My viscous cold lingers and I swear it’s starting to slow my brain down, to cover my synapses with goop and generally make a muckery of my ability to think clearly. Yesterday it seemed a wonderful idea to continue sharing my birthing experiences in the dark ages of the early ‘60’s, those days when we felt so modern and civilized.
But other thoughts intervene. Those halcyon days of the ‘50’s and ‘60’s are the very same days that widened the rift between our bodies and our brains begun several centuries earlier. We now suffer from a huge rent in the fabric of our human nature, the nature that has been with us for literally millions of years. For that reason alone, I need to run wild with thoughts that are niggling.
Here goes…get ready…persevere, please…
Just this morning, my nine year old granddaughter picks up a National G from my coffee table. “We were alive 4 million years ago?” she asks with astonishment. The cover shows the skull of the latest anthropological find, “Ardi,” the oldest known female hominid skeleton. Four million years old. We human animals slowly slowly evolved over all those eons of time, but the last 100 years, only three or four generations, have totally changed everything about how we two-leggeds think and behave.
Yesterday, I volunteered to assess a stream preparatory to monitoring the return of salmon. We three women, each an elder, gathered on the driveway near our cars to decide on a date for the next streamside visit. Not one of us has a blackberry or an I-phone on which we keep our calendars. I suddenly started laughing. We are a throwback to times gone by. We still keep our calendars on paper, hanging on the fridge or next to the computer. The fish biologist, overhearing us and also probably close to sixty, chimed in: “Hey, my wife and I keep our calendar on a dry erase board. We think that’s modern.” I loved this meeting of comrades AND it reminded me of how rare we are.
I belong to a generation who grew up with black phones, ONLY black, with receivers connected to a wire connected to the body of the phone connected to the wall. AND a real person, almost always a woman, of course, said, “Hello – what number are you calling?” when I picked up the receiver and dialed “O”. A real person was always waiting on the other end of the line. I actually thought it was a step backward to eliminate the operator. We had party lines, too, meaning several families shared the same phone line and sometimes we had to apologize for picking up the phone in the middle of someone else’s conversation. Such a feeling of community!!!
My Mom and Dad witnessed the invention of the airplane and the horseless carriage. REALLLLY. Radio and phones were brand new and primitive. Hand cranked even! My folks wrote letters routinely. Real letters on real paper, sometimes written in long hand with an ink fountain pen and sometimes typed, folded into an envelope and mailed with 1 cent stamps. They made romantic dates and professional appointments, made apologies to friends and professions of friendship by writing letters.
And as early as 1920, my uncle as a lad was observing the pollution of the Hudson River and commenting in his diary that the fish weren’t looking so good anymore. This was due to coal mining up stream way back then.
29 years – I remember this exactly – October 15, 1981 – everything changed. Only 29 years ago, a personal computer cost $10,000 and my husband wanted to buy one.
My own children, who are still young by my standards, grew up without computers, digital cameras, VCR’s, DVR’s, CD’s, DVD’s, MP3’s, cell phones, I-pads, I-pods, whatever else exists now that didn’t even 15 years ago. They still loved rock music and went crazy for Led Zeppelin, Hair, Jesus Christ Superstar, the Beatles, the Rolling Stones – turn tables and tape decks – what a wonder!!! They did grow up with TV and Sunday family dinners in front of Walt Disney. I didn’t see my first TV, black and white of course, until I was around 10 years old. It was in the neighbor’s living room where everyone gathered at least once a week during the few months before every household on the block purchased their own.
The onslaught of computers and electronic media devices have come upon us so quickly that we’ve forgotten we have the right to choose how and when to use them.
We’re so immersed that we don’t realize we have become enmeshed, dependent.
Imagine a childhood without computers. It’s hard isn’t it?
We humans have been on this planet falling in love, sexing, eating, belching, singing, dancing, breathing, writing poetry, making music, dreaming, telling stories, chatting about our lives, making plans, starting wars and envisioning peace, experiencing loss, wonder, fear, success and fulfillment for millions of years. Yet in only 29 years we’ve become addicted to instant communication. Deadlines are NOW. Multitasking is the norm, not just the domain of harried mums. Life has speeded up beyond our capacity to respond, and we’re falling ill from stress and confusion. We’re reeling and don’t even know what’s spun us around.
As I walk the salmon stream, I ponder the myriad, inextricable, conundrums of today and wonder how we will find our way back to a more reverent and balanced way of living. Here on this wealthy island in the Pacific Northwest, where people love nature and are devoted to sustainability, toxic waste from a nearby industrial park and rain sluiced cadmium, zinc and copper coming off brake linings and car tires from the busy highway above contaminate this stream.
Foam is gathering, a sign of too much nitrogen. The fish biologist is a bit discouraged. He expected to see a few young salmon, the first returnees – but there are none.
My granddaughter asks, “Gemma, why do you care about salmon?” And, though I will answer her question, soon, here, I ask YOU now, how has the computer age affected you? Why do you care?