The phrase “scurry and production” caught my ear as I continued to listen to Steinbeck’s “Travels with Charley.” In his travels during (I believe) the Fall of 1960, he has just come through Ohio, Michigan, and northern Indiana – through or near cities like Cleveland, Toledo, Flint, South Bend. But he’s in a more pastoral location in northern Michigan where he writes, “I wanted a little time to think about the things I’d seen, the huge factories and plants and the scurry and production.” I guess it beats scurry without production.
But the real reason I was prompted to write was the preceding paragraph where Steinbeck says:
It is the nature of a man as he grows older, a small bridge in time, to protest against change, particularly change for the better. But it is true that we have exchanged corpulence for starvation, and either one will kill us. The lines of change are down. We, or at least I, can have no conception of human life and human thought in a hundred years or fifty years. Perhaps my greatest wisdom is the knowledge that I do not know. The sad ones are those who waste their energy in trying to hold it back, for they can only feel bitterness in loss and no joy in gain.
Bitterness in loss and no joy in gain. I see a lot of that now. I guess that’s part of why I’m always railing against nostalgia. First of all, it’s reverence for things as they never were. But, also, that reverence has a pernicious tendency to blot out joy in the things that are or might be.