Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Together in different worlds.

My grandchild and her grandfather, both researching a topic, side by side, talking about their findings, sharing wisdom and hints, back and forth, about a topic they both delved in; she, for her term paper; he, just for fun.

For many family members, the gathering around the table to share a meal still exists, where a certain time and place become sacrosant, and traditions continue for generations. It was that way for my family back in Italy when I was growing up; it was mostly that way during our children's growing up years, the seventies, the eighties, the nineties. Yet, at about the middle of the seventies, the computer appeared, and families were using it for a variety of things. My children gravitated to it early in their lives, and their education and recreation were accommodated by the many uses the computer served.

To say that we lost those good times when we all sat around the dinner table, or fussed together to put a meal on the table before sitting down, and shared our daily issues with each other because today we no longer take that time to sit together is being nostalgic at the least, and plain insensitive to our modern world for the most part. We lead a much busier life than ever before; and our work follows us home, and even on vacation.

We are connected, and can choose to be so one hundred per cent of the time. Or not. We can "unplug" and choose not to answer phones and check emails or facebook messages. We choose to stay active or not. We choose to remain in a circle of friends and relatives, or not. We choose to know a lot about politics, or not. We choose. And we have many ways to stay involved that we forget many times that all of it, the drama and the comedy will go on whether we are involved or not.

In my lifetime, I saw the electric grid connect our house to the rest of town close to the time I started school. Good thing too, or homework would have been sloppy. The radio was next, a great big contraption that became the gathering place soon after supper. We sat, staring at the radio till late in summer, listening to the world's news, and the world's music. When television arrived at the neighbor's house, we were invited after supper and accepted with gratitude for the opportunity to sit quietly for a Perry Como's special around Thanksgiving. The lavish table was set with abundant food and festive decorations, representing what American homes were like. I remember going home after that program and dreaming about America. I was already living in another world five years before that thought became a reality.

Not once, in our technological evolution did we say to each other, we can't have this device that allows me to work anywhere, to work faster, communicate instantly across the universe, understand the world and its forces with better clarity. We are inventors and dreamers, constantly seeking ways to improve our understandings and capabilities.

We could blame our misery to fire, to the first force we discovered that changed our taste buds, and our survival rate. And from there, every single thing we have shaped out of the elements to create, connect, improve and lift us into another world, another space. Or, we could set a lavish table now and then, and give thanks to our ancestors and public education where we learned to connect the dots in unusual ways so we could have running hot water at the touch of a faucet.

Yes, we are still the humans on the prairies, or the caves, hunting for food, collecting wood and poking holes in shells. Only now, we have more choices on how to live, and we have more choices on how to stay together. As we become more fragile, we no longer have to visit our doctors for check ups; we no longer have to wait days and weeks for test results; we no longer have to collect wild herbs and make a poultice for our hacking cough. Our worlds have shrunk. But our horizons have expanded.

It's a great time to live.


yaya said...

I agree that it's a great time to live. It's also fun to watch shows like "Downton Abbey" that take us back to a time when it was proper to dress for dinner, wear gloves, send notes, and generally have a sense of beauty and grace that's lacking in today's world. Maybe that's why that show is popular. I've come to enjoy the computer, the ease that we can prepare dinner or get around in this world. Then there's the fact that Jack and I heat our home with wood. We have to gather, cut, split, load, stack, stoke the furnace..etc. Funny how the modern can clash with a way of life that's more pioneer! That's because we have the luxury of choosing to do that or use electricity or gas to do the heating. It's a different world than our parents and I know my kids live a different life than I did growing up. But it's still a great life isn't it?

Linda Myers said...

Completely agree. We still have choices about how connected or unconnected we are from others. If we choose to be connected, it is much, much easier now.

joeh said...

I agree, and those simpler times were nice, we can choose the simpler life today and few do, back in the day the simple life was the only choice. I prefer having the choice.

kj said...

rosaria, this is a fantastic thoughtful enlightening and informative essay. and hopeful! and affirming. as i read it i found myself thinking about the details and priorities of my own life ( a sure sign that a good writer is at work!)

such a balance is required. I work at that. i bring my grandchildren back to the days of quiet games without moving parts and they bring me forward to the glitz of video action. and in between, we make a pizza and i make up stories about an iguana named emily or a little boy who becomes brave.

it is refreshing to read of the solid hope you share here. thank you, my friend.


Sally Wessely said...

