Two-thirds of the Way There

Yesterday I turned 67 – two-thirds of the way to a century on this planet, which is how long my grandfather lived. A lot has changed since I arrived on the scene. Here’s a partial list of what has been developed since I was born, just in the area of science:

The microwave (1954), polio vaccine (’55), birth control pills (’57), integrated circuits (’59), cordless tools (’61), communication satellites (’62), arpanet, which would eventually become the internet (’69), the Moon landing (also ’69), fiber optics (’70), MRI’s (’73), barcodes (’74), the personal computer (’77), GPS (’78), DNA fingerprinting (’84), Prozac (’87), Photoshop (’90), DVD’s (’96), the International Space Station (’98), Wikipedia (’01), the human genome project (’03), Facebook (’04), Google maps (’05), the iPhone (’07), Bitcoin (’09), the Mars rover (’11), and there’s lots more. You could argue about the relative impact of the things on this list. For my money, the big change, without question, is the communications revolution, and more specifically the internet. Imagine, just for a moment, that the internet disappeared, and we were back to mailing letters at the post office, going to the library if we wanted to know the answer to anything (and only having access to whatever resources that specific building had on hand), doing our banking only when the bank was open, and going to a store and standing in line if we wanted to order something that wasn’t on the shelves, which we knew about only because we saw a picture in a paper catalog or because one of our neighbors had one. Business, commerce, the arts, government, international relationships, leisure activities, everything would change.

There are those who complain about the way things are and wish for a return to how things used to be. I am not one of those people. My main complaint about growing old is that I have an unfortunate tendency to act as though I’m still in my thirties when I’m, to use the current example, tearing down an old deck and building a new one. My body is not reluctant to remind me that I am no longer a young man but usually waits until the next morning to do so. Also, I’m starting to realize that a lot of the jokes, movies, advertisements, etc. that I have sometimes found irritating are not worth getting worked up about. They’re not even talking to me. They’re aimed at someone else entirely and I just happen to overhear it.

Mostly I really like being an older guy. My schedule is largely of my own making; there is time for music, and writing, and volunteering in the community, and doing things on the spur of the moment (although I’m still working on that last one; there’s a deep level contradiction for you — working on being spontaneous). I have a very good life at this moment, which is all I have when it comes right down to it, and, as I have said in the past, in every way except financially I am a wealthy man. This is the good life.

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A career working with teenagers on the fringes of society has made me both sensitive to and appreciative of the complexities of character and the struggles, inner and outer, that we all wrestle with in one form or another. My writing emphasizes character development over action, and, as a lifelong Southerner, the rhythms and cadence of the Southeastern United States influence both my spoken and written voice.

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