A collection of distilled sarcastic wisdom, numerous photographs, discussions of books and stuff to learn and more stuff to think about from a retired economics professor turned blogger and photographer.
When I first went to college in January of 1950, 450 miles away from my home in northwest Wyoming, I wrote a letter home to tell them I got to Laramie safely. We had no phone at home. The letter arrived four or five days later. I have boxes of handwritten letters from my mother and from various family members that are treasured keepsakes. Now all we get is emails. Quick and convenient, we can let everyone know each detail of our lives and never have to write a thoughtful letter or message again. Meanwhile, the US Postal Service is dying, raising postage and cutting service, both of which will merely exacerbate the financial plight of the Post Office. We can print out emails from family members, but a file of printed emails is as sterile as the ads in the Sunday newspapers. eCards have replaced the need to send a greeting card with a handwritten message, address an envelope, put a stamp on it, and take it to the post office mail box.
Now every time people get together, many of them pull out an iPhone, an iPad, or any of an assortment of electronic devices. Instead of talking to each other, they all are thumbing away, plinking away on text messages, reading trivia, playing games, and anything else to avoid talking to others in the room. Texting has become a road hazard as well as a communications hazard. Watching people driving almost universally produces a large number of people driving big SUVs and vans with one small hand and yapping on a cell phone or texting with the other. All of this so we don't miss a single second of everyone's boring lives and so we can share our most trivial details with the world. Has the world of electronic instant connectivity become so pervasive that we no longer either feel the need to talk to each other or no longer have the skills to do so? Soon two year olds will be given iPads and iPhones to communicate with their parents. No one learns how to write any more. All kids know how to do now (and many adults) is punch their thumbs quickly on often inane messages. Parker Penmanship skills? A skill from the Middle Ages. Kindergarten children will likely be confused if they are required to talk to each other.
Personally, I treasure my handwritten letters and I mourn for the loss of these wonderful artifacts from our lives. I would like to talk to people in a group instead of watching them plink plink plink thumb thumb thumb on their electronic devices. The Post Office may not be the only casualty of the electronic age. Writing and conversation are not far behind.
The most heralded, and, at the same time, the least effective rite of the New Year is about to begin: Making New Year's Resolutions. Dusting off last year's list is likely a starting place since odds are none of them were achieved, interest in them having lapsed by January 10 or earlier. And, chances are, last year's resolutions are likely a rerun of the previous year's, and the year before that, and the year before that, ad infinitum. In other words, we have motivations to change, such as when we think we are about to die, or when our doctor warns us to do this or else, or someone or something else inspires us momentarily to make Big Changes. But motivation dies early. After all, we have a whole year, twelve whole months, 365 whole days, to overcome our problems, repent of our sins, lose our weight, pay more attention to our family, clean out the attic and the garage, and so on. By January 5, we realize we have got by without doing any of this stuff so far, so why bother doing anything about any of it now? After all, the Lakers or the Knicks are playing, we're tired from a hard day of playing Word and checking our facebooks and our twitters and our emails and discussing last night's games around the water cooler. Something to think about. For five seconds, at least.