The Wisdom Of Downton Abbey
Well, here we are, 2020. Look how far we’ve come in the last 100 years!
maybe you are better off not looking.
A few months ago, just before I took off for my neck surgery, I gave Andrew and Jennifer a ride home from the airport. They live in West Fort Worth. Andrew and Jennifer were coming home from a visit to Jennifer’s parents who live in Portland, Oregon. I wanted to write about them earlier but for some reason I kept getting sidetracked with a story within the story.
You see, writing about this wonderful couple, who are engaged to be married this summer, kept turning into writing about a TV show we spent much of the ride talking about.
Yep, Downton Abbey hijacked the story.
That’s ok. We’ll make a go of it anyway.
Jennifer said they were looking forward to getting home and doing nothing! At which point, Andrew said they had the rest of the week and the weekend off, so they were going to binge watch, yep, Downton Abbey. They apparently wanted to rewatch the whole series before seeing the movie. Plus, their trip to Portland was a very active one; not so much a vacation. So they were both exhausted.
“What is a weekend?”
—Violet Crawley, Dowager Countess of Grantham
They planned their trip in order to help Jennifer’s parents move into a much smaller house. Andrew jokingly said that they kept most of the things that had a place in the big house. He said they kinda missed the point of downsizing.
From that moment of the trip, our conversation seemed to be about or circle back to Downton Abbey. I can certainly think of worse topics. I am a big fan of the show too.
“We must always travel in hope.”
— Carson, Downton Abbey, Season 5
Our discussion ebbed and flowed around one theme in particular. We kept comparing the way people behaved 100 years ago with today. That comparison left all three of us feeling a bit disappointed with humanity. With all the incredible technology we have now, escpecially regarding communication, transportation, and ease of access to knowledge, we seem to be in much shorter supply of intelligence. I would add love, peace, kindness, joy, and hope to the list.
“How you hate to be wrong,” said Isobel, practically baiting the Dowager to drop the following: “I wouldn’t know. I’m not familiar with the sensation.”
Andrew noted that we are all so much more opinionated now and a quick google search is all it takes to find information that backs our opinion and thus, in our own minds, makes that opinion, fact. So why would we consider anyone else’s now? They are clearly mistaken, uninformed, etc.
The story of the Crawley family in Downton Abbey slows everything down. Information back then came from books, newspapers, telegrams, and toward the end of the series, the telephone. Sources of information were few. Therefore, it was important to be reliable and accurate if you were a source. Now all you need is access to the internet. Somebody out there will believe whatever nonsense you are peddling. Downton Abbey is telling us to slow down and be responsible with our words, our knowledge.
The other side of this communication advancement is simply how we treat each other. Now that we can send out messages and posts like this one, we have somehow managed to remove any filters. In other words, we treat each other like crap.
Is that the byproduct of instant access? When we address each other face to face, there still exists a set of manners. We treat each other with respect. But now we can go home and post all kinds of jokes, memes, nasty insults and mockery with no sense of guilt or respect.
Don’t get meme wrong, I have a sense of humor and love a good joke when I see it. But if something we post isn’t something we could say about someone (or someone’s beliefs) in person, then that something stinks of poo and we shouldn’t post it. One other virtue Downton Abbey tries to teach us about communication is, even if we are right, that doesn’t mean we should say it!
I have been quite vocal lately. I have made several very sharp attacks. My anger and frustration has been consistently high. Yesterday, I came across a quote by Mother Teresa. At least, I think it was Mother Teresa. I found it on the very trustworthy internet. I didn’t bother to research the source. But hey, good words are good words. Anyway, Mother Teresa says,
“If you judge people, you have no time to love them.”
Ohhh, that got me thinking about my anger and my attacks. Anger, is ok. We all get angry and that anger is often appropriate. I considered what I was angry about and whether or not I went too far. Perhaps, a little. It is easy for anger to turn us into irrational. We can do and say things we regret. I think maybe I have been to judgemental in a few places this week.
My anger, my cause is valid. There are a great many injustices. There are far too many dark forces at work today. So, Mother Teresa has a great point. But anger is important too. And it is powerful, if controlled. Pure rage doesn’t do anyone any good. Neither does moral judgement, at least without cause. It’s a fine line is all I am saying. So let’s keep fighting the good fight, but be careful not to get all judgey beyond the argument at hand.
“Because I want the pleasure of saying I told you so.”
—Violet Crawley, Dowager Countess of Grantham
Downton takes us through many of the same messes we find ourselves in today, but it does so in a 100 year old setting and with a society and culture that doesn’t exist anymore. Frankly, the idea of someone else helping me dress and undress every day is laughable. What I like about watching the challenges of life through the Downton lense is we see the issues and their true weight with much more clarity. The show doesn’t avoid anything. At one point or another, the characters are faced with some serious issues: war, murder, rape, homosexuality, abortion, children outside of wedlock, the exclusion of people based on their social status or skin color.
“I’m not a romantic, but even I will concede that the heart does not exist soley for the purpose of pumping blood.”
—Dowager Countess of Grantham, Violet Crawley
Of course let us not forget the brighter issues of friendships from unexpected places, romance, love, finding one’s purpose, the birth of a child, pigs (hey, pigs are cute and funny on screen), music, overcoming personal obstacles, and simply celebrating life. Oh let’s not forget the beauty of the English countryside.
I enjoyed watching these issues played out in such a different setting, without modern complications like social media, the ability to reach anyone, anywhere on the planet, via phone, text, messenger, skype, etc. There were far fewer complications back then. So for us, we get to watch the characters and think, ha! You are so lucky it’s only 1920! No way would you be able to deal with that issue in 2020!
“I think accepting change is quite as important as defending the past.”
— Cora, Lady Grantham, Downton Abbey, Season 3
The point I am trying to make is this. Downton Abbey shines a light on problems that existed then and still exist today. But when put in a much clearer and, dare I say simpler context, it makes us realize just how ridiculous we are to still be fighting with each other about certain issues. Watching Downton Abbey reminds me that we have had 100 years to get past certain “hang ups” we have with each other and still haven’t become a more enlightened and inclusive human race. In fact, if anything, we seem to have become even more polarized. Perhaps Mr. Carson, Miss Padmore, and Lady Grantham (the Dowager) had it right by opposing all the new technology, and changes to society.
“First electricity, now telephones. Sometimes I feel as if I were living in an H. G. Wells novel.”
—Violet Crawley, Dowager Countess of Grantham
Downton Abbey takes us back to a much different time and a much different world and is quite the powerful story to help us reflect on just how stuck we are today.
In that time, words mattered. One was very careful about using the right words, avoiding anything dramatic or profane. Now we seem free to say whatever on social media, no filter. Just free flowing hatred, mockery and insults. What happened to the respect? What has happened to decency and dignity?
Even in the most regal of English houses, life is messy. It is full of pain and disappointment.
It is about lifes ups and downs as much as it is about happy endings.
It is a testament to the triumph of love and kindness. Mr. BARROW is proof of that.
And so the series ends on New Year’s eve with Edith celebrating her marriage and Anna giving birth upstairs, Carson retiring and Barrow coming back to replace him as Butler. I still haven’t seen the movie so don’t talk about it! 🧡😉
And in the final moments of the last episode, Downton Abbey leaves us with one very memorable and very true message,
We are all connected!
#kindness #purposefulkindness #Whatawonderfulworld #hope #peace #love #joy #StreetLights #TheKindnessClub #Grace #drivingawaydepression #weareallconnected
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Thank you for these good words, Chris!