“Magic exists. Who can doubt it, when there are rainbows and wildflowers, the music of the wind and the silence of the stars? Anyone who has loved has been touched by magic. It is such a simple and such an extraordinary part of the lives we live.”
I can honestly say that, in the last ten years, Betty and I have been living in the magic, with the magic. We see it, we feel it, we get it. Since 2019 my B and I have been living a quiet, semi-quarantined life. We call relatives and friends, we watch the news, we occasionally chat with someone at the grocery store or gas station. We take an occasional overnight trip to some part of the state we particularly like, always with our little Hemingway. We watch the news quite a bit, as it has become more important, and more dramatic in recent years. We read the paper every day, and are painfully aware that our American culture has become dangerously polarized. But I think it’s moved on into another place… I think we are now living in different worlds.
I can almost hear you… “How different is it?!
Yeah. Well, good question. It depends on one’s perspective, of course. If you were born in 1990, much if not all of this present bs probably seems fairly normal to you. I, however, was born in the ’40’s, and used a rotary-dial landline telephone probably longer than some of you have been alive. A few examples? Sure. During the first ten years I was driving, gas was 38 cents a gallon. In 1968 Jimmy Helms, Paul Miller and I looked at an apartment on Beacon Street in Boston, a second story walkup with a beautiful view of the Charles River from a big bay window in the living room. A fabulous bachelor pad, it went for $350 a month… and we turned it down. I see now, 54 years later, that apartments in the Seattle area average $2100 a month. Sure, it’s 54 years later, and I should have had time to adjust to the constantly-rising cost of living. But when you add in everything else that is radically different in today’s world, the numbers alone send me into culture shock.
Not enough? Okay, here are more numbers. In 1992, 30 years ago, I bought a brand new 3-bedroom, 3 and 1/12 bath house in Decatur, Georgia, an eastern suburb of Atlanta, for $157,000. Yesterday, I see that the average selling price for any house in the Seattle area is $700,000. I can’t help it, it blows my mind. How do people survive today? How do they manage to buy a house, raise a family, realize their dreams, have a happy life? Well, obviously, a whole bunch of them don’t.
My folks never mentioned, or complained about any of the dramatic changes that occurred in their lifetimes. They were alive way before penicillin was invented, and watched the very beginnings of the airplane and the auto. They lived through the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918, never spoke of it. WWI & WWII? Seldom spoke of them either.
About Computers, For Instance…
Perhaps these dramatic changes during my parents’ lifetimes happened slower, just enough slower to help them take many of those changes for granted. Whatever, I continue to be boggled by the world changes I see every day now. I mean, my god, think about it… I saw my first computer at an IBM plant in Oklahoma back in 1976. It was huge… “These computers cost $3.5 million a piece and were the size of a car. Each could perform several hundred thousand addition operations per second, and their total memory capacity was in the megabyte range. Programs were developed for the 75s that monitored the spacecraft’s environmental data and astronauts’ health, which were at the time the most complex software ever developed.”
“A pocket calculator or even a USB-C charger has more computing power than the best computers used to send astronauts to the moon
Besides AGC, thousands of flight technicians and computer engineers at the Goddard Space Flight Center employed the IBM System/360 Model 75s mainframe computer in order to make independent computations and maintain communication between Earth and lunar landers.”
“Computers are so ubiquitous nowadays that even a pocket calculator has much more processing power, RAM, and memory than the state of the art in computing during the Apollo era. For instance, the TI-84 calculator developed by Texas Instruments in 2004 is 350 times faster than Apollo computers and had 32 times more RAM and 14,500 times more ROM.” Tibi Puiu, in ZME Science
About Humanity, for Instance…
Here’s something I read the other day –
“We asked His Holiness Dalai Lama :
« What surprises you the most about humanity ? »
He has answered : “Men … Because they lose health to accumulate money. Then they lose money to regain health. And to think anxiously about the future, they forget the present, so that they end up living neither the present nor the future. They live as if they were never going to die … and die as if they had never lived … »
Right outside our front door is a new, divergent world gone mad. B and I talk about it a lot, about how different the world seems today from the one we knew as younger folk. We’re aware that our memories of our youth are far from deadly accurate, yet it’s almost too easy to compare the world we knew from say, the 40-year period of 1950-1990 to now. It was a busy, energetic world back then, too, but not like it is today. We understand that, in our old age, we are slowing down as the rest of the country continues to speed up, and the collision of the two happen far more frequently and more uncomfortably than it used to. We try to fit in, we try to be diplomatic, within reason. But often our difference is met with meanness and hostility. For god’s sake, we’re not trying to challenge anyone, piss off anyone, but this different world doesn’t realize it, doesn’t acknowledge it. Besides, it’s become too easy for it to be disagreeable, even hostile, at the drop of a hat.
