HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE By Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) | Updated May 10, 2015 – 12:00am
I love science, new inventions, gadgets — everything that propels the direction of modern life to newer experiences. But I am also afraid of them for the same reason.
But while I fear it at times, I also marvel at what man is capable of doing. Almost daily, new discoveries are changing our lives, every aspect of which seems to be undergoing software upgrade.
Being alive at this time, in my 60s, I have the unique vantage point of one who grew up in an earlier, slower time, and now fully embraces the conveniences of a fast and modern world.
One might say, I was born in an analogue world when life was simpler, slower and easier to comprehend. It required a different type of education and mindset. We actually read entire books that we borrowed from a real library or bought at the store. We physically held our books, turned the pages and read every word.
We were also less distracted. We did not have gadgets that drew our attention away from what we had to do. We actually wrote out our schoolwork by hand and typed our theses using a clunky typewriter. We did not cut and paste and we had no autocorrect. We could not resize or change fonts, or automatically center our documents after typing. We had to consider everything before we even put a word down on paper.
When we planned our weekends, we took it as a matter of faith that people would show up. We had no such things as cellphones and texting to nag our friends with.
Such was our simple, reliable, analogue life.
Today, we are deluged with more information than we need and that comes to us in real time. We are so connected to each other, we can actually send an email, tweet or an FB comment to anyone on the planet, so long as we have access to the Internet. We are in touch 24/7.
I used to wonder at the pace of life during Rizal’s era. When he was in Europe, Rizal would receive letters from family and friends that were written months earlier. And it would take more than a couple of months for his answer to reach them.
As one who has lived in a slower time at a slower pace but is now thoroughly attuned to modern contraptions, I am disturbed by the disconnect between how human beings throughout the centuries learned the important things that take time to internalize, and how in this new world, people are used to — even demand — instant gratification.
For example, it takes a lot of time to learn patience, gain wisdom, be an adult, build character and develop deep relationships. This time requirement goes against the very grain of modern life where people expect that learning be delivered instantly.
In my experience in a decade of teaching, I find that most students have very little grasp of anything that happened in the world beyond 40 years ago. In general, their understanding of history is bereft of depth and analysis. They have short attention spans, which means lessons must be presented in small bites for them to absorb and appreciate. They want things summarized, encapsulated; they have no patience for long readings.
I sometimes fear that the way technology has made everything too convenient for everyone, could make today’s generation too impatient, too soft, too demanding in their quest for love, compassion, wisdom, friendship and other unquantifiables. They could miss the real thing and settle for cuteness, instant attraction, feeling good, constant stimulation and shallowness.
I know I sound old. As I write this I can hear my mom’s generation complaining about mine. But I could be wrong. After all, every generation in the last 200 years must have fretted the same way as they saw their children born into and living in a braver, newer, faster world than they did. The industrial revolution saw children of farmers flock to the cities and go for experiences so different from what their parents knew. And the world is better for it.
There are conflicting insights on the subject of generations. One says, “The ultimate test of man’s conscience may be his willingness to sacrifice something today for future generations whose words of thanks will not be heard.” (That’s US Senator Gaylord Nelson, founder of Earth Day). I think my mom’s generation must have resonated more with this quote. Life then was about giving their kids the chances and opportunities they never had.
To represent my generation, I quote the American novelist Chuck Palahniuk: “Every generation wants to be the last. Every generation hates the next trend in music they can’t understand. We hate to give up those reins of our culture. To find our own music playing in elevators. The ballad for our revolution, turned into background music for a television commercial. To find our generation’s clothes and hair suddenly retro.” This comes from a generation that feels more entitled and is more narcissistic than their parents were.
I worry a lot about the future. But I console myself with the belief that every succeeding generation will likely worry about their own and the generation that follows theirs.
I trust that this present generation will find its own way to learn the life lessons every human being has had to learn since the beginning of time. Today’s millennials may be too impatient for my taste, but I know they will carve their own path, however I feel about it.
After all, what choice do they have?
For a baby boomer like me who sometimes asks what I did wrong and what I could have done better, I am comforted by words shared by Peter Krausse from the TV series Parenthood: “Parenthood… It’s about guiding the next generation, and forgiving the last.”