Our sun was resting behind a cluster of clouds as the day was coming to an end. The immense power of our star peaking out from behind the clouds struck me as a special moment. Slowly, the sole ‘giver-of-life’ to this planet came into full view as it settled towards the horizon. The magnificence of the event created a sense of power in my body as I marveled at the unmatched beauty and grace of our sun. Since I consider myself much more of a secular than religious person, one might ask how I then fail to see god’s hand in this beauty. The universe, or as some like to refer to it, nature, is my deity. Every time I look to the heavens, I take a deep breath as I marvel at the countless miles of empty space and the unfathomable number of galaxies, stars and planets. Many people search for god through the writings of man or deep in their souls, but I search for inspiration provided to me by the complexity of the world around me. Many of these answers are seen in the eyes of our fellow humans or a stone lying on the ground; mystery is all around us, all we need to do is open our eyes to see, while we ask the right questions.
Buuuzzzz, the alarm clock goes off; the radio comes on with all the terrible news that happened yesterday. Just to make sure I wake up on time, I also set my cell phone to ring; and there it goes, right on time. I immediately check the 20 text messages on my cell phone and answer the ones I want to; then I go to the computer to check my email and delete a whole bunch of useless ads. A few messages sent by humans I respond to and ignore the rest. My cell phone beeps every few moments as a new text message comes across the airways to me. I turn on the TV so I can watch the current news. While half listening to the news I play a few rounds of ANGRY BIRDS on my cell phone. Glancing out the window reminds me to check the weather which I can do with an app on my phone. The weatherman says there was a freezing rain last night and the roads may be hazardous. Searching out my car keys, I touch the button that starts my car so it will be warm and defrosted when I am ready to leave.
This may sound like fiction to some of you, but trust me, when I say this is the ever present lifestyle of the current technological generation, and more importantly, only the first wave of technologies to come! The question I wish to pose is: Can the human brain handle all this constant stimulation? At what point will some people’s brains simply shut down and refuse to allow all this stimulation in? Our kids are already being trained to cope with the constant barrage of information as computer technology becomes more Omni-present in the classroom. I just read that a school system in California has equipped every student with a computer pad so that they are continually connected to the web.
I fear that I am showing my age with this growing concern for where we are heading as a culture. I do not want to join the ranks of my father’s and his father’s generation and denigh the wonderful innovation that I am benefiting from. I love my computer and cell phone and would be hard pressed to be without them! The difference is this: I try to not let these devices interfere with my day-to-day interaction with people around me. Regardless of where I am, I see more and more people totally engaged with their cell phone, unable to acknowledge the world around them. People biking, driving cars, running, or doing just about any other activity are totally engaged with their devices. We have all heard of the growing number of auto wrecks caused by cell phone use while driving. I wonder how many bicycle wrecks could be attributed to mobile devices? How many runners have run out in front of a car while stripped of one of their best defenses, their hearing? How many conversations have you missed because you were on your phone as an old friend walked by but kept going because you were on the phone?
As I write this blog, this all seems a little trite, but I am more concerned with the long-range implications of this new wave of innovations. So often over the last half century we have created devices and then worried about the problems they caused after they became an integral part of society. One examples of this is the car by which more than 100 people a day on average die. Many experts have concerns about the effect that cell phone micro-radiation has on the human body, particularly the brain. Consider this-our wonderful dish TV beams down a constant 5 to 10 watts of micro-radiation on the earth 24/7. The chemicals in our environment are so toxic and pervasive that over the last 100 years, due to the estrogen mimicking industrial chemicals in the air, ground and water, girls now reach puberty at the average age of 11 instead of 17. I found the following on a site called The Guardian:
Today most doctors accept that the age of onset of puberty is dropping steadily. Many studies have showed this to be
the case for girls, and new research carried out by Herman-Giddens, and published by the American Academy of Pediatrics,
has found the same for boys. The age of onset of biological adulthood continues to plunge. Consider the statistics
provided by German researchers. They found that in 1860, the average age of the onset of puberty in girls was 16.6 years.
In 1920, it was 14.6; in 1950, 13.1; 1980, 12.5; and in 2010, it had dropped to 10.5. Similar sets of figures have
been reported for boys, albeit with a delay of around a year.
Boys are maturing prematurely as well! The world-wide sperm count is dropping every year!
So back to where I started; how do we know the long-term effects of all this new technology on world population? The answer is: we don’t know! But guess what, we are all taking part in a large experiment to find out how this new communication technology will affect us, and some day in the not too distant future, some scientist will publish a paper telling us the results of our latest experiment. Who knows, maybe he will send us a thank-you note for being part of the data set. Don’t hold your breath on that!
Rule One – You will receive a body.
You may love it or hate it, but it will be yours for the duration of your life on Earth.
Rule Two – You will be presented with lessons.
