In my last post I shared a DIY toy to contribute to my Little Guy’s imaginative play. Trying to get a good photograph was a problem because he never stopped moving.
That smile makes my effort well worth it.
In thinking about cardboard box toys I was reminded of my youth and even my young adult years comparing them to the world I see around me today. It made me question if we are experiencing being human, being completely alive.
Technology plays a huge role in my thoughts lately. Many of you may have noticed I have been taking extended breaks from the online world, from the computer itself. I see too many sucked into their devices to the point that the real world around them is secondary.
I will probably sound like our grandparents who told stories we rolled our eyes to such as how far they walked with holes in their shoes but there are a couple of comparisons I’d like to make from my early life and today and how I see being human.
As a child we had one television, a black and white floor model. Coming from a large family we had a 25-inch black and while console television because it would be visible from anywhere in the larger room it sat in – my grandparents on the other hand still had a “tiny” 19-inch when they passed away.
We rarely watched the television other than Saturday morning cartoons, we were too busy playing with each other or hanging out with our friends. Instead of fidget spinners and tablets our prized possession was our bicycle, or in my case a toss-up between the bicycle and my books.
Our lives were loosely structured. Thursday was grocery shopping and our weekends filled with social activities. Those social activities included Friday night card games with extended family, cookouts with friends on Saturdays and Sundays involved church and a big cooked dinner that would provide enough leftovers separated into the makings for dinners the rest of the week. In the summer months Sunday afternoons were special because we visited friends who had farm stands to purchase fresh fruits and vegetables. Oh the delicious pies and cobblers that were created from those purchases.
My favorite memories of those years were when my grandmother’s aunt and uncle would come visit. Uncle John was a retired career Naval officer and Aunt Virginia was a real southern belle he had met when stationed in the south. After his retirement they relocated to Arizona to escape winter. Uncle John had as Aunt Virginia called it “colorful language” from his years in the Navy, which is where we get the phrase “cuss like a sailor”. He watched his language around us children unless he had a bit too much to drink and forgot about the children around him becoming the life of the party.
One such evening, I joined my grandparents and Aunt and Uncle for dinner out and then drinks after at our house. A friendly contest broke out between my uncle and grandfather (who served in the army during WWII) as to whether the Navy or Army had better songs. My grandmother saw where this was headed and pulled out a cassette recorder with the plug-in microphone to record the two men compete by singing the songs they remembered from their military days. Listening to the recording years later with my sons it was easy to pick up my giggles even though I’d tried to cover my mouth to conceal any noise that would interfere with the two men’s singing.
My youth was filled with characters both family and friends and adventures I will remember for the rest of my life. There was the year I turned eight and was allowed to keep score for a bowling tournament for the blind because I was proficient in math and understood the scoring from my own years of bowling on a league since I turned six. Children were permitted, even encouraged, to participate in what were considered adult activities which encouraged us to master the skills we would need to join in.
There was the summer I saw the Grand Canyon for the first time and saw people riding mules along a narrow ledge into the canyon. Oh how I wanted to do this but alas because of my weak muscles it was deemed too dangerous as the ledge was too narrow for an adult to walk next to me in case I couldn’t maintain my mount.
There was a gift of a pony from complete strangers because they wanted to provide me with exercise that would work all my muscles and extend the number of years I would be able to walk. This came about so incredulously today I can’t imagine strangers coming together like this. I was only four years old had just been diagnosed with Muscular Dystrophy, my grandparents left the doctor’s office and stopped for lunch to let the diagnosis sink in. They were visibly upset and talking about all the things they wanted to share with me in the little time the doctors said I had left. Suddenly, this couple arrived at their table and apologized for overhearing their conversation but wanted to help by giving me a pony for exercise.
I mentioned Thursdays were our grocery shopping days but other families chose their day to shop for the week’s groceries depending on what day was payday or more likely convenient for the woman of the house to borrow the car from her husband. I can’t recall a single household that had more than one car for family members to use.. This allowed for more socializing. Having a car for shopping days it was common to stop and visit friends. We would stop to visit a friend on our day out while another friend would stop by on their day out.
These visits were unannounced so the percolator, our coffee pot of the day, was always in easy reach to put on for guests and the kitchen table always had a fresh tablecloth on it as that’s where the socializing took place between adults.
I look back and see those days as ones where we fully experienced being human. We had an easy balance between home life and adventure. As I see it, even as a self-proclaimed loner, humans are social animals who need contact with others to be truly fulfilled.
We, at least in the US, don’t have many social encounters any more. We’ve replaced the weekly bowling league for Facebook. We’ve replaced conversation for staring at a screen, be that a television or a computer.
We use Facebook and other social media platforms to feel connected to others but knowing what real socializing feels like I find these platforms to lack in real substance. Could eliminating most forms of depression be as simple as connecting with others again such as joining a civic group?
I’ve watched people out for dinner spend more time on their phones than they spend talking to the people they are dining with. I’ve even seen people texting individuals in the same room rather than talking directly to them -something banned in my home.
I don’t follow the new tech devices so I’m a little behind. For instance I asked my son what was with people playing with their bulky watches all the time, only to learn these aren’t just watches and that they are connected to your email and other platforms. We’ve gone from carrying our phones everywhere so we are never out of touch to now wearing them on our bodies. What’s next, implanting devices into our brains so we don’t even need our fingers to access our messages?
I hear about the self driving cars and am thankful I no longer drive. I mistrust self-driving cars as my belief is that a machine is only as smart as the people who programmed it and fear horrible accidents. As one who loved driving, why do we need to have a car that drives for us. When I first got my driver’s license my grandfather informed me he wouldn’t allow me to be lazy enough to drive a short distance if my two feet could get me there (not an issue as I knew I needed to move to continue walking and walked every where I could even after purchasing a car in those early years before children). How would he feel about passively being driven around by our car? I imagine I would feel pretty lazy to get in a car that would drive me around instead of doing it myself.
When I heard my sister remark recently that every home needs an Echo so young children will have a reason to learn to talk I was stunned and dismayed that anyone would believe an inanimate object would incentivize a child to speak over communicating with the people around them. I wondered should I have been surprised to hear anyone who has embraced technology, as my sister has, to extend the use of such technology to what I see as a human role.