Friends?

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I’m always very pleased to see that readers are checking my site even when I haven’t posted anything new for a while.  I used to try to follow the common advice about posting frequently–every day being the gold medal standard. Usually, though, I didn’t even earn a silver or bronze.  I come from a long line of tight-lipped Yankees, whose motto is “If you can’t improve on the silence, don’t break it!”  

There are clearly enough people around who have something to say about everything and anything on a daily basis, so I don’t feel much pressure any more to add to the incessant background noise of our modern lives.  Today, however, is an exception, thanks to my recurring irritation with devices.  To be more specific, it’s not really so much the devices themselves that irritate me, but the way whoever is in charge of this matrix tries to make me believe that they personally know me, really give a damn how I am, what I did 5 years ago, and whether I will remember to take my umbrella today because it’s going to rain.

Several years ago, when my brother was a newbie on Facebook, a pitiful message (cue the violins and break out the tissues) popped up on my news feed saying “Steve Crofter doesn’t have any friends.  Suggest friends for Steve!”  Let me set the record straight here. Steve Crofter has more friends than most people I know.  He makes friends with the mailman, the clerk at the local store, the curmudgeon next door and the recluse old lady who lives down the street.  He doesn’t have that many friends on Facebook because he’s busy making friends in real life and real time.

A few weeks ago, my morning started with another Facebook announcement:  (Cue the trumpets and give an enthusiastic drum roll, please…)

You and Steve Crofter have been friends for five years!!  

EXCUSE ME?????

Steve Crofter has been my youngest brother since 1953.  I wish I could claim that we have been friends for 64 years, but unfortunately my two brothers and I wasted time during our childhood years picking on each other and playing “two against one.” Thankfully, however, and due in large part to the fact that Steve is a natural-born peacemaker, in our adult years the three of us have become fast and loving friends.

Yesterday at 9:28 AM,a notice appeared on my Facebook feed that said:

“cultivatingdignity.com has 1 new post share and 1 new post like.”  

All day I basked in the happy knowledge that even when I wasn’t inspired to produce a wordy gem to post on my blog that due to the ever-present cyber world, I was still popular!!  So imagine my distress when checking Facebook (just one more time, honest) before going to bed, this notice slapped me in the face:

“cultivatingdignity.com didn’t get any new post shares or likes this week.”

Damn!!  Now rather than drifting blissfully to sleep, secure in the knowledge that my readers have not forgotten me, I have to toss and turn trying to figure out where things went wrong.  Maybe the Facebook week starts on Sunday evening, say around 8PM.  That would mean that the 1 new share and 1 new like were true last week, but so far nothing this week.  But that can’t be the case, because even if the week starts on Sunday night, surely they wouldn’t smack me down so quickly.  Wouldn’t they give me at least a few days to see if I can rise to the publishing standards I’m supposed to meet? Isn’t Facebook my friend?  Don’t they really care about me?  Isn’t that why they say good morning to me every day and warn me about the weather conditions I might have to face?

Look, even an old lady like me can appreciate the usefulness of Facebook and other social media.   It is a wonderful way to keep in touch with family and friends who live long distances away or to share news and information with many people without the necessity of making numerous phone calls.  I also know that it can provide critical information to people in times of political crisis or natural disasters.

Image result for man behind the curtain ozMaybe I am living in the past, but I am really irritated by this attempted personification of software and computer programs.  I never want to forget that friends are live human beings with whom I can have a conversation over a cup of tea, who can laugh with me when I am joyful and wipe my tears when life knocks me to the ground. And sorry, Facebook, no offense, but you are not my friend, and the man behind the curtain is not either.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Rant Has Detonated!

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For many of us, the past six months have been agonizing.  On a daily basis it is necessary to re-group, re-think, and defend (whether in public or internally) our political and religious beliefs.  It’s tiring and demoralizing, and such a waste of human talent.   We sense that we should plan for disaster.  But which disaster will strike first, and what will that disaster look like? Planning seems impossible, or useless, or basically, “I’m just too exhausted to figure it out.”

That’s my negative side, which usually takes a back seat. But my positive outlook, compassion for others, belief that we can do better, treat others (even those we don’t agree with) with humanity and humility, is sorely tested and weakened these days.   I cling to it stubbornly, but wonder whether the fabric will hold when almost daily it needs to be mended and patched and reinforced.

A few days ago, Irene wrote in her blog about A Perfect World, and asked: Why are my children having to worry about which cabinet to hide in at school? When back in my day, our biggest fear at school was not having anyone to play with at recess! 

atomic-bomb-398277_640When I was in high school we had “Air Raid Drills.”  We learned to proceed in an orderly fashion down the hallways of the school and into the cold, windowless basement where we stood silently against the cinder block walls.  This was to prepare for a nuclear attack.

