“What a horrible time we’re living in! I wish things were more like they used to be! Things were uncomplicated back then! People were polite! They talked to each another! You could afford things! Politicians weren’t corrupt! Truth and justice weren’t just tag-lines in a comic-book!”
As someone that’s been alive for a few decades and has an interest in history, those kinds of statements don’t make much sense. Even a casual review of the historic narrative reveals a distinct repetition of themes and events. Facades change, but the foundational elements remain the same. Therefore, what the above sentiment is truly referring to, is not some point in history, but to some simpler time in the speaker’s life i.e. childhood.
What such people are really trying to say is: things were easier when I was a child because I was taken care of and I only focused on things that mattered to me at the time. And this is true, things ARE easier when you’re taken care of and when you only focus on the things that are important to you. So now what? Can we go back to a simpler time? i.e. a time when we possessed a childlike view of the world?
Jesus once said, “Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.” Maybe he’s saying that we should focus on the things that matter to us in this moment, as children do — and in so doing, experience a heavenly time on Earth. Whereas focusing on the “big picture” and global-matters is a means of getting lost in the world, a condition that ultimately leads to dissatisfaction.
But what about being taken care of? Well Jesus also said this: I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body. Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life? You of little faith! Do not worry then, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ Your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. Do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself.
So when we lament the modern times we’re living in, perhaps our wish shouldn’t be to time-travel to some idyllic point in history that never happened – but to get back to a childlike perspective. And to do that, we must focus on what’s at hand right-now in this moment. Perhaps we should be focusing on who’s around us and whatever activities are immediately available. A childlike perspective is not dour or disparaging, but wondrous and appreciative of whatever’s happening all around.
In summation: in order to enjoy life, we must not strive to resurrect a fictional past, rather we must strive to attain a level of mental discipline that allows us to focus our attention on whatever evokes delight.