April 13, 2018

Cornucopia / Cynthia Dewes

Hang on to the current fad—it just may be important

Cynthia DewesApparently the old adage is true: There is nothing new under the sun. Fads, trends, social problems come and go, but they’re basically much the same. They get a lot of attention for a few days or years, but then we’re on to the next concern-of-the-month.

During a lifetime of sitting on various committees, I’ve learned a lesson about this. When there’s a problem on the table, the committee discusses solutions and chooses one which fails. In a couple of years on another committee, a similar problem arises and someone is sure to suggest the very thing that didn’t work before. At first this annoyed me, but now I think it’s funny.

Sometimes, we’re fearful about a threat that turns out to be not as bad as we thought. We worried for years about a nuclear attack from Russia, only to see it dissipate at the end of the Cold War. But it had been a reasonable assumption and thus worthy of attention. Maybe the Russians were just as scared of starting the Big One as we were. Whatever it was, it worked.

On a less horrifying level, we have the diet wars. Human survival may be more important than losing weight, but chronically overweight persons may secretly feel differently. They’ll seize on almost anything they think will take off the pounds.

Elaborate eating plans featuring more carbs, no carbs, no fat, protein only or less dairy products, and Lord knows what else are recommended diets for losing weight. Entire personal fortunes have no doubt been made by coming up with such directives, since the possibilities of choosing foods, establishing eating times and such, are endless. Not only that, but such preoccupation makes us feel like we’re dealing with the problem.

Lots of fads are just fun. Hula Hoops kept most of us happily swiveling our hips for a couple of years. It looked easy, and the hoop itself was inexpensive, so most of us gave it a try. Beanie babies were extremely popular also with the younger set for a while, and probably are still displayed in toy rooms somewhere. Here again, there’s money to be made whenever we discover something that will sell a lot, if even for a short time.

Fads in entertainment come and go like the ephemeral pleasures they are. On TV, we have a couple of years with cop shows like “Law and Order” and “Criminal Minds” or years of comedies like “Seinfeld” and “Laugh-In.” Now we’re in an avalanche of so-called reality shows and contests like “The Voice.” Movies follow the same patterns. Musicals seem to be long gone, and science fiction stories now double as dramas.

Fads can be as harmless as Hula Hoops, but they can also be really bad sometimes. We think about the social media rumor attacks on others which have led some young people to commit suicide. The anonymity of cyberspace is tempting to a person who is so unhappy that they want others to feel their pain. Somehow, they feel better when they make others feel worse.

Fads are such a human thing. They are sometimes creative and imaginative, and then again they can be just dumb. But if we’re selective and devoted to the Golden Rule, we’ll enjoy them in our lives.

(Cynthia Dewes, a member of St. Paul the Apostle Parish in Greencastle, is a regular columnist for The Criterion.)

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