When I was a teacher, one of my students’ favourite outdoor chase/tag games was based on the food chain. Carnivores ran after herbivores who ran after the plants who had to wait within the boundary marked by a Hula hoop. A game for every personality type in a classroom. I never liked the predator/prey aspect to the activity but at least it started a discussion later in the classroom on the weblike nature of the environment.
The way that all species interact in a complex manner of energy transfer is becoming evident to all of us as we share information about climate change consequences. We are becoming educated to terms like keystone species. We are learning through shocking experience of the close knit connections along the web of life. We are not the top of some theoretical pyramid. All creatures, great and small, are important to sustaining a healthy planet. We have for too long viewed out earthly presence as if we were entitled to be lord and master of all we survey. We have tricked ourselves and lied to others about the interconnectedness of our existence.
“Oh what a what a tangled web we weave, when first we practise to deceive.” Was a quote from a poem by Sir Walter Scott that my mom used on me whenever she suspected I was lying to her, then I had to be careful not ‘to protest too much’ hence she would definitely know I was lying about something. I remember having a guilty conscience a lot of the time. My mother had a stout heart yet she was deathly afraid of bugs in general and ‘creepy crawly’ spiders in particular. If webbing ever contacted her face she would shriek for mercy. My mom was not alone; Arachnophobia is on many people’s fear list. Me? I’m an Athazagoraphobe.
In my early adulthood I related to the existential wanderer, Silver Surfer, but my childhood comic book favourite was Spiderman. I liked the way he didn’t use a weapon that hurt, just an unbreakable passive/aggressive net. As a teen I was drawn to the cartoon Spidey, from the popular television series by Grantray-Lawrence Animation. The catchy theme song; “Spins a web, any size/catches thieves, just like flies” was by Paul Francis Webster and Bob Harris.
What’s not to like about the World Wide Web (best invention in my lifetime). I depend on it for communication and researching, I spend a lot of time crawling/scrolling through digital threads. It can be a time suck but mostly it works like a mental butler. I definitely see the benefits to the hammock-like inner world of pixillated Web Design. I might volunteer to be a test subject for the first WWW cranial implant.That way I wouldn’t be bound to my computer, I’d become one! I can see the ads for the procedure: “Enhance your memory! Win Debates! Be a trivia Titan! Get a prothesis to pontificate!”
Cyber Humans? Seems like a natural evolution.
Change is exasperating. It’s never just one thing that changes. Dominoes will fall! Lately my three year old phone failed to do what was expected. Being a smartphone made it a smart aleck. The problem seemed to be that it refused to communicate with other digital devices in my home. I tried password changes, account changes and rebooting (an old fashioned term?) But it was all for naught. By using the word naught I guess I’ve firmly placed myself in the pre-computer era. And that, despite my best efforts to remain tech savvy, is the problem with my general attitude concerning The Phone. I rant. Yet really I stand bewitched by this technology.
My dad would send me off on adventures when I was barely in my double digits with these instructions: Do you have coins in your pocket? Have you got your handkerchief? Call home if you have trouble. Calling home in those days meant finding a phone booth, which I learned how to use quite early in my life. Any call from a booth could connect me with the home phone, and if I was out and about someone was always home. Safety assured.
Safety is the number one reason parents in the tech era buy phone plans for their children. Safety is also the top reason adults cite for switching from home phones to cell phones. The phone was a lifeline for me in the late fifties and is truly a must-have for Generation Alpha. Needing a phone for emergency use is one thing, but now it is clear phones are so much more. The term smart phone is apt; mini computers they are indeed. With storage capacity, links to other digital devices, connectivity with more than just your mom is assured. The camera capability of a smart phone has changed communication; we can send a text of our meal, or hold police to account for their actions. We can start a Movement.
I’m in awe over how it has changed our culture, and I’m also intimidated. I’m trying. I’ve come to terms with the need to regularly update my device. I still talk English on my smartphone even though it has gone through several iterations of operating systems. My smartphone has regular conversations with my other digital devices so that things can continue to function. Somehow that doesn’t make me feel more secure. For old folks, being hacked has taken the place of falling down as the number one anxiety. Forgetting a password is tantamount to losing our wallets.
And yet we soldier on. I was one of the first on my block to buy a computer. I’ve had an early Star Trek phaser-like flip phone. I no longer have a land line. I know how to Facetime, Skype, Zoom and Tweet. I’ve just installed a new device that makes my television smarter so that I can stream new entertainment catalogues. My old phone will have to be replaced with an updated version. Like a little lost ET, I still need the comfort of knowing I’m able to call home. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6xZif3WmG7I
“Be the change you wish to see in the world.” is a quote attributed to Mahatma Gandhi. When I think of the word Change the most available quote that comes to my mind is one my mother used to say often; “A change is as good as a rest.” She was referring to getting yourself out of a routine. Being in a rut is not a helpful place to be when you are on the road of life. I believe my mom was right; choosing a different path can bring refreshment, even enlightenment.
Not all change is welcome. In these changing times brought on by COVD-19 we can feel that change to our very livelihood has been inflicted upon us. Change is easier to handle when you are the creator of it or even if you have a stake in it. When someone else brings change there is a tendency to grumble. In our community we have a Grumpy Taxpayers Association who regularly criticize any change that our elected municipal officials legislate. Specifically they are concerned about the cost of things. In that regard I can relate. I often find myself gazing at the loose change in my hand and wondering how quickly it loses its worth.
Like cities throughout time, our downtown has its share of panhandlers. One fellow in particular gained some notoriety by the manner of his shout to passersby. “Spare a little change.” was his plea. You could hear the long drawn out word ‘Cha-i-n-ge’ a block before nearing him and for blocks further along. He was a veritable institution on one corner and when he relocated it caused a buzz in the community until word got out that he was working a corner closer to his new home. Throughout his time collecting coin he saw an abundance of pennies and nickels, then dimes and quarters. Regardless of the amount his cadence was never changeable.
Our change has changed. Inflation is ever changing the value of change in everyone’s pockets and purses. Where I used to keep a jar for quarters, I now have a plastic tub for loonies and toonies. I haven’t changed how I process my change even though the worth of it has declined. I still feel a childlike thrill when I save enough change to roll into a special paper sleeve designed for its respective denomination. A cylinder of nickels will total two whole dollars, a roll of quarters will create the equivalent of ten bucks and, hold your breath, a single tube of toonies amounts to $50! I’m old enough to remember my excitement as I walked to my corner candy store with a roll of pennies quickly growing warm in the grip of my tight little fist. A large bag of jujubes, caramels, liquorice and jawbreakers would soon be mine.
Change in the 21st century happens faster than it takes for a soft caramel to melt in your mouth. As always, there will be things we can change and things out of our control. Peace will come from knowing the difference.