Saturday, August 27, 2016

I Am Not a Luddite!

"I hate to say it, but I come from an era when we weren't consumed by technology and television."
~Jimmy Buffett

I come from the same generation and don't hate to say it. Having recently returned from a trip to Santa Barbara, my first flight in almost two years, I saw signs of folks consumed by technology, glued to cell phones and computers, rarely noticing their surroundings whether sitting in the airport, walking down the street,  even across from tables in restaurants.  To a degree that I found confusing and disconcerting. So much so that my reactions have remained with me since my return, hovering like an incipient headache.  

Before I share my observations and my concerns, a disclaimer.  As a member of one of the last generations to remember ice boxes, party lines, and wringer washing machines, the humid heat of Midwestern summers before air conditioning and hanging clothes in the basement in the winter, I  appreciate the modern conveniences that technology has produced. I wax lyrical over small appliances - love my Keurig coffee maker, thank the inventor of the electric can opener- and there must surely be a place in heaven for the creators of the microwave.  I have a cell phone, enjoy my Kindle, e-mail, Skype and use Facebook.  In short, I am not a Luddite.

I am, however, also not a techie, nor do I desire to become one.  Because as a member of my generation,I also remember the joy of receiving a handwritten letter and the pleasure of long conversations with a friend.  I had fewer friends, but I knew them, had a shared history.   I listened to the radio, played board games, pursued hobbies. The family doctor came to my home and didn't push prescriptive drugs.  I didn't have to ask people to put their phones away or look at me when I talked to them.  The bullies on our playgrounds had faces and names.  Information came into my world at a pace I could digest, understand and discuss in depth.

So, I would rather discuss a problem in person or over the phone, (a land line preferably); I will not bring my cell phone to a meal and don't instant message.  I journal my most private thoughts in a  notebook using a ballpoint pen.  I tape tv programs so I can eliminate the constant barrage of commercials suggesting I may need a new drug that I suspect will be recalled within a couple years for its side effects.  Increasingly, I choose to listen to music or read a book, a real book, or pursue a hobby. 

It can be argued that my generation doesn't need all the networking technology or that because we're retired, we have the time to write letters, have long conversations.  Or, as too often is the accusation, that we are afraid of the technology or too old to learn new tricks.  I maintain that some of us are making conscious choices, to communicate deeply, to take charge of how we spend time, to curtail the distractions, to control technology rather than let it control us.  

We don't need to defend this choice.  Or apologize.  Indeed, we may be one of the last generations to understand it is a choice.


Wednesday, August 10, 2016

A Balancing Act

"The word happiness would lose its meaning if it were not balanced by sadness."
~ Carl Jung

I was reminded of Jung's quote this past week as it has been a week of both pronounced happiness and pronounced sadness.  In the midst of news that two friends had been diagnosed with cancer and an acquaintance had committed suicide, we also got the news that John's biopsy for possible prostate cancer had proven negative.  Sadness and happiness within a matter of days,

I think I first grasped this idea on a Saturday almost 50 years ago, although I couldn't have expressed it as such that day.  Early that morning my ex and I, visiting our families for the first time since we had married and moved to California, were awakened with a frantic call from my grandmother.  Grandpa was having a heart attack.  We raced to their home to see him being put into an ambulance, and within an hour, got the news that he had died.  

While my parents and aunts and uncles attempted to console my grandmother and each other, I, as the eldest grandchild, was assigned the task of helping my siblings and cousins stay calm in the midst of Sicilian grief.  How I managed, I can't recall, but somehow we got through the morning.

And then, that afternoon, I changed clothes and attended the wedding of my ex's younger sister, the original reason for our visit.  A death and grief in the morning, a wedding and joy in the afternoon.  I do recall, vividly, two clear, distinct thoughts -  "This is surrealistic." Followed in the next breath - "I guess this is just the nature of life."

I expect, as we go forward, there will be more weeks like this past one.  Weeks with news that someone or some ones we love are facing a health challenge or have died.  We are, after all in our 70's now, living in a community that attracts retirees.  We most certainly will not go unscathed.  I have recognized this for some time.  What is clearer to me, however, is my responsibility to seek the happy moments, to create them with greater attention and diligence, and always, always to be grateful for them.