For most of human history, the pace of change – both technological and social – remained about the same; that is, glacially slow, by today’s standard. Beginning with the 20th century, something happened to that pace; it became exponential, doubling its rate each decade. Now, we’re experiencing 100 years of progress every 10 years. Soon, it will be 1,000 years in the same period.
To have lived through 50 years of this change is dizzying enough, but Margaret Isiminger Moninger can recall an entire century of it. As we learned in an article Wednesday by Colleen Nelson, she’ll turn 106 years old next week.
Born in 1908 in Greene County during a revolution in industry, she soon experienced another revolution in transportation, as the horse and buggy were replaced by the automobile and humans began to fly. She was old enough in 1918 to have lived through the great influenza epidemic that killed millions and to watch young men go off to France to fight in World War I. She experienced the Great Depression, World War II, the Space Age, the advent of computers and then another revolution in communication.
In her childhood in rural western Greene County, electricity, indoor plumbing and telephones would have been rare luxuries. Today, Mrs. Moninger stays in touch with friends and relatives on Facebook.
Social change during her lifetime has been nearly as enormous. Waves of immigrants came to the great Melting Pot. Women earned the right to vote. The Civil Rights movement strived for equality for all Americans. The sexual revolution demolished Victorian strictures and, some will say, led to the dissolution of the family unit. Now, we have genetic engineering, gay marriage and a black president.
Many of us are befuddled by change. We resist it, ignore it, deny it and complain about it. We long for the simpler life of our childhood and conveniently forget the modern conveniences brought by progress on which we have come to depend.
Mrs. Moninger, however, seems to have adapted to all this change and accepted it with grace. It’s been a wild ride, and may she have many more years to enjoy it.