REALLY????  We were going to survive a bomb that had reduced two Japanese cities to rubble, had burned the skin off people from miles away, and had poisoned the “lucky” survivors with deadly radiation?

One time, I just went up to the principal, who was directing traffic at the top of the stairs, and told him it was against my religion to participate in the drill.  In a way this was the truth, but I’m pretty sure my motivation was more that if I was going to die, I’d just as soon die in a room with windows than in a cement coffin with hundreds of other terrified kids. He told me to go into his office and wait there.  I think it was about this time in my life that I finally accepted that grownups don’t have a clue either.

One of the good results of getting older should be a sense of perspective and some satisfaction that things are getting better.   So I could say to Irene that lying awake worrying about when the Russians were going to drop a bomb on my school, and marching into the basement in a futile attempt to be convinced that I would survive the attack didn’t ultimately scar me too much.  That would pretty much be true.

Yet, I would also have to acknowledge that the world is far more complicated today, that while the internet and social media have enabled us to be more connected and more informed about other cultures, it has also helped make us more divided, angry and antagonistic.  Somehow, we have settled at the lowest common denominator, rather than risen to greater heights. Our public discourse has become crude, vicious, and hateful and our national image has become a laughingstock around the world.

My children are adults now, and I know they do not blame me for this. I also know that there are still many good and committed people working in their neighborhoods and on the national and international stage to create better lives for themselves, their neighbors and the world. There are rational and measured voices speaking truth to power.  But I am very afraid that power no longer recognizes or even cares about truth.

I feel a deep sense of shame and sorrow. This isn’t the world I wanted to leave as a legacy for future generations.elegant-1769669_640It’s really a wonder that I haven’t dropped all my ideals, because they seem so absurd and impossible to carry out. Yet I keep them, because in spite of everything I still believe that people are really good at heart. I simply can’t build up my hopes on a foundation consisting of confusion, misery, and death. I see the world gradually being turned into a wilderness, I hear the ever approaching thunder, which will destroy us too, I can feel the sufferings of millions and yet, if I look up into the heavens, I think that it will all come right, that this cruelty too will end, and that peace and tranquility will return again.

Anne Frank wrote this in her diary on July 15, 1944, while she and her family were hiding from the Nazis in a small attic in Amsterdam.  If she could believe this under those circumstances, then who am I to doubt that it’s true?

My rant is over!

 

Daily Prompt: detonate

 

Am I Smarter Than My GPS?

 

student-315029_640I’m not sure if Are You Smarter than a Fifth Grader? is still on television.  I haven’t seen it lately on my daily ring-around-the-channels game.   I don’t have cable service because  I had it once and quickly learned that my monthly financial layout just provided me with more options that I didn’t like.  So basically instead of having only 10 channels to choose from, I had 70, all of which played different versions of the same insipid nonsense. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not opposed to watching something insipid or mindless.  When Maury advertises his show by saying “You know you watch!” I look quickly around the room to be sure nobody is checking my reaction.  I’d just rather not pay for the privilege of wallowing in stupidity when I can just as effectively do it for free.

Somehow I digressed, which seems to occur with great frequency in the land of the golden years.  See, I’m doing it again.  Back to the subject at hand:  lately I have been questioning the “intelligence” of many of the items that we use on a daily basis, and to ask a similar question:  “Am I smarter than my GPS?”

new-york-286071_640Not long ago I drove into New York City. In no way did I expect this to be easy, and the route to my destination was fraught with construction, one-way streets, rude and ruthless drivers (don’t even get me started on that one), double-parked delivery trucks, idling taxis and pedestrians who clearly believe they possess a superpower that protects them from injury by moving vehicle.

This was just a one-day “in and out” trip, and I had no expectation that getting out of the city would be any easier.  I practiced deep breathing, anti-road-rage visualization and prepared for the worst.  Imagine my utter amazement when the route took me along a wide, lightly traveled (for NYC) and tree-lined boulevard, with reasonably polite drivers, no double-parked, over-sized moving trucks and pedestrians who actually used the crosswalks and waited for the light to change.  I don’t generally talk to inanimate objects, but made an exception since I was alone in the car.  I politely asked why my highly intelligent GPS didn’t manage be logical enough to use this nice route both times.  I may even have said something like, Na Na, I am SMARTER than YOU!

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It is common, I am sure, for people my age to have a love-hate relationship with cell phones, I-Pads, GPS, Siri and computers.  I vividly remember reading maps, knowing my own telephone number by heart, and getting weather reports by  actually stepping outside and looking around.  But now I have DEVICES that talk back to me and try to make me feel foolish and ignorant.    Wait, didn’t I have children for that?