Wednesday, October 27, 2010

When Things Change and Stay the Same

My last blog alluded to the interruption of my pleasant day by technology interruptis when heavy rain caused my tv to go off three times. It is a routine matter today--even my 8-year-old granddaughter is aware of it and the cause.

It is part of life today. I still grumble about paying for tv that was free most of my life, but the visual quality and quantity of channels is certainly improved. I suppose it is my fault I cannot seem to find any programs I want to watch regularly.

Last night, I attended my older granddaughter's fall chorale concert. The music was as sweet and good as any I've heard. The students behaved well. The auditorium was crowded with proud families and friends. And among the performers were two students who wouldn't have been there when I went to school--a vision-impaired girl and a young boy in a powered wheelchair. They and the other students took it for granted they were there and participating. Wouldn't have happened when I was growing up. The technology for the wheelchair wasn't in existence, and probably not the medical and educational techniques needed for the vision-impaired girl as well.

Something has not changed. We accept as truth facts which are untrue, information "everyone knows", accept as "always" the way things have been done in our memory. We look at one another and smile, and take comfort in our accord. It was a bit of "always" for me last night, attending a school program where kids were still fresh-faced and ready to perform with a community of families to support them.
I hope that does not change. I do think one value of aging members of society is our memory of when realities were different, even when history as we experienced it is different from "what everyone knows."

Schools still teach information that isn't true. Can't help it. A whole generation of folks going through school in the 1950s and earlier were told petroleum came from the remains of dinosaurs under the earth. I've checked with others my age and older, and they confirm: yep, we were told as truth that petroleum was basically distilled dinosaur guts. It was a tall tale. But we were told it as truth. I wonder what tall tales persist. A lot I hear about deal with "can't" and "impossible." And then we learn it can be done, or the impossible has quietly been going on without human observation all along.

I remember learning how to write a formal letter back in 1950-51 (letter writing was a big deal back then, of course), and being called down by a teacher for writing Post Office Box 607 for our address (oh, and there weren't zip codes, either).

"You don't need to say Post Office," she said. "They all are. They always will be."

Fast forward to my driving along a rural highway in East Texas some 15 years ago, where I saw an old woman stepping up to her rural mailbox to get her mail. And I wondered how long that would be a reality.

I wish I had the analytical ability, the intellect, to shrewdly predict what would last and what would expire. Oh, what a blog I would have. Oops. Blogs are one of the things I don't know will persist.

In the 1970s, I regularly read a professional medical magazine with a columnist, Dr. (Joe?) Alverez, who knew medical lore already being forgotten and who wrote a popular collomn commenting on lore already being lost. He always quoted a saying I do believe is true:"Half of what we know about medicine isn't true, and the trouble is, we don't know which half."

Except, I think that is true in general. With so much so-called information out there on the internet, I think many would agree.

Trying to keep up, to assimulate, analyse and act, gives me a great mental workout day by day.

And that is what I like best about the present. I will add this to the value of elders in our population: with the sheer weight of new information getting our attention, things we already knew and have already discovered often get buried. Sometimes age can bring a fresh approach by retrieving information we really can't afford to lose.

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