What breaks my heart almost every day is seeing so many of these beautiful little flowers, these delicate, talented, passionate little children, trying to grow up and blossom through the bullshit we’ve covered their land of opportunity with. Little actors, little musicians, writers and painters, all inspiring us with their fresh enthusiasm for their art, and their lives.They’re out there, bless their little hearts. There are some adults, too, who are doing everything they can to give these talented kids the opportunity to grow, and excel. But not nearly enough of us.
I know a little bit about people who live in different worlds. I’ve been in and out of several of those worlds. I’ve seen the stark cultural differences between the world of higher education and the world of the artist. And the difference between the advertising agency droids and the artists. The computer world with its IT brains and the artist. The Armed Services and the artist, the religious community and the artist, the agency car salesman and the artist, the county sheriff, the police in general, and the artist. I never used to think of myself as an artist… I thought I was a musician, a composer, a mostly regular person. But the bigger world showed me what it really was, and who I really was… and the sad, eye-opening differences between us.
Those I’ve mentioned appear to me to be cloistered, self-serving, self-protected from much of the outside world. Often I find them to feel safe, invulnerable and somewhat superior in their attitude toward outsiders, and sometimes toward real life in general. It’s not hard to notice that they have a slightly different language, a group belief system, a strange sense of freedom and wiggle-room within a fairly tight structure of acceptance… even a group perspective.
The rigidity of these different worlds is immediately noticeable to me, perhaps because I’ve lived a life of impractical spontaneity and found it to be a perfect fit. The comparative rigidity of these groups, these “worlds,” is fine with me, except for one thing… somewhere along the way they have somehow decided that their way is the only right way! And I have a definite problem with that.
Along with their fairly large group ego, they seem to have gotten more aggressive over the years, more proactive for their cause, to the point of occasional violence. Historically, the world has probably always been this way, but somehow it has become more noticeable, and more painful to me these days. It is definitely a weird experience to feel like an outsider in a world I’ve lived in for 80 years.
The political split we’re experiencing in our country right now is frightening to me. I won’t discuss it here, only to say that we’re simply repeating the history of mankind on so many levels… and that we either can’t see it or are too damn stupid (and greedy!) to acknowledge it and change ourselves. It is, right now, one of the ugliest times in our country’s history since its inception in nearly 250 years.
The mountains haven’t changed. The sea, the beaches, the valleys, the meadows, the tall pine forests… none has changed, if we haven’t changed it. Nature hasn’t changed, it continues to hold the same peace, solitude and dependability that it always has. Hell, perhaps we, as a people, haven’t changed either. But it damn sure feels like we have.
I have always been willing to look into my own life, to try to analyze it to a degree, having long supported the idea that the clearer we can see inside, the clearer we will see outside. Sadly, at some point, it appears that the clarity we now see in our view of the outside world has now become detrimental to our daily peace of mind. It has become a more difficult world to live in, to function in, to get through. Grocery store lines can get mean in a heartbeat, traffic can be dangerous, sometimes deadly. Egos and belief systems now crash together at a moment’s notice. It is no longer any fun to go outside my door as a simple artist, unless it’s to go directly to the woods, or to the beach. It feels as if being around any number of people is to invite trouble of one sort or another. What kind of world has this become, anyway? I don’t know… I really don’t know. All I know is that it’s a very different world.