The Zeitgeist

October 7, 2013

               I just stepped into the zeitgeist of technology.  Yes, I dumped my Droid and bought the new iphone, but I promise, this won’t be one of those Apple-proselytizing, Droid-bashing, born-again tirades about how my technology is better than yours.  Honestly, I hate those people (my husband excluded).  Plus, using Apple is not new to me.  My ipad has been a third wheel in my marriage bed for long enough for me to have an intimate knowledge of the power of Apple.  So it’s not like anything in my world changed that dramatically, except that somehow it did, a little internal shift when no one was looking.  

You see this morning, after dropping my daughter off at school, I crawled back into bed in a stupor of lethargy and exhaustion, and tried to go back to sleep.  But despite my utter fatigue, sleep would have nothing to do with me.  Normally, when I’m not feeling my best, I turn to the television to distract me from my own misery.  But today, I was too lazy to roll to the other side of my king-sized bed and get the remote.  Too weary to hoist my hefty ipad, I reached for my svelte new 5S and tinkered.  It was time to figure this thing out. 

I mindlessly hit the Newstand icon on my phone.  Because the phone was new, the folder was completely empty -- an open slate. So, in my ultra-consumer haste to fill everything that can be filled, including my growing ennui, I went shopping (but fear not, my head never left the pillow).  In the store, I saw oodles of great reading choices, along with a free issue of the Atlantic Weekly.  I’ve always heard amazing things about the Atlantic Weekly from people I’ve respected.  Too lazy to stroll the virtual aisles any further than the first two rows, I thought what the heck and downloaded the free issue from itunes (I recommend you do the same; then buy a subscription.) 

I propped my arms up on a pillow and proceeded to read a fascinating article about a plan to reduce the costs of prescription medicines, eradicate many third world diseases, and release pharmaceutical companies from the need to overcharge for drugs in order to pay off their research and design (R&D).  Wow, not bad for a morning when I felt too tired to crawl out of bed.  I didn’t even know that I was thirsting for knowledge when I turned on my phone, but somehow the knowledge woke me up on many levels. 

Apparently, if all the countries in the World Health Organization put just .01% of their GDP (an amount the US government is already spending on research grants) towards financially rewarding people who discover cures, pharmaceutical companies could now pay for their R&D without the need to gouge consumers with the price of medicine.  Once the financial reward for the discovery is paid, no patent is necessary (or allowed), because companies don’t need to control the sale of the drug in order recoup their R&D costs.  They get paid for the discovery, pure and simple, sales are open to others.  This could lead to an explosion of innovation as scientists pool their knowledge. Plus, more research would be done in areas which desperately need addressing, but lack the potential for financial remuneration.  (FYI – More R&D money is spent on fighting male pattern baldness than fighting malaria, because there’s more money to be made. Egads!) 

I enjoy being reminded that there are some incredibly smart people out there with marvelously creative solutions.  So many days I feel completely incapable of making an impact on the greater world, especially on days when I’m collapsed in my bed in a haze of exhaustion.  I’m comforted to know someone out there has the skills and position to do real good.  All of a sudden I feel more hopeful. 

Then my new cell phone rings. With the flick of my thumb, I answer.  It’s my sister.  We spend the next half hour catching up, despite the fact that she lives three thousand miles away and is running errands while I’m lying on my back, rejoicing in the wonders of my Tempurpedic. Our world is so much bigger now, yet smaller at the same time.  Before hanging up, I tell her to check out the article in the June issue of the Atlantic Weekly

After our goodbyes, I thumb through email on my phone, discovering an old Facebook posting from my high school friend Mariette.  She’s posted a link to her blog post “Awe and Wonder at Google Zeitgeist.”  I figure I can use a little awe and wonder in my life, so I click through.  I am hooked by her words and insights, although a bit skeptical when she says that “In a 2010 study of thousands of the most emailed stories by the New York Times, researchers at the University of Pennsylvania discovered that stories about science were among the most forwarded.” Geeks! I snort haughtily.  No one does that! 

