Thursday, June 19, 2008

Contemplate

The next generation will likely never know what a rotary phone is, much less a "landline" as it is defined today. No wondering how to call long-distance without an operator (an innovation from the 1960's), no wondering how to self-install a phone in the house (an innovation from the 1970's), no marveling at how phones work without cables & wires (an innovation from the 1980's), no wonderment at how a phone takes more than voice calls (an innovation from the 1990's), and no bewilderment at the amount of information & services available instantly from the touchable screen of a mobile phone (an innovation for the 21st century and beyond).

As one who has worked around wireless and telecommunications for several years now, I contemplate the progress of these technologies within the context of the ever-changing face of society. What our experience has become is the currently acknowledged "way we do it around here". In the next couple of decades, these methods and tools will become as archaic as the switchboard operator is to my generation (and a contemplation that can still befuddle those over 100 years old, some of whom might have never dialed the prefix '1' before a long distance phone call).

We are of a generation that no longer has any living connection with the Civil War and, very soon, World War I also (an article from the Tampa St. Petersburg Times recounts only one US veteran left from the "war to end all wars", as far as can be discerned by records and investigation). The feverish pitch is picking up to save what is now left of the stories of the "Greatest Generation" and the WWII veterans that helped to make the US the superpower that it has become.

What becomes of these lives we lead as so vital today is nothing more than tired stories for future generations that will struggle to relate. Contemplate we must, but trudge on we will, for the progress of our generation will sustain us and relegate us all to the same dustheap of history to which our forefathers have already contributed.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

What's Old is New

Somehow I got tagged to install phone lines the past few weeks. It has been an adventure climbing poles, skinning wire, and putting Network Interface Devices (NIDs) on the side of imaginary houses, becoming the true service technician I was presumably meant to be. I would have written off the past couple of weeks as trouble and tried to move quickly on from the incident, but I have taken a few gems away from the class. Namely, there are a lot of personalities in this world and a lot of perspectives just waiting to be heard.

Like last night. I spent an evening jabbing 25 cable pairs into a simulated apartment cable box, pretending to enable a building for telephone service. In the course of conversation, I stumbled upon some ideas long ago buried in my head - the idea of what's old is new again. I was talking with a former anthropologist & illustrator and current interactive producer about the trends in social networking. The idea that something is different this time around, we wandered to the subject of life stages. And the Roman Empire. And color theory (remember ketchup-mustard-pickle-pepper?). What was most striking is the commonality of the human condition, and the shared bonds we have as the psychological level with our ancestors. Above all else, we are social creatures and yearn to communicate with others. That's the whole point of telecommunications. Which led to a discussion of party lines from the rural past, but that's another story.

Before our 7:30pm "lunchtime" was over, this dialogue resolved itself so that we could all get on to our inside wiring of jacks and wall mounts exercise. But the point lingers, and my mind is opened for a brief moment again.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Nostalgia

I remember watching "The Wonder Years" when I was in junior high school; it was a show that followed my own progression through the awkward adolescent years. I came across the show's ending again on YouTube and was transported to those younger days when life was more carefree. In the moment, I journeyed through so many memories that passed between now and then. I remembered distinctly a connecting moment when I studied abroad in Milan, kicking a futbol back and forth with my flatmate Rico. I was cherishing that moment at the time, particuarly after hearing an "oldie but goodie" on MTV Italia - Bob Seger's "Night Moves."

To revel in such a moment is to feel connection to the human experience and the series of moments in between that define each of us. Some are shared, and some are unique to the individual. But all the moments add up to define one person's story, and it is a story that has a separate arc than any other story that had ever been told before - or since. I can feel this strongly, and it is powerful, gut-wrenching, and comforting. After all, it is the human condition.

My week ends with this feeling as I wander off to bed. I am grateful for all my moments, and I am lucky to have the memories on which to build my future. A pleasant and profound thought to carry my dreams tonight.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Inspiration

There are unique moments in time where inspiration grabs a writer. It is not possible to know when these moments will arrive - they just do, like a random wave tumbling into shore. I have felt these moments from time to time and what effect they have on my psyche. For that instant, I am transported to a world where possibility stretches out beyond the conceptions of my mind and into places unknown and exciting.

It is an adventure when inspiration comes because creativity follows rushing in to force. The pulse quickens, the ears perk up, the eyes dart more quickly, and the mind races to orchestrate all the movement. For a writer, this is the time for haste - inspiration is powerful yet fleeting. When inspiration dissipates, it leaves as quickly as it strikes. A writer can be left hanging on inspiration's cliff, fingernails dug in to avoid the mundane crash to the canyon below.

Fruits of inspiration's labor are often sweetest once they are pulled - and never more will they taste the same afterward. Every harvest is different, and it is possible to cultivate more of what inspiration's bounty brings. In this way, a writer must react to the dictates of inspiration so that creativity can find the light of day beyond dark recesses of the psyche. I can only hope that inspiration visits more than once-a-moon as the times between can be barren and cool.