My Very Dear Fans, Friends, Fiends, and Foes,
As my father would say in opening his letters to anyone, I hope this letter reaches you in the best of health. He had a very beautiful, perfect handwriting from years of rulers-on-wrists instruction. The only penmanship I have seen that is of equal quality is my daughter, The Cat’s. When I was in Basic Training and after I moved out here, I always looked forward to his letters and they would always have the same exact opening. Something he learned in school apparently. I was thinking that we will probably have lost what used to be considered simple, basic skills like penmanship, spelling, and letter-writing in a few short years, which got me onto the subject of the pros and cons and ups and downs of technology.
I was chatting with someone this morning about technology. She is an officer in one of those clubs named with Greek letters and had some info to communicate to her group. She typed it up and zapped it off in an e-mail almost immediately. When I was her age, 25+some years ago, even if she had one of those new-fangled electric typewriters like an IBM Selectric she would still have had to type each letter individually; use carbon paper (hence the term “CC”); or mimeograph it to make more than one copy. Then, depending on the nature of the missive, address each envelope by hand, lick it, lick the stamp and send it off.
This started me thinking about technology in general and the way we live now. Here I sit with a “notebook” propped against the steering wheel, just typing merrily away, saving the document on a drive no bigger than a roll of Pez candy, but which could hold innumerable documents of this type. Well, innumerable to me, because I am not going to do the math and figure out how many bits per word and how many words. I have math whiz friends who might do that for me if I asked and I could probably figure it out if I worked at it. But I don’t have to even do any of that, just find a website where someone has already done the work for us all.
I got to thinking about “us all” as well. Before Al Gore invented the Internet, I would never have met most of the people who read my blog nowadays. Readers from Singapore and Scotland and Alabama and Louisiana and foreign countries like Washington D.C. What? The people in Washington are so out of touch with the people they are alleged to serve and live to such a totally different standard from their constituents that they might as well not only be from a different country but another planet. I have people who have read my stuff from all education levels and backgrounds and many different walks of life, like soldiers, architects, manly blue-collar men and women, engineers, teachers, medical people, just a veritable plethora of diversity who never would have heard of me or read my stuff. This is incredible.
When my buddy Carter was blown up in Iraq (What? No he’s always looked like that. Really.) I knew about it the next day and never missed a correspondence with him. I can have a virtual pillow fight with my favorite non-niece whom I otherwise might not ever have heard from again after her visit. I know that sounds frivolous, but there is a reason it does and that is because it is, in fact, frivolous. But, what’s a little frivolity?
Not only frivolity but what I used to have to go to the library and check out newspapers and encyclopedias for is at my fingertips as well. What I used to have to trust someone to represent me in Washington for and about, perhaps a bill before the congress, I can now read for myself and take what action I deem appropriate. I can encourage or discourage my representative, warning him that I vote and have friends who vote who also read what I have to say, with an inexpensive call to his or her office or a letter or via e-mail.
I had started out this entry thinking to wax nostalgic for the good old days but then I realized that some o’ them days warn’t so good neither. If being a (published) writer were ever within my reach, it is nowadays. I guess that I feel like the writer of Ecclesiastes (an online test showed that this was “my” book of the Bible, but I have stated that many times, anyway) had a depth of wisdom when he said:
“Say not thou, What is the cause that the former days were better than these? for thou dost not enquire wisely concerning this.”Ecclesiates 7:10
Sure the good old days had a lot going for them, but the good new days have a lot to say on their behalf as well. I would never have had a blog back then because the documents that fit on this aptly-named thumb drive would have required a building several blocks wide and some stories high.
One of my mom’s favorite songs in the whole world, which she would sing in her off-key, off-beat, tuneless, tone-deaf way, was, “One Day at a Time, Sweet Jesus.” And she would often say, “Herbie, you can’t go back and change the past and we don’t know if tomorrow’s even going to come” at which point my dad would pipe in and say, “That’s why you’ve got to live each day like it was your last because one of these times it will be.”
Well, I will close with the thought that an e-mail, even the most sentimental of e-mails, will never have the same feel, the same emotional texture as finding a lost letter, with that flowing script more beautiful and precise than any font on the computer, from my dad in a box.
Herb “One Day at a Time” Thiel
Remember, the Good Book says, “Lo, this only have I found, that God hath made man upright; but they have sought out many inventions.” (Ecc 7:29)