This article needs to be submitted to some big time news outlet for publishing. You are so right in what you have said here. Your wisdom shines through once again. We do live in a different world that the one we grew up in. We can use our devices that allow us to connect to each other and the outside world for growth and advancement of our education and social contacts, or we can use them to disconnect from each other and the world. We don't have to be rigid about the use of these devices. On second thought, I think some need to disconnect from their devices while driving!

erin said...

i don't know... but you know me, rosaria. i'm conflicted by the ever changing advances, the so-called progresses and luxuries. i'd not draw the line at the dark ages but societally i wish we could somehow step back and evaluate, truly evaluate where real and deep value resides in life.

just moments ago i finished a russian movie viewed on-line. so who am i to say anything? yet the movie was written by a man who watched his russian villages destroyed in the development of hydro-electric plants. Farewell, made in 1983 by Elem Klimov (whose wife wrote the screen-play and began filming, but died in a car accident, and so he finished it). you can view it on you-tube. i highly recommend it.

i read your memoirs. what will today's children's memoirs look like? i'm afraid they might be lists of things marked favorite, or liked, if they are remembered at all.

no. i don't go so easily into the future.

with love))

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Rosaria - we can still have that balance ... but joining in with research or looking at similar ideas on the computer can lead to great discussions. Then we all sit round a table for our meals if we're together .. I certainly still expect it - perhaps if I had kids - there'd be more freedom .. I'm not sure - but KJ effectively is saying what I want to say, as do you ..

It's a choice - but people and engagement are important, family and friends essential .. cheers Hilary

My Life in the Charente said...

Computers are amazing but I miss the sit down and chat around a family meal. I have a very old mobile and I use it for emergencies only. I don't want to be in permanent contact with the world or use it as a camera. I have a small camera that I can carry which suits me fine.
I have to admit to loving the 50's, 60' and 70's we worked hard but life was less complicated. When I first got married we had no electricity, the wood oven was a marvel and all heating of water etc was wood. We never lacked for anything and home grown food tasted so much better in the old oven. Yes I would miss my computer knowing what I know now, but I would love to go back to those early years. Diane

Z said...

What an excellent post and wonderfully well written. Thank you.

Beryl Ament said...

I think back to the essays I wrote in school or when I was at university. All that research in books and in tedious footnotes. All those trips to the library. I don't regret not having a computer. But how helpful it would have been, not to provide me with research but to check out those odd allusions. My husband tells the story of a German (naturally) scholar who was working his way through a book to find a certain quote. He accidentally knocked the book on the floor and it opened at exactly the correct page. He picked the book up,closed it and started looking again from the beginning.

troutbirder said...

Well said and I agree wholeheartedly. Still I resent smart phone people who lurk waiting in group conversation to "correct" even the most minute factual error with the "correct" answer from Google. :)

Tom Sightings said...

I like your attitude! For us, with children spread far apart and no grandchildren, technology is the ONLY way we keep family together, thru facebook, Im'ing, phone, messaging -- and occasionally the airplane.

the walking man said...

Rosaria you are a more forgiving person than I am. I am still stuck in the technology that was available in 1999 and most of the time I find it easy to ignore and not good for much than an occasional drive by hell; yes I write still and drop the best of the newest pieces on the blog but how is a phone smarter than I am, or a computer that I have to command and constantly maintain in order to get it to bend itself to my desires?

I think i could detach and drop away without a problem, it hasn't been all that hard a thing to do in my reality, reality. The virtual reality is just a place my wife can use to make video phone calls to our grandson, currently in Thailand. Bless you for keeping up with the evolution of revolution--I have seen enough to know i wish i, like my grandmother had been born in 1887 when invention was done to fill a need not a pocket or another road to physical isolation.

Maggie May said...

Yes, I agree with you. Although there are many things wrong with our world, technology is great for keeping in touch and being up to date with things and furthering out knowledge. However, social skills do seem to suffer somewhat, especially in the young as we still remember how to converse and integrate!
Maggie x

A Cuban In London said...

I like the photo and I think it encapsulates the way technology can join generations, rather than separating them. Thanks, i really appreciated that post.

Greetings from London.

Cynthia said...

I enjoyed your memory of first watching television at your neighbor's.
I do miss some of the family connectedness of years ago. It was dependent on proximity--my family growing up all lived within a few miles of each other and were able to stay very involved in each others' lives because of that. Today none of my family lives in the same town and only two live in the same state! So I am grateful for the technology of today to be able to stay in touch. One of my daughters is in Vietnam for two weeks and I am so happy we can "talk" through texting a couple times a day and I can see what she is doing through photos. Instantly! Isn't that amazing!
Thanks for visiting my blog today, Rosaria. What a pretty name!