Newspaper article The Tuscaloosa News

GUEST COLUMNIST: Out with the Old

Newspaper article The Tuscaloosa News

GUEST COLUMNIST: Out with the Old

Article excerpt

The recent removal of the Kilgore House, built by a riverboat captain in 1890, from the University of Alabama campus is a sign of the times: Out with the old, and in with the new.

And, in the same time frame, in Lima, Peru a 5,000-year-old pyramid complex was destroyed in part by two building companies. This complex is one of the oldest structures built in the Americas, and its loss was irreparable for the culture and history of Peru, not to speak of

humankind in general in the western hemisphere.

So, the question arises: Why keep and defend these old buildings and pyramids? The easy answer, of course, is that they reflect a part of our history, and so their existence serves to keep that memory alive and constitutes a vital part of what makes us what we are. On the other hand, not everything old is worth preserving, although remembering is important.

Take modern medicines for example. Who would want to go back several hundred years when people sickened and died from so many diseases when ailments are now cured or prevented, such as small pox, polio and the flu?

In medicine, new is generally good and old is, well, old. Chicken soup and rest can certainly help ameliorate a bad cold, but drugs off the shelves can actually keep you at work.

That, in and of itself, may actually not be an improvement. Staying at home in bed, and so missing school or work, and being fussed over by a concerned mom or spouse should not be dismissed contemptuously as hopelessly old fashioned and most inefficient. An antiseptic doctor's office where you are moved along like cattle on the slaughter line is not very comforting.

Those of you in today's generation know that just about everything you have is obsolete almost from the moment you buy it. The old is ancient and out of fashion or out of touch or too slow or woefully inadequate compared to the newest item that flashes on the Internet, luring you in like a fish going for a juicy worm.

But that worm satisfies you only for a few seconds. Your hunger - - for the new and the latest -- returns almost immediately. It is a never-

ending pursuit, like a puppy chasing its tail.

That hardly seems like an improvement over the old. How many times have I settled comfortably into some software before some idiot comes up with a new, improved version and I have to relearn it all? Try learning a new language every few years. How about Chinese or Arabic for starters, not something easy like Spanish or German.

And, like in medicine, aviation is a paean to the new. Who wants to fly like Jimmy Doolittle in the 1920s, from one wreck to another, lost in the fog and clouds, daredevils whose survivability into middle age was nearly zero. Doolittle lived into his 90s due largely to his decision to stop flying at an earlier age when he lost the "right stuff. …

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