Sunday, August 28, 2011
I am getting older
The world has changed so much since I was born almost seven decades ago. Even though birth and death are major events to an individual, they continue to occur all over the world at every moment, not just with humanity but with everything. It's usually so gradual that we don't notice, but if I think of the world as it was when I was young and compare it to the world I live in today, the differences are staggering. The population of the United States has more than doubled. How could that not be noticeable? But it also has happened gradually and although I realize how many more people are around, I always think that it is simply where I am living, and that somewhere the world exists as it did when I was little. But it's just not true. It's gone. The Wizard of Oz was made in 1939, and we still watch it occasionally on TV. Every single person, from stage hand to Munchkin to actor, has died. There was no massive catastrophe that caused this, just the simple passage of time.
If I could see a map of the United States with a light winking on at every birth, and a light winking off at every death, I might notice an upward trend. More people are being born than are dying in this part of the world, and this not only changes the quality of each life, but the sheer numbers cause me to realize that it cannot continue at this rate for much longer. There are more than 312 million of us in the US today, and when I was born, it was around 140 million. And even though I'm old now, it's taken less than seventy years for this enormous change to occur. The demographics are fascinating to me, and if you are interested, take a look for yourself. This is just in my small corner of the world; it's happening everywhere. I remember when I was in school learning about the fact that the world population would reach 6 billion by the turn of the century. At the time, this represented a doubling of the 3 billion on the planet. I couldn't even begin to imagine how different life would be, but the gradual rate of change has made it noticeable but not incredibly so. Certainly nothing like I imagined.
The other side of the passage of time has been the incredible rate of change in connectivity. I'm sitting here with a laptop that is connected to the world in ways that I could never have imagined even a decade ago. Yesterday I video chatted with my sister on Skype; this morning I've googled several items to check facts or download a picture, and I am writing this article on a blog that will appear on your own computer instantly after I hit "publish." If you try to imagine how that sentence would have puzzled someone who tried to make sense of it just a few short years ago: what's a Google? Skype? Blog?
It all seems so natural to me. I can hardly imagine how different my life would be without my connections. Smart Guy and I each have a cellphone and can talk to each other while out walking or while driving somewhere (although here in Washington state, I now pull over if the phone rings so I don't get a ticket). But how cool is that? And the best part is that I can TURN IT OFF if I feel like it. I remember how annoyed I would get when I would receive a phone call when I wasn't feeling receptive. All these changes have come in the past few years, too. We don't even have a landline any more.
Thinking about the passage of time, of the inevitability of change, I feel a little like I'm standing on the edge of a cliff looking down into a beautiful valley. I realize that as I can see everything from this vantage point, I can also feel the breeze lifting my hair and the rush of exhilaration that comes from having climbed this high.