I’m sitting in the living room area of a motel which I have sat in, on and off, since 1968, and I am celebrating my 51st birthday. I’m alone and I’m enjoying myself. The TV is on and I’m playing a game of cards and trying to decide what time to dive in to my much-anticipated homemade chicken noodle soup for lunch as it’s now 12:30pm. The TV is tuned in to the noon news hour.
It’s occurred to me that I have very little information news-wise in my life. I do not own a smart phone, do not have cable-based television, do not have any social media accounts nor any free web-based email addresses and I spend very little time online in any given week. As well, I usually don’t see many people other than my wife each day. My wife sees very little news either. Overall, we are relatively disconnected from local, national and world news. I have to say: I like it.
My friend was generous enough to volunteer her vehicle for me to reach my holiday destination and asked that I take her to visit her daughter who lives less than an hour from where I was heading. This friend has cable television at home and watches a news program every day. It was this friend who asked me if I had tried the new dark roasted peanut butter that Adams (both of our favourite brand) had recently come out with. I’d never even heard of it and was immediately interested in what it tasted like. I asked her if it was delicious and she said she hadn’t tried it yet because she had 2 jars of the regular kind in her cupboard and was waiting to finish them before moving on to the dark roasted. That was a few weeks ago.
While the news was on today there was a commercial for this peanut butter and it reminded me of how uninformed I was by not watching traditional television. I don’t mind, though. I actually quite like the idea of hearing about things from other people rather than from a newscast. It is through friends and family that I learn about certain celebrity deaths, upcoming concerts, new food products, heartwarming stories, upcoming expected weather troubles, world news and anything else worth talking about. It’s a connection with another person versus the impersonal delivery by a news anchor through a TV screen.
My younger brother once told me I was ‘stuck in the 80s’ and this comment confused me because I thought he was referring to my taste in music and how I dressed. I didn’t dress like I did in the 80s anymore and while I love 80s music, I also love classical music and every genre of music under the sun (barring death metal) from the 1920s through to current music being released today. Then I thought about his statement a bit more and realised that my lack of a technology-based lifestyle may be what he was referring to instead.
I like playing cards with a deck not virtually with a computer that deals for me and makes my moves automatically without my own strategy being put in to play. I like talking to friends and family face-to-face rather than typing words on a screen or texting (I quite hate texting to be honest). I like going to the movie theatre and watching films on the big screen and I also miss the ability to rent movies. I like to go out for dinner with friends and family and have conversations rather than sitting in a restaurant with everyone at the table staring at their phones—I don’t understand the point of going out if everyone present is staring at their phones. I don’t mind having food delivered when I’m not in the mood to go out however I rarely enjoy the food as much because dining out is a social event for me, not simply a way to get food into my body.
Those are just a few examples of my being ‘stuck in the 80s’ and I’m perfectly happy with all of them. I’ve joined the 21st century in terms of using the internet, having my music on an iPod (I still have records, cassette tapes and CDs though) and I do text—as little as possible—so I am ‘accessible’ to everyone in my life who is completely ‘wired’ but I will always opt for conversation over watching the news; for sitting down and playing a board game or card game over doing it online/on a computer; for eating the delicious homemade meals my wife creates rather than eating take-out or order-in at any given meal; for chilling out in a motel that has barely changed in 50 years rather than blowing a grand or more on some fancier room when all I’m doing there is sleeping.
I like the simpler things in life. I like writing letters—with a pen and actual paper—and going to the post office to buy a stamp and I love receiving the same kind of hand-written letter in reply. I do send emails but I always appreciate a handwritten letter. All of these things make sense to me. All of these things are accessible to me. When I go online, there are times when I get ‘stuck’ in a cortex of useless ‘news’ feeds and web pages that won’t load or the computer crashes or the internet disconnects somehow and it all seems like so much more trouble than it’s worth. I miss having a phone book. I was on my way somewhere a few weeks ago and realised I needed a taxi but didn’t have a taxi phone number. Without a phone book I was forced to turn on the computer to look up the number for a taxi firm and as I was doing so, the computer decided to do some ‘updates’ and it took so long to get the computer running that I ended up calling my dad and asking him if he still had a phone book and if so, could he find me the taxi’s number. Well, my dad didn’t have a phone book but turned his own computer on and we ended up turning it into a contest to see who could find the number first. Dad won. It took about 15 minutes and I was almost late to my appointment—it would have been less than a minute if I had a phone book.
This is only one reason I’m not a fan of technology.
On another note…
The fact that everyone not only has an opinion but feels strongly about sharing those opinions, even when extremely negative and hurtful to others, is an indication that we have moved so far away from one another personally that it disconnects us emotionally, morally, ethically and even empathically from the humanity from which we are descended from. Not every opinion needs to be voiced; not every argument needs to be had; not every thought needs to be shared. Be considerate, be kind, be thoughtful; be aware that what you say affects others just as much as what others say affects you. It’s easy to be kind—much easier than being nasty (in my opinion).
The opinions of others often leads to depression when you are not strong enough in your own character to recognise that what people are saying is an opinion; it is not fact. When people are lacking in self-esteem or self-worth, other people’s opinions can be very damaging. It is always better to stick to the golden rule: if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all. We can’t always control how we feel or what we think but we can control whether or not we voice an opinion that will do only harm to someone else.
Ellen Degeneres ends every one of her talk shows with the words, ‘be kind to one another’. Why wouldn’t we? It’s a shame that we need to be reminded—it should just be a given. My mother, whose birthday is also today by the way, taught me growing up the golden rule as well as another very valuable thing to remember: don’t burn your bridges. I have heeded that advice and it has been extremely helpful advice to me—especially when facing certain difficulties in both job and relationship situations. I may walk away from something because it’s not helping me in my life but I do not set fire to that situation and trash-talk the people involved. Of course I’m going to have feelings about it—it’s made me unhappy or unsettled—however severing ties or seeking revenge or gossiping or denigrating the people involved isn’t my modus operandi.
Be the kind of person you would like other people to see you as. Be the kind of person you would love to meet on the street. Be the kind of person that leaves you on your death bed without any regrets. Be the kind of person you can feel proud of. I strive to every day. I choose my words carefully and I try to show only kindness and generosity. I may not always succeed—I am fallible just like anybody else is—but I try. I will finish my life knowing that I did my best and that I offered my best and that I concentrated on being kind and looking for the silver lining in every situation. That’s what it’s all about.
Put down the iPad and the iPhone and the i-whatever and look up and see the people in your life. See the world around you. It’s so much more valuable than whatever electronic detachment-inducing device you’re holding could ever be.
Be kind and while you’re at it, get yourself properly stuck in the 80s. It’s such a great place to be.