Weekend Gallimaufry - The Good Life At Mid-Century - 1956


It's always interesting to hear how a period of time is assessed and compared with times previous. This post is about how life in 1956 was compared to the time of the Greeks and how much has changed (or not changed) since then.

As I've mentioned before Conversation was a weekly radio series centering around three people sitting around a microphone talking. In this case, moderator Clifton Fadiman is discussing the current (as of 1956) state of what constitutes the Good Life. His panelists are historian Jacques Barzun and actress Nancy Kelly.

In all honesty, they really could be talking about life on Mars by comparison to 2011.

Clifton Fadiman: “I think on the whole it’s because our moral universe doesn’t include contemplation as a virtue. In Greek times it did. In other words, great men laid it down. You were a better man if you did spend some time in contemplation and I imagine even the average man of the time felt the authority of that statement. At least we think he did. Now I don’t think that would be the case at all. For example, suppose any President that we might have announced in the morning paper ‘I am going to spend four hours a day thinking’, and said he felt this was his duty to the citizens of his country. He of course not only would he not be re-elected, but he’d probably be impeached for lunacy. And I’m not all that sure I wouldn’t help to impeach him. Because the notion of a man announcing that he’s going to spend four hours a day in philosophical contemplation does sound a little wacky, doesn’t it? But it wouldn’t have sounded so wacky some hundreds of years ago.”

I don't know if the concept of contemplation would be deemed wacky today or just an abstract concept that bears no resemblance to reality. The same I suppose is true of the moral universe. Pardon my cynicism, but I have a strong feeling that's a universe most people currently don't inhabit. Or at least it would seem that way if we took mainstream media seriously.

I could be totally wrong but . . . . .

That was 1956.


We welcome relevant, respectful comments. Any comments that are sexist or in any other way deemed hateful by our staff will be deleted and constitute grounds for a ban from posting on the site. Please refer to our Terms of Service (revised 3/17/2016) for information on our posting policy.