Apologies for not having posted in a while -- it's been a busy summer. I did manage to spend time with the family, play some decent tennis, read a couple of good books (Feast of the Goat by Vargas Llosa and Cutting for Stone by Verghese) and watch the occasional film.
One of these films, Woody Allen's Midnight in Paris, got me thinking beyond the pretty images of Paris. In the movie, the principal characters look beyond the considerable charms of contemporary Paris to idealize an earlier "Golden Age" -- either Paris in the 1920s Jazz Era or the 1890s Belle Epoque. They lament that they did not live in their chosen era.
It is, of course, not unusual for us to romanticize an earlier, seemingly superior period. Just ask your parents. In this perfect past, kids were better dressed and better behaved, contemporary music did not sound like screaming Banshees and adults could make it through a meal without tweeting, texting or updating their online status.
These ruminations on time and place reminded me of my first day in law school, almost 30 years ago to the day. The then Dean, Harry Wellington, welcomed my new classmates and I to Yale Law School with a talk which ranged from the usual orientation logistics (where do we eat our meals; where do we buy our West textbooks) to an Allen-like meditation on the passing of a Golden Age.
Dean Wellington told us that very soon after we came to realize that we had not, in fact, been admitted to this prestigious law school by mistake, we would quickly move on to bemoan our fate at having missed the Golden Age at Yale. Where had the former Lions of the Law all gone? Where were the Grant Gilmores, Alex Bickels and Boris Bittkers? The truth he said, was that each generation of students failed to appreciate that the young professors teaching their classes would one day be similarly revered. The class of 2014 starting classes this week will no doubt lament that they did not have the chance to study with Guido Calabresi, Harold Koh or Geoff Hazard.
In our crisis-laden times, we would all do well to remember the blessings of our present Golden Age. I have been writing for some time about the dangers of the over-indebted, no growth western economies, but I believe we are in only the early years of an Information Revolution which will outpace the Industrial Revolution. The threat of terrorism and regional violence remains real; however, we have lived more than half a century without nuclear or world war. Finally, we have global warming, depleting natural resources and super bugs, but infant mortality and life expectancy have improved in most parts of the world, and we are poised for scientific breakthroughs in green energy and the fight against cancer.
These truly are the good old days.