We take so much for granted that I like to stop sometimes and just breathe.
My great-grandmother Bessie who encouraged my love of reading had a Civil War portrait hanging in her living room. It was a relative of hers, dashing in full dress uniform ,who would smile at us when we would go to visit. She kept up with current events and minded her health regimen, always interested in the latest and greatest vitamin supplements available. Books, gardening and crossword puzzles occupied her free time. She painstakingly researched the family tree, spending countless hours at libraries. Never could she have envisioned something like Ancestry.com.
My grandmother Berthe lived to be nearly one hundred. She reminisced about growing up on the farm where she remembered the advent of indoor plumbing. She was a businesswoman, homemaker and renowned cook. In her time she witnessed innovations galore, welcoming marvels like television and microwave ovens. She loved the newest products in the grocery stores. She gardened and canned and entertained in her later years, always excited by events around the world. Imagine her amazement as a human being stepped onto moon surface.
Grandma has been gone for a relatively short time, less than twenty years. What blows my mind is all the things she did not have the chance to see. She would have loved On Demand and Netflix. The cell phones we carry that do not only conduct calls but are in fact miniature computers would have amazed her. QVC and home shopping? Inconceivable! Add in our laptops and I-pods… so many miracles of modern technology.
My children mock me for my limited understanding of technology. They have grown up with devices I can barely comprehend. In my own lifetime I remember the first color television coming into the house, the excitement of stereo, 8 track tapes, cam-corders, DVD and Blu-Ray. Now with a tap of a button I can facetime someone across the world. The world is so much larger because of these innovations, our ability to reach others unparalleled through time.
Yet we are also regressing as fast as we are progressing. Not many people have earth knowledge as my ancestors did. We lack the ability to research the old-fashioned way. We lack patience. Without the shortcuts of modern technology could we create fulfilling lives? Could we provide for our families and survive in nature as our forefathers could?
When I was a child I perceived America and American history to be an aeon long, my ancestors stretching back in time through forever. The reality is that a few generations separate us from the earliest settlers. We have lost much of the knowledge and experience they brought to our land, and in many cases we lack the iron determination to shape our own future. This is a loss which we must endeavor to correct.
Standing atop a castle in Ireland, thanks to modern transportation, I felt thousands of years of history under my feet. For the first time as an adult I appreciated how temporary and small our life spans are. Yet how great are our capacities for learning, growth and change. We must maintain a balance in the now, a welcoming of new technology with an appreciation for and understanding of the old ways. We are in our lives a bridge. To hold one side of the knowledge equation without the other is like building castles on quicksand. We must provide our children with true appreciation for history, skills for real survival, and methods of effective communication with which to face their future.
Their time will be upon us before we know it and ours but a memory. Let us round out our experiences and share with one another so that real life skills and technological advance blend seamlessly, that the beauty of our world with withstand all tests of time.