You are enrolled in a full-time informal school called “life”. Each day in this school you will have the opportunity to learn lessons. You may like the lessons or hate them, but you have designed them as part of your curriculum.
Rule Three – There are no mistakes, only lessons.
Growth is a process of experimentation, a series of trials, errors and occasional victories. The failed experiments are as much as a part of the process as the experiments that work.
Rule Four – The lesson is repeated until learned.
Lessons will be repeated to you in various forms until you have learned them. When you have learned them, you can go on to the next lesson.
Rule Five – Learning does not end.
There is no part of life that does not contain lessons. If you are alive, there are lessons to be learned.
Rule Six – “There” is no better than “here”.
When your “there” has become “here” you will simply obtain another “there” that will look better to you than your present “here”.
Rule Seven – Others are only mirrors of you.
You cannot love or hate something about another person unless it reflects something you love or hate about yourself.
Rule Eight – What you make of your life is up to you.
You have all the tools and resources you need. What you do with them is up to you.
Rule Nine – Your answers lie inside of you.
All you need to do is look, listen, and trust.
Rule Ten – You will forget all this at birth.
You can remember it if you want by unraveling the double helix of inner-knowing
It has been a long year for my wife Sue. About 9 months ago she started complaining about her hip. Not being one to complain about her physical aliments, (which does not imply that she does not complain about other things), Sue caused me to take notice. The discomfort continued to increase so we scheduled an appointment with a chiropractor in Moorefield who worked with her for a while and finally suggested that she see a orthopedic doctor in Winchester. Several weeks later she went to see the orthopedist. He suggested an x-ray, and when he saw it, his first comment was, “You are going to need a hip replacement.” Wow, talk about having a load of rocks fall from the sky and landing right on top of you! He suggested that Sue receive a shot in the hip to help relieve the pain, so we jaunted over to the “shot center” where Sue got a shot. Within a day she was up and moving around as if nothing was wrong but this only lasted about two weeks and then the pain returned with a vengeance. So it became obvious that she was going to need a new hip. Now was the time to learn everything we could about this procedure. This turned out to be a mountain of information with several dead ends, ending up with us choosing what is referred to as the ‘anterior approach’ to the joint, which is by far superior to the older method of coming in from the side or back of the hip.
We found a doctor who performed this surgery and scheduled an appointment with him in the Washington, DC area. To make a long story short, Sue had her surgery on September 20, and everything has gone great. It has been almost 8 weeks; yesterday we pulled out the tandem bike and went for a four-mile ride! I think the new hip weighs more than her real hip because several of the short climbs seemed a little more difficult, but that is only conjecture on my part.
It came to me while I was taking a shower. Like a bolt of lightning, the realization of what the government was up to showered on me like a spring rain. All this time I have been wrestling with the notion that, if we had health insurance for all Americans, it would save us money in the long run. Well I am here to tell you I have a new theory in this matter. Why would anyone with an ounce of sense want to keep us old farts around? We do not work much. We do not pay much tax. We are always going to the doctor and to get something cutout or fixed. We are always clogging up the interstate because we drive too slow. Quit often we get confused and disorientated. We tend to gain too much weight. We are very picky about what we eat. We pick and choose when we want to watch the grandchildren. The list goes on and on.
Someone in the government who is obviously very smart and young figured out that old people are a huge drain on our society. Anyone still hanging around past the age of…say 65 is pretty much dead weight! I imagine it was a several step plan to remove old people from the ranks of the human race. Think about this:
1. Teach people to eat poorly so they die young and fat.
2. Make it very expensive to see a doctor. (This alone decreases the average life expectancy)
3. Make it hard to get any worthwhile exercise.
4. Promote a stressful environment to work and live in.
5. Create stores that are miles long to keep old people from reaching or finding what they need.
6. Continue to decrease the font size on medicine so to increase the chance of taking the wrong dosage.
7. Inflate the money and increase food prices to the point that we simply die of malnutrition.
8. Inflate money and put us on a fixed income.
9. Promote the belief that everything will be beautiful when you die and go to heaven.
It would seem as if the cards are stacked against me. I am not that old but I am already feeling the pressure to move on. Yes, I am forgetful and I get balder every day but I am still a person! Politics are even becoming boring as I hear the same crap over and over. Ah hell, I should go to Wal-Mart.com and buy an urn or just get an old coffee can and head over the interstate to play chicken with the semis. Sue, I can’t find my glasses, have you seen them?