I watch a clip of a renegade gardener from South Central who uses gardening metaphors to talk about our relationship with the world.  Since I just finished talking with my sister about her love of gardening, I forward the link to her, figuring she’ll like it. 

Next I watch a video clip about a sixteen year old who has figured out a way to make compostable plastic out of banana peels because she hates to see so much plastic floating in the rivers and ocean.  Super-geek, I think jealously, wondering if I should forward that to my super-smart nephew, who might have an instant crush on this brilliant Turkish beauty who speaks near-perfect English. 

YouTube, as if by magic, now knows my interests and offers me a list of clips with similar content.  I click on an interview with a scientist who has cured leukemia in over thirty patients by teaching their bodies’ T-cells to kill the cancer (but he can’t yet use the word “cure” yet because the process is only three years old, so the patients have been cancer-free for up to only three years).  I’m blown away.  There’s a cure for cancer in the pipeline and I hadn’t even heard about it?!  I email my sister to check out the cancer cure clip. 

I now feel fully awake.  When I picked up my iphone, I felt drained, exhausted, and uninspired.  What I found on the web has jump-started me mind, body and soul.  All of a sudden, the world feels like such an interesting, exciting place.  I feel inspired to write.  I climb out of bed and spend the day blogging (and reading, and listening, and watching).  I can’t believe the wealth of information I have access to -- at any time, from almost any place. 

I go back to Facebook to find the link to my friend’s blog.  In the process, I wander across this poem written long ago by Rose Milligan and recently posted by another friend.  I think this excerpt aptly describes one of my current quandaries. Like everyone, I have so many responsibilities (a job, a home, a family, and a sometimes-worn-out body to take care of) that I find very little time to do the things I love, like write.  There isn’t time to do everything and go everywhere. 

…Dust if you must, but there’s not much time,
With rivers to swim and mountains to climb,
Music to hear and books to read,
Friends to cherish and life to lead…

Today, I put the dusting aside to rest, and wound up swimming in (and writing about) the river of technology.  That river led me to some of the smartest, most creative people in our world.  Normally, I would not have access to any of them, but today, I got to listen and learn from the comforts of my bedroom.  It didn’t even take very long (much quicker, in fact, than meeting a friend for lunch.) Our access to people, knowledge and our world has truly changed.   

I forward another link.  Then it hits me.  I am one of those people who forwards science articles.  When did I become such a geek?  Or more importantly, when did I forget that I’ve always been geek?  I may be a tired geek, perhaps a behind-the-times geek, but a geek none-the-less -- a born-again geek, the worst kind.  I don’t just forward science articles, I blog about them.  And then create hyperlinks to them.  Good heavens!!  (By the way, here’s the link to my friend’s blog post, in case you were wondering. I also recommend visiting and subscribing to Scientific American. They have a fun page filled with science projects for kids.) 

So many days when I go online, all I see are links to the most forwarded cat videos and clips detailing who’s dancing naked in her new music video.  There are so many days when I get sidetracked by those links.  I feel so old, so last-generation, so completely inept at using all these new-fangled gadgets. When I was a kid, there wasn’t even internet yet!” I grumble incomprehensibly to myself.  I’ve been surfing the net all wrong!  Okay, I admit I was intrigued by that dance video, but don’t tell anybody.  I'm too embarrassed to create a hyperlink to it.  Then again, given that it's had over 212 MILLION views in the last month, I think you've already seen it. So much for science.  Or rather, look what science enables us do!  

I thought my innate geekiness would mean I was completely internet-savvy, but learning to use new technologies takes work.  As the world evolves, so does our access to it.  Sure there are days when I’ve accidentally discover vibrant art on Etsy; superhuman, acrobatic dancers on Youtube; inspiring poems on Facebook; dinner ideas on allrecipes; and even fix-it videos on Youtube.  But there are so many days when I don’t. There is so much on the web, I can’t even begin to comprehend all the good stuff that I’m missing.   

