Monday, January 9, 2012

There Was a Time

I've been thinking about our lives "BC" and "AD." Oh, not that use of these letters. I'm referring to Before Computers and After Deluge. Like many people, I probably spend too much time online. That's because much of the work I do supervising student teachers or participating in an active, rigorous, writing group demands it. If you add in a little Facebook, checking sports scores or streaming events I can't get get the picture. But that's not to say it has consumed my life. On the contrary, I just learned that since my retirement from full-time teaching, I've read 40 books. That averages to about 8 a year, or one every few weeks. Some were quick 175-250 page novels, but others were longer works of fiction in the 600 pg. league. Some were memoirs, history, biography, autobiography and of course, all manner of fly fishing literature from articles to fly tying recipes to books of maps, and collections of Pacific Northwest rivers and lakes by state.
I find time to write too. This blog is my exercise so that I don't get lazy. But aside from working out ideas or venting about something currently on my mind here, I occasionally use it to preserve a poem or character sketch or story starter I've scratched somewhere.
But there has been a deluge of online opportunities. Before computers, it was rather difficult to do the kind of research that Google enables us to do so easily. Even our first drafts come out looking more presentable than they used to. But that's a two way street because there is a lot of garbage in that deluge as well. Good looking garbage is still garbage.
AD allows me to stay in touch with former students mostly through Facebook. Just this past week I was able to participate in discussions about Teach For America, the ideas of Erich Fromm, and The Catcher in the Rye. Of course I'm overjoyed that young people who were in my English and Psych classes in high school still choose to ask me questions, wonder about my opinions, remind me about things I said years ago, and take the time to validate some of the many questions I still have about what and how I taught. Most of them are college graduates now and see the world a little differently. Still, they have a new appreciation for those years, those limitations, and those conditions.
I have ongoing "friendships" with students who will probably never go to college, much less graduate. Some in the military, some working two or three entry level jobs, some still at home. With all, there remains the recognition that we all were part of a wider community at a crucial time in our lives. That's important to me and keeps part of my identity alive. To most of them I will forever be "Mr. Greene." A few have made the transition with me and are comfortable to be on a first name basis. I don't require or even ask for either.
Can't help but wonder though, if not for this little keyboard and screen I visit daily, would we just remain a dim memory? What's lost and gained there?
Sometimes I want to go back to writing in journals or notebooks, writing letters, and just wondering what ever happened to (insert name here)? When I see beginning teachers take two minutes and download a film or historical video from You Tube, I can't help thinking about how much effort, time, and money it took to do that BC. But like everything else that is changing so quickly before our eyes and minds, I know it's an irrelevant question. So I have chosen to enjoy the possibilities and keep connected.

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