistent prestidigitators of the Past who proclaim that nothing borne of man since the whiskers of Dundreary fell before the blade of Monsieur Gillette, can be worth the hoot of a boiled owl or the wheeze of a hoarse radish. But sufficient unto the dough is the weevil thereof, and let the dread past bury its dread. One day the present will be the past and the future will be the present, and:—
When we are gone sing no sad songs for us,
Our problems won't be worth a tinker's cuss
With those who go to make posterity, And pound Life's speedway with celerity. They'll merely shrug and go their divers ways,
Perchance remarking, “thems was good old days.”