An ever-changing, sometimes elusive, interpretative state of being. Whether the topic is medical, engineering, fashion, government, technical, or scientific, the adjective modern receives its share of use. This current attribute seems to be popping up all over the place lately, or maybe it’s just booming louder in my eardrums,…modern equipment, modern practices, modern way of life, our modern world.
Most of us like to think and describe ourselves as modern. Unless we’ve hit that comfortable bar we don’t want to cross, we, as individuals and organizations, don’t want to be, nor can we afford to be, out-of-date or old-fashioned.
Modern is not quite an anachronism. But it could be. When we describe recent history as it’s taught in (Western) schools, the Modern Era started during or with the Renaissance. Some say it started with clock time, during the 16th century. The history books call our current age, post-1945 to the present, as the Contemporary phase of the Modern Era (the present, evidently, is whatever year the definition is being read.) What will our history books call the years surrounding 2017? Will it be another version of modern?
A soon to be modern?
Most of what we know about the universe, both beyond our planet and within it, we’ve discovered in the last few decades. Still, our knowledge outside our natural sight, in our current modern world, is not much. Those who study what we can’t see, say that what lays outside our current modern comprehension is enormous. It’s estimated, (as much as we can estimate a percent without a firm grasp of the whole), that we may know less than 3% of what this earth, and the universe, is about. For now, though, we are as modern as it gets. Just don’t blink too often, because modern has been gaining momentum and is moving faster than ever.
A few hundred years ago, not much changed between generations. By comparison, the last few have been moving at warp speed. In our modern day of just twenty-five years ago no one used the internet. Apple’s first iPhone launched only 10 years ago in 2007, starting the smart-phone revolution. Now, almost everyone on the globe spends precious time bowing to those devices. A mere 10 years ago, our modern-day had no apps, Facebook and Twitter were just coming onto the scene. Instagram and WhatsApp were born just seven years ago. WeChat, introduced a mere six years ago, now dominates in China not only as a must-have social media app, but also as a platform for the majority of everyday purchases and currency transactions.
In the fashion world, so that we don’t overuse modern, we circulate other descriptives, like current, contemporary, up-to-date, in-trend, chic, fresh, fashionable, cool, hip. In fact, modern gets a new definition every season.
What was modern yesterday, even ultra-modern, may not be tomorrow.
Every generation in history has lived in modern times. Current practices and knowledge will soon be dust, considered ancient and antiquated. Future humans will look back to our present day, 2017, and say, wow, do you remember when people actually drove cars, sat in traffic, made cheap industrial food, and polluted the atmosphere without regard? How crude and barbaric.
But hey, we can’t get hung up on modern. It’s only an overworked adjective trying to be helpful. So what that modern’s description has become fleeting. The good news is, it won’t take much effort to stay relevant. We are all on the modern fast train, and it’s just pulling out of the station. We have little choice.
Modern Art. A move from tradition to experimentation. Country Road by Vincent Van Gogh, 1889