A whirligig is a top, or spinning device, something constantly changing. I don’t know about you, but I sometimes feel my head spinning. Whether we are talking about the internal – the radical changes many of us experience in our lives – or the external, the remarkable way the world around us has changed, I think I have got it right, in describing life as a whirligig.
Sometimes, I feel a churning in my insides, as I try to decide whether to laugh or cry. Isn’t it incredible that we start out as these wee things, helpless as puppies? We are even worse – we don’t, as newborns, have the survival instincts of other animals. Then, we grow up as creatures capable of organizing events that can shake the world, at least events that can shake the world around us, metamorphose the people and environment around us. I find that an astounding reality, don’t you?
Creating a new life, as some of us have been blessed with the chance to do, potentially alters all of human history every time it happens. Some humans have done that, and they were born of man and woman. Now, we are seven going on eight billion. What amazing potential lies in human hands! Who knows what intelligences currently lying outside our ken we are yet to master.
I grew up as one of the nonentities and, yet, I have affected the lives of millions who don’t even know my name. No guarantees. We could arrive here just to be another creature consuming resources. But, when I consider the trajectory of my all-too-common life, I shake and twirl, like a spinning top. What about those around us whose names we all know? They also started out on this planet as being more helpless than puppies, but became forces of nature that thrust themselves into our consciousness.
Maybe that is not the most important model. What about those unseen and unknown to us who led a life that yielded offspring, providing the continuity necessary to ensure the survival of humanity’s way of life? All of us started out as an idea that was born into flesh and blood, presenting the option of acting for good or evil. That it works out for the good so many times is astounding, when there are multiple things that can go wrong. We know about those, too. I am letting it all wash over me, making me happy and sad.
Can I talk about some of the ways in which the nature of my external world has changed? I was challenged by the existence of the computer when I was in my 50s. Before that, I remember going into a computer centre in the business I worked in. It occupied a vast air-conditioned space, tended by individuals who were regarded as acolytes of a mysterious priesthood. Today, I have more computing power in the machine I am typing this tale on than was contained in the whole of that metaphoric temple. All that data stuff held for the world’s business has vanished from their physical premises; it’s now in the “cloud,” held electronically in an obscure corner of the United States.
Nowadays, in an instant, I can be present at an event occurring in real time in a place I have never heard of that is 6,000 miles away. If I have the number, I can talk face-to-face with a person halfway around the world!
I can remember shivering in fear as the radio announced what our losses were on land and sea during the Second World War. How immediate would those things be today? We have seen it depicted on TV. Star Trek, with its once-only-imaginable technology, is coming into our living rooms and lives, in living colour. Our appliances are becoming smarter than we are. Is it any wonder that my head begins to spin when I think about it? Our grandkids take this all for granted. They stare at us in disbelief and laugh.
We don’t understand the half of what is going on. But we try to cope with all of this. I have not yet thrown up my hands. I take courses and try to learn new things. I watch webinars. I blunder about expecting failure, and experience it. Bit by bit, I learn a minimum, and I gratefully accept any help offered. I am grateful for the patience of others and try to be patient myself. I revel in small victories of understanding. I resist computer updates that may change the things I know how to work, putting off improvements that leave me at a loss. I accept that I will not learn to know it all.
So, my head is spinning on the turntable of my life, which is also spinning. I make an effort to keep in contact with others of my ilk who are in the same place. We can compare notes and share news of gains and losses. So far, my younger near and dear speak to me in languages I still understand. They make allowances for my decrepitude and hide their amusement at my distresses. I hug my Bride and friends close and closer to ensure I retain human contact. We continue full speed into an evolving future that may be even more beyond my understanding.
I know that, at some time or another, I will have to get off the turntable and hand in my IDs and passwords. Until then, I continue to give it a whirl!
Max Roytenberg is a Vancouver-based poet, writer and blogger. His book Hero in My Own Eyes: Tripping a Life Fantastic is available from Amazon and other online booksellers.