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?


About Deborah

Deborah Jane Milton, Ph.D. is an artist, mentor, writer, mother of four, grandmother of eight. who inspires humanity's Great Turning: our evolution to living as a "whole" human, with headbrain and bodymind collaborating, with science and spirit dancing, with rationality, intuition and the ephemeral co-creating.
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9 Responses to Bemused

  1. Oh, a hornets nest! I see what you mean about the picture…I love this laptop amd all my gadgets: I connect with so many like minds, something I could never have done before. But your words have a ring of utter truth about them. Our life is out there, with those we love and in the places which mean so much to us.

    Thanks. this is quite lovely.


  2. Deborah says:

    I love the computer, too. World Wide Web arrives just in the nick of time to contribute to our evolution as a planetary tribe. What a wonder, all of it is.

    Finally found a copy of Magician’s Nephew – the wood between the worlds – we all meet there HERE!!! Now that’s a lovely thought, isn’t it? Verdant, living trees and all those clear green pools. Thank you!


  3. Cindaann says:

    Hunter, my soon to be 9 year old grandson just called me and said he was really mad at me because of the video I sent him. I was so scared, Grandma, I started crying. I may be damaged for life and I am never going to watch another video you send me, he continued really getting his tail in the air, you should have told mom to watch it first, Grandma, I was real scared. All I could do is laugh and say I am sorry and laugh harder……..Why do I glow in laughter at such a cruel deed? Besides the fact that Hunter has been scaring the bejesus out of me for the last 9 years, my delight runs deeper then just getting ‘ one up’ on him. I use to think that it was funny because of the look on the persons face who was the scared, which isn’t a funny face and instantly turns to an angry face which again makes the experience more funny and a little scary. Now I wonder about that thin line excitement and fear with only a breath between them. Fear as a guiding force for survival still sits in our bones and so maybe after a good scare all our cell say –‘ I AM STILL ALIVE!!!!! and experiences a gambit of emotions to prove just that.


    • Deborah says:

      Cinda, you give so much to ponder. I myself don’t like scary movies but your last sentence brilliantly expresses the deep need in our cells to say, ” I AM STILL ALIVE!!!” And fear is so important. In recent times, fear has been used as our enemy rather than our helpmate. One of my favorite statements in the Mythic Journey film ( is the one about being grateful for fear. Without fear, we wouldn’t have learned what berries to avoid, what terrains to walk around, in other words, fear has taught us how to survive and live long enough to produce off spring.

      Hurray for the excitement that makes our cells wake up and experience the full gambit of emotions that show us we’re alive. ANd hurray for your being willing to confess to being a “cruel” Grandma. Takes a bit of courage, that does.


  4. PJ says:

    OH my… I love your trek back thru’ time… I also remember phones with operators. I lived on the farm when I was 4 or 5 (in Arkansas) where we had a phone on the wall (big brown square thing) that required you to turn the handle and wind several times to get the operator and then you told “her” WHO you wanted to speak with. (It was a “party line” so you had to listen to see if someone else was already talking to their neighbor before cranking the handle). I even remember our phone number (later, when we lived in town which was a single line without a party line issue). # 60…. that was our phone number. However most of the time you just told the operator WHO you wanted to talk to.. (small town and the operator KNEW EVERYONE.) Wow…
    Was life any “better”, “simpler”, easier??? in some ways….???
    Living alone now and not having a job as I did before I was laid off…. I love the solitude and quiet but would really miss reconnecting or staying connected.. to my family and friends so far away from me with out the use of the computer. I do miss letters… writing them, receiving them, opening them, and smelling them. Somehow, “opening” an email and reading an email is not the tactile and sensual experience that letters in the hands were.
    So the pluses and minuses of modern change…. are hard to evaluate and grade on any scale….. I “go with the flow” so to speak, and learn that it is effort to take the time to sit and write this comment, to write an email or to read messages on social networks that I belong to. But…. I gladly do it to stay abreast of life and the flow of things with every moment a joy when it is a note or email or conversation with a friend or a son.
    OK, here is my question (for anyone over 45) Why can I remember my phone number that was almost 60 years ago and I can barely remember my phone number now?
    As “the King” (in The King and I) said….


    • Deborah says:

      You’re amazing, that’s why!

      Seriously, we don’t ask our brains to remember things like phone numbers anymore. They’re all cataloged in our devices. If we lose the device, we’re “shit outta luck.”

      Thank you for taking the time to write a comment here, PJ. As I go through all my old letters from the 1980’s – yes, as recently ago as that, we used to write letters – I’m wondering what our children’s momento boxes will be filled with. Most of us don’t print out emails, for instance, being green – or so some think – and our email correspondence isn’t generally lengthy or deeply musing anyway. No photos either to thumb through.

      Imagine the puzzlement the King would have experienced in this age!!!


  5. PJ says:

    “Hey, my wife and I keep our calendar on a dry erase board. We think that’s modern.”
    ………….. I LOVE MY DRY ERASE BOARD!!!! and now in my mid 60’s… the memory thing is seriously challenging and so it helps me so much. (I also use my cell phone to put notes in and the calendar there for reminders).
    While I do appreciate and am thankful for the modern devices I too think that most of us have become less sensitive to others by using them at times.
    Things I DO NOT LIKE:
    1. use of cell phones when you are talking to another person OR are in a public place.
    2. taking another call when you are already talking to someone.
    I cannot manage others who do this but I can… make a choice to turn my cell off when I am in a public place and to let the “other call” go to voice mail and call them back later.
    3. I can ASK others to not use their cell phone when we are in a conversation (stating it is my preference)…. but be accepting of others who are less mindful.
    ……………………………… the King… said… “IT IS A PUZZLEMENT”

    how has the computer age affected you? Why do you care?


    • PJ says:

      PS: I ALSO MISS letters, card, notes….written and MAILED.
      I LOVE GETTING MAIL and it is so rare. I even get less birthday CARDS in the mail than I used to….
      so… I read these awesome books by Nick Bantock: The Griffin and Sabine Trilogy
      It is letters written back and forth between a man and woman who have never met in person… (fiction)…The reading of these books made me want to write letters more…. but alas… I sit here and type my response online and my emails and notes on FB…. (maybe I need to read them again and get re-inspired.


      • Deborah says:

        Did you ever read the novel following the Griffin and Sabine series. It’s lovely, too. And you remind me that I keep intending to send notecards for one reason or another and I DON’T EVER GET TO IT. I have a stack of cards, some my own artwork and some I have purchased over the years. Ten years ago, folks still sent cards and I have saved many of them as momentoes because their sentiments inspire me…emails don’t have the same “saving grace.” heh heh heh


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