Last evening our Ecstatic Wisdom Posture group met and someone mentioned it was Equinox.
Mouth hanging open, I couldn’t believe I had forgotten the return of Spring. In this temperate region where I now live, every season seems like Spring or Fall to me. Cool but not so cool that green isn’t burgeoning everywhere. And of course rain always.
I’m a bit out of whack…
I smiled because yesterday I had revised a post written at the last equinox to make it suitable for an alumni reunion publication. My 50th college reunion is coming up in June.
So, here is my call to the elders, to tell the stories of how we used to live before the digital age. It’s a call for all of us really to honor the needs of our human souls:
My nine year old granddaughter picks up a National Geographic 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.
Over all those millions of years, we humans slowly evolved and our lifestyles didn’t change very much. In the evolutionary eye blink since my alma mater was founded
( 1846 ), our two-legged lifestyles have changed profoundly, our priorities have shifted. The 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 generations 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.
Last Fall, 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 stream side visit. Not one of us had 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 keep our calendars on paper. The fish biologist, a “youngster” who may not yet be sixty, chimed in: “Hey, my wife and I keep our calendar on a dry erase board. We think that’s modern.”
I love this meeting of comrades. We 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 we picked up the receiver and dialed “O”. A real person was always waiting on the other end of the line. Miracle!
Our Mothers and Fathers, at least mine who were a bit older than most when I was born, witnessed the invention of the airplane and the horseless carriage. My folks wrote long 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 dates and appointments, apologies to friends and professions of friendship by writing hard-copy.
30 years ago – I remember this exactly – October 15, 1981 – everything changed. Only 30 years ago, a personal computer cost $10,000 and my husband wanted to buy one.
My own children 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 15 years ago. My kids loved rock music and went crazy over turn tables and tape decks – what a wonder!!! They did grow up with TV and Sunday family dinners in front of Walt Disney, but I didn’t see my first TV, black and white of course, until I was around 10 years old. Everyone flocked regularly to ooohhh and ahhhhhh in the neighbor’s living room during that brief time before every household on the block purchased one.
Imagine a childhood now without computers. It’s hard isn’t it? My son tells me his sons are called “digital natives.” 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. But in only one generation we’ve become addicted to instant communication and constant visual streaming stimulation. 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.
The onslaught of computers and digital media have come upon us so quickly we’ve forgotten we have the right to choose how to use them.
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 and rain sluiced heavy metals from cars on the highway still contaminate this stream that for thousands upon thousands of years hosted spawning salmon. Foam is gathering, a sign of too much nitrogen. The fish biologist is discouraged. He’d expected to see a few young salmon this year – but there are none.
My granddaughter asks, “Gemma, why do you care about salmon?”
Her question highlights the complexity of our time when we have concluded as a culture that relating to nature is an option. We elders can lead the way toward awakening our culture to remember a greater truth. We’re old enough to have experienced a childhood more closely aligned with human essentials – our creativity, imaginative juice and the spark of physical engagement with the world around us.
We elders living now are the last humans to bridge the old ways with the new.
May we begin telling our stories before it’s too late.