Has the experience of being human (i.e. the human condition) changed in profound ways in the last century?
What has been will be again,
what has been done will be done again;
there is nothing new under the sun.
I believe so, a song made me think that some pains that used to be are no more. Adoniran Barbosa famously sings in the samba “Iracema” (1956):
Lyrics translated by me:
Iracema, eu nunca mais eu te vi
Iracema, I never saw you again
Iracema meu grande amor foi embora
Iracema, my greatest love left
Chorei, eu chorei de dor porque
Cried, I cried in pain because
Iracema, meu grande amor foi você
Iracema, you were my greatest love
Iracema, eu sempre dizia
Iracema, I always told you
Cuidado ao travessar essas ruas
Be careful crossing these roads
Eu falava, mas você não me escutava não
I told you but you didn't hear
Iracema você travessou contra mão
Iracema, you crossed on the wrong lane
E hoje ela vive lá no céu
Today she lives up there in heaven
E ela vive bem juntinho de nosso Senhor
She is close to the Lord
De lembranças guardo somente suas meias e seus sapatos
In her memory I’ve only kept her socks and shoes
Iracema, eu perdi o seu retrato.
Iracema, I’ve lost your picture.
Can you imagine the pain of the double loss? First the physical loss to death. Second, to your own forgetfulness? How long would you be able to recall the face of a loved one without a picture as the decades pass by? That reminds me of the concept of “second death”:
"Some day soon, perhaps in forty years, there will be no one alive who has ever known me. That's when I will be truly dead - when I exist in no one's memory. I thought a lot about how someone very old is the last living individual to have known some person or cluster of people. When that person dies, the whole cluster dies,too, vanishes from the living memory. I wonder who that person will be for me. Whose death will make me truly dead?” ― Love's Executioner and Other Tales of Psychotherapy
Language, like memory, is imperfect:
DELIRIUM: What's the name of the word for the precise moment when you realize that you've actually forgotten how it felt to make love to somebody you really liked a long time ago?
DREAM: There isn't one.
DELIRIUM: Oh. I thought maybe there was.
DREAM: No. There isn't.
(Neil Gaiman, "Brief Lives”)
While modernity has brought new anxieties with it, thanks to technology we’ll never again feel how it is to forget the face of a loved one. Some pains have indeed been banished from this world and the human condition has been changed permanently as result.
I'm a cat-shadow floating in the web.