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Seeking the Golden Age

Theres an old saying in some obscure sociological work somewhere that no matter the burdens placed upon it, mankind learns to tolerate, with little complaint, the additional stress it has incurred and life continues on. Thus, we have traveled a land of myriad change over the centuries, such as learning to farm rather than hunt, learning to work in factories rather than on farms, to eventually submitting to carrying cell phones so we are in constant contact with whatever. Many moons ago, this column mentioned a college course entitled The Theory of Progress. After a semester of examining all the progress we humans had made over the years, progress was clearly represented as a theory rather than a reality.I bring this up because my good friend, ex-mayor Bill Stirling, briefly examined the subject at a conference on Aspens history this past week. His take, if I understood it correctly, was that for every progress we make, we must give something up in return. One of the examples given was that of home mail delivery, which was represented to be progress, while the sacrifice was the inability to see ones friends and business associates each day at the post office as one picked up his mail.If we let ourselves drift across the continuum of time, we can envision the Golden Age as represented by the Greek mythological world. In such an age, mankind was pure and immortal, at the top of the wish list as perceived by the Greeks. As you might expect, and in a parallel to Christianity (the Fall from Grace in the Garden of Eden), the Golden Age would be followed by the Silver and Bronze ages, etc., until mankind had in essence, reached the bottom and found itself crawling back up in an effort to regain its erstwhile lofty heights. The struggle to once again reach the top could be construed as making progress. This is a terrible simplification, I know, but this column is mercifully short on space, so bear with me if you will.If we look at the history of Aspen, we all have an idea of what the golden age of Aspen might have been, and usually it coincides with the day we arrived. From that date forward, Aspens ambiance usually tracks downward, at least in our individual minds, so you might say we have not yet hit bottom, for we are still falling, not climbing. Of course, if you are in an occupation related to growth not to be confused with progress you might erroneously think Aspen is becoming enlightened through progress. The real estate market and the construction trades exemplify this growth.There was a time when the Wheeler Opera House and the Paragon Building were rented out to the Music Associates of Aspen for practice rooms, and the sounds of piano and voice compositions being mastered could be heard throughout the downtown core. A summer walk through Aspen was a pleasant, musical stroll, not a nightmare of beeping construction vehicles, roaring diesel engines, and trying to avoid being hit by nut cases on cell phones, driving through town.The schools used to be in town, where we could see the enthusiasm of the next generation coming up behind us. Football games were played in Wagner Park and Aspen was the school campus. Businesses closed during sporting events, in support of our kids, and life was more about those who lived here than those who spend money here. Like the young Greek, Icarus, we should examine well our path, lest we find ourselves soaring too high on counterfeit wings and discover our own fall from grace to be precipitous. Aspens destiny may be costing us our community, but perhaps thats necessary before we can progress to our Golden Age. If only we could believe it. Tony Vagneur writes here Saturdays and welcomes your comments at ajv@sopris.net


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