I have known plenty of great people in my life. Many of them live out their lives taking care of their families, helping their friends and being good to everyone they meet. Sometimes they fly well below the radar in the places where few notice the great things they are doing. These special people do what they do not for the fame or financial rewards but for the sheer joy of helping their fellow humans. Having grown up with few good role models, I seek these special people out so that I can learn their secrets so as to be a better person. One of these people, who I have known for over 30 years, is Coach Wayne Mathias. Many of you have heard his name, and many more have never heard of him, and this is exactly my point. Wayne is a giant among those who choose to spend their careers teaching children. One might ask how relevant is that? How much good can come from such a seemingly insignificant job? The answer to that question is simple. Go back to your school years and try to remember a teacher who helped you find your way. Consider the teacher who made you feel good about yourself when you needed it most, helped your confidence grow, challenged you when you needed it and redirected you when you drifted off the path; well that is Coach Mathias! I have watched him coach; I have coached with him and have always marveled at his ability to make young people push themselves to their limit, finding new inner strength that they never new they had. He was able to do it with a smile, a stern look, a firm nudge or a cautionary word at the right moment. Sometimes he got angry, sometimes he laughed and sometimes he even shed a tear, although he would try to deny that.
Wayne decided to retire form teaching this year after almost 40 years at the helm. Tonight I attended a small ceremony celebrating his time at Capon Bridge School and witnessed the love and admiration he has earned through all his years there. As part of the ceremony his former students read short notes expressing their love of Coach; teachers talked of his amazing achievements as a coach; parents repeatedly remarked about the void created with his absence.
It is an honor to be his friend and I thank him for all the wisdom he has shared with me. I think Wayne is like an old oak tree that everyone touches as they walk by or carved their name in it, climb its branches, knowing that it would always be there.
I was sitting around trying to decide what I wanted to make for dinner. It came to me in a flash! I made sweet and sour pork which is Sue’s favorite meal. Certain there was no pineapple in the house, I jumped into the car and headed for the local grocery, eight miles away. On the way I tuned into the PBS station. XM radio, what amazing technology! As I am cruising down the road, a futurist (a person who tries to see what will happen in the future, and more important, gets paid for it) from the Google Corporation was talking about self-driving-cars. He discussed cars in the near future could travel from one place to another using existing roads much faster, much safer and much more efficiently than anything possible with mere mortals at the wheel. He presented the fact that nearly 30,000 people die each year in automobile wrecks, not to mention the number of chronic injuries. With computers running the show, that number would drop to close to zero! Of course there will be glitches, as in all new technology. Many of us will be very upset if the computer malfunctions and someone dies. Conceivably these deaths could be counted on one hand as compared to those 30,000 deaths we are responsible for. Let’s face it; walking down the basement steps has its share of risk. I wonder how many people die each year slipping and falling down steps.
The Google engineer felt that the self-driven vehicle would be available to the general public in five years. I am not sure we are ready to give up the wheel to a cold, unemotional device capable of making rational, unbiased and accurate decisions a thousand times faster than we. The car is such an iconic piece of machinery today; it fosters the illusion of freedom and self-reliance. Many drivers dream of going down the road in their up-scaled, flashy red sports car with the top down, the warm wind rushing through their hair and the open road in front of them. I am sure the computer would put the top up to save fuel and wrestle the steering wheel and gas pedal away from us, all in the name of safety and efficiency. The automobile is simply one of many devices that will eventually be controlled by a small computer chip; it just happens to be the one we are in love with.
The real issue in this scenario is not who is in control but rather which intelligence is being used more. Driving a car does not take a large intellectual effort, but it does require intelligent involvement. During a trip to the market, one must watch the road for all kinds of potential hazards: crazed drivers, teen drivers, deer crossing, road debris, and as the Google engineer referred to them, unexpected events. In addition to all that, one must monitor the speed of the vehicle and operation of the vehicle, gas gauge, road signs, destination, a cup of coffee and cell phones usage. Have you ever watched the people in a mass transit vehicle? There are a few people reading books and newspaper, but the majority of the people are simply staring off into the distance with their brain on pause. In other words, they are not utilizing any part of their brain. Despite the fact that computer-controlled cars will be beneficial to everyone who travels any distance at all, they will make us a little bit dumber in the long run. I am sure you remember when most of us could add, subtract, multiply and divide numbers in our head; not any more! Today most of us run for a calculator to find the answer to a problem we once did without hesitation! So the calculator, which was a great invention, made the general population a little bit dumber.
The Disney movie WALLY takes the idea of computer-controlled environment to the nth degree, telling us about a society that has deteriorated to the point of near total complacency. This culture never leave their lounge chairs as there every need is taken care of by an army of intelligent robots. I think it is important for me to clarify that I LOVE TECHNOLOGY! I love my computer, cruise control in my car, digital recording devices, smart TVs, power windows in my car, satellite TV and anything that keeps me from wasting time doing unnecessary mundane chores! The important question here is this: where does it stop? When does my body simply becomes an organic blob sitting in a chair, not thinking, not doing, just eating and breathing while a computer chip takes care of my every whim? It is my conviction is that our species tends to settle to its lowest energy state: in other words, the least amount of work possible. I would write more on this interesting subject but my brain is getting tired and so I am going back to my lounge chair to watch some mindless football….