Thursday, February 12, 2015

Lessons of Life

I tossed and turned. Sleep would not come. Tears were soaking my pillow. Helen, my best friend had been killed. Her innocent blue eyes and gentle smile kept beckoning to me. Just a week ago she had turned ten.

Helen had died in an air shelter. I disliked those underground cellars. They were cold, damp, dark and scary. Yet as long as I could remember we had spent part of every night in one. I suppose they did provide some safety, as long as you reached one in time and if it didn’t suffer a direct hit. I shuddered thinking of those who had been buried in one alive.

Would it ever end, this miserable war? You couldn’t ask a soul. Questions of a political nature were severely punished.  They labeled you as a traitor. Complete faith in the country’s leadership was a prerequisite for survival.

I secretly asked Mother one day. Infinite pain clouded her face, but only for a moment.  Then she softly stroked my head and whispered, “It will, one day.”

Why can’t we live together in peace, I wondered.

Why spread so much distrust and hate?

Why not work together and make it a better world for all?

It seemed so simple and so obvious, but why was it an utterly out-of-reach goal? The very air we breathed was laden with sadness. When was it that I saw someone smile or laugh? I could not remember. Death and destruction was everywhere. And fear, infinite fear of more death and destruction, or worse.

I suddenly sat up in bed, electrified, the first epiphany for a ten-year old. “That’s it. Of course!” I smiled to myself. “What the world needs is more kindness. I shall always be kind.”

Happily I fell asleep and never doubted or altered this first lesson that life had taught me.

Until next time,


Sunday, February 1, 2015

The Marvels of Technology

Electronics and technology have taken a big leap forward. I remember writing programs for one of the early computers using nothing but Yes, No and Maybe. Punch cards would feed the info into some giant computer that filled the whole well-air-conditioned room. Hardly anyone had access.

Today, we all own computers. Life comes to a screeching halt when they break down.

In fact, many of the younger generation prefer their cell-phones over their computers. Why send emails when you can instagram or text messages? The cell phone seems to have become the universal link to the world.

When you used to see five or six teenagers sharing a table, they’d be all laughing, talking, or kidding each other. Today, they’d all be busy with their electronic gadgets — texting, tweeting, instagramming, snapchatting, or facebooking.

Are we experiencing a shift in paradigm?

No doubt about it, the world has changed. Barely 68 years ago television screens were the size of a postcard and their pictures were black and white. Barely 38 years ago the first commercially successful personal computers were made. Cell phones, iPods and iPads are even more recent. The brain of today’s generation is bombarded with millions of images and impressions all day long, more impressions in a single day than my generation used to get in a year. It’s an overwhelming assault on the human brain that has to sort, digest and discard all that information. No wonder ADD has surfaced.

Will texting and surfing distance us from the realities of life? Not necessarily. When we’re looking for a partner or a friend, we need to shake their hand, look them in the eye, observe their body language, hear their voice and see their face. The same holds true when we’re looking for a job. We need to appear in person, answer questions, and exercise our skills of communication.

Nonetheless, texting and googling are an immense boon and convenience. They greatly enrich our lives. People who are isolated can remain connected with the world. We can ask google for any kind of information. Electronic devices are simply tools, but great tools.

We can use them to connect us but also to disconnect us from the world, to enhance our knowledge or to numb our minds. The marvels of technology have indeed caused a shift in paradigm in recent years. We need to adjust and strive toward using these tools with wisdom and in moderation. It may be of paramount importance to relegate our cell phones to the backseat when we are with other people and be with them whole-heartedly, enjoying their company and exploring the mysteries of someone else’s world. We may be amazed at what we find. 

Until next time,