I try to appreciate the positive gains technology brings. I do. I love being able to connect with people all over the world. I love the internet and all the changes it continues to bring to our lives. I LOVE GOOGLE. There are so many positives, but every one of them, for me, carries with it a little melancholy over the shoulder glance at the ghosts of what we sacrificed for all this progress.
Oh my gosh, it kind of floors me when I think about how different it is for kids today when they’re assigned a report in school. I remember when I was my daughter’s age, reports required me to check out