Tuesday, 29 April 2014
The Possibilities of the Internet
We live a continent apart so we are unlikely to meet in person unless, as you will see below, I visit the east coast which, given the pain and exhaustion of air travel these days, is not something I easily do.
In response to yesterday's post here about the importance of the internet to elders' health and well-being, Marc sent a compelling note about how he lives today in retirement and the wonderful things the internet gives him.
In the most positive way, he explains how impoverished his life would be without it. So with Marc's permission, I am reprinting his note here:
It’s 8:49AM here in central New Jersey. The kitchen, where I have my computer set up, is filled with early morning sunshine, the windows are open and the only sounds are the twitter of birds and the hum of the refrigerator.
I revel in the silence and peace. If I believed in the Invisible Man in the Sky, I would say that I am blessed; since I don’t, I’ll just say that I am content.
If I have learnt anything on this journey, it is that I have learnt to forgive myself for not being, doing and trumpeting all that others expect of me. I spent many years trying to please parents, wives, friends and strangers. Now I please myself and often, I’m successful.
In Candide, Voltaire’s hero sets out on a voyage of discovery and after many vicissitudes, returns home enriched by the knowledge that, “Il faut cultiver nos jardins” (We have to nourish our own patch of ground).
It’s a hard lesson that most people never learn. The world is a large and various place; if we can make a small dent, based on our own abilities, not those others say we should have, then we’ve done well.
Another Frenchman, Joachim du Bellay, wrote a poem some four hundred years ago, in which he said, “Heureux, qui comme Ullysse, a fait un beau voyage.” (Happy is the man (woman), who like Ulysses, has had a beautiful trip). I’ve always remembered that, especially under adverse circumstances.
That’s a long preamble to say that I agree with you.
I live alone today and like you and a myriad of others, most of my first family (parents, grandparents, uncles and aunts) have died. And friends and acquaintances drop off the planet in increasing numbers.
Because of a fall resulting in a broken neck, my ability to do all of the things retirees tell themselves they’ll do in retirement (travel, audit courses at nearby Rutgers University, go out to dinner, attend plays, concerts, the opera, train into the City to walk the streets and visit exhibits at the museums) are largely activities I engaged in in the past.
(Think getting on a train with a cane or walker, negotiating the stairs and concourse at Penn Station, getting on and off the subway or standing on line for a taxi, getting into the Metropolitan and walking through the exhibit hall and then reversing the process on my way home.)
Yes, a lot of that is still possible with careful planning and alternatives but do I really want to do that?
Here’s a thumbnail of how my life would be without the Internet and how I would fill my time:
Daily reading – fiction, non-fiction, newspapers, magazines. Writing - poetry, prose. Painting and drawing. Listening to my extensive library of LPs - classical, folk, Broadway. Television and last but not least, talking to myself (I have a gift for accents - I can be British, Irish, Scottish, French, German...)
The internet provides an alternate universe of possibilities and an opportunity to meet a variety of people such as yourself in a virtual reality which, after all, in some ways is no different from meeting at a pub or coffeehouse or talking on the telephone or writing letters.
And the internet also gives me (us) the opportunity to select out the type of people I (we) wish to associate with.
For example, I’m very interested in linguistics and the whole universe of language (I speak four languages with varying degrees of fluency). Without the internet, I would have to work very hard to find people with similar interests. With the internet, they’re only a click away.
Since retiring in 2010, I’ve made friends (or at least, friendly acquaintances) of people in England, Ireland and across the U.S., all of whom are interested in the fine points of language.
Ronni here again. As I mentioned to Marc in a return email, his note about his interest in language reminded me of my first taxi ride in New York City many decades ago.
When I told the driver I had just moved to town, he told me that if what you care about is one in a million, there are seven more people in New York City just like you.
As we now know, on the internet, there are even more of them just like you to choose from.
After reading Marc's note, I wondered what opportunities and possibilities you have found online that were difficult or non-existent before you discovered the internet.
At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Vicki E. Jones: Close Encounters of the Baby Garter Snake Kind