So the question becomes how do I find what I don’t even know exists, especially when it didn’t exist yesterday?  We’re standing at the edge of this most powerful, swiftly moving river.  It’s evolving faster than humans.  It’s also evolving for us and because of us.  It’s giving us more tools for connection than we’ve ever had. The trick is to find the good without getting swallowed up by the quicksand. 

Word of mouth has always been a powerful tool.  Maybe I’ll start there.  I’ll spend more time talking with some of those young kids who seem to know so much about our new world, like my daughter and students.  I’ll also talk to my friends.  My friends and I haven’t become completely obsolete.  Different generations have different wisdoms.  I’ll listen to my science friends, my artist friends, my husband, and educators.  That's how I'll find the movers and shakers. It’s all about who you know.. and who you follow.  Connections, linking, and sharing. People.  That’s what this technology is all about, isn’t it?  People... Everything changes and everything stays the same.

 

First Dates

January 10, 2013

              As our family walks through the mall, my husband and I joke that these are the boots we will buy for our daughter when she goes on her first date.  Or perhaps we’ll buy her a pair with even pointier spikes, like the ones pictured on these yellow shoes. 


                We jest that the yellow shoes are much too dainty for our purposes.  We want boots that clearly say, “Don’t mess with me.”  We want our daughter to know she has the power to say, “No,” even when her wo...


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Secret Santa's Secret Elves

December 19, 2012
           

It was Secret Santa Season of my senior year, when I trudged up the stairs of my high school with my igloo-sized coat and my three hundred pound backpack. I opened my narrow locker door to put my things away when I discovered a Christmas tree had been shoved into my locker.  This was no new-age, dwarf, miniature, genetically-engineered, baby version of a Christmas tree.  This was a full-sized, old-fashioned, cut from the woods Christmas tree.  There wasn’t one sm...


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The Accidental Couch Potato

June 5, 2012

              It’s an oxymoron.  By retreating from the world, by sitting behind my computer for hours on end, with my fingers glued to the keyboard, I somehow experience life most deeply.  I always thought that the best way to experience life was by seizing every potential adventure and living every moment to the fullest.  For so many years, I was go, go, go.  But now, with the unceasing demands of our over-connected, over-stimulating culture constantly intruding into my days, I often find...


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Rock On!

May 23, 2012

Last night I fulfilled a fantasy I didn’t even know I had.  I sang backup vocals in a band.  Yes, at 46, I went to a band rehearsal, hopped up on stage, and sang my little heart out.  I even played guitar.  Most people get this kind of thing out of their system in their teens.  What can I say? I’m a late bloomer.  It’s the most fun I’ve had in long a time. I think it’s something everyone should do once, if not before you hit forty, then at least after.

I can’t claim it was a roc...


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Half Empty or Half Full?

May 16, 2012
I'm not sure if this means I'm overly optimistic, or overly pessimistic.  Today, I decided to surprise my husband by taking in the trash cans.  After I wheeled our empty garbage bin in from the street, I went back out to the street to get the recycle bin.  I checked under the recycle bin's lid and noticed it was half-empty.  For some odd reason, I took that as a good sign and promptly dragged it down the driveway towards the side of our house.  When I got to the side door, I remembered that h...
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Happy Mother's Day!

May 4, 2012
Make sure to read my essays on Motherhood and send a link to all the moms in your life!

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The Seeds of Life

May 4, 2012
            I’m not sure when I learned that a woman is born with all of her eggs.  It might have been when I was in seventh grade, being tortured by my state-mandated health education class.  It could have been when I was in my early twenties, hanging out with friends at college, trading odd facts and little-known tidbits.  Or maybe it was when I was in my mid-thirties, when my friends and I started worrying about our aging eggs and whether or not we could have children.  

In my late thir...


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On Maturity

May 4, 2012
I've finally learned to live in the moment.  The down side is, I'm so focused on the moment, I never know what day it is.

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Oops

May 4, 2012
Yes, there's nothing here.  I can't seem to get this post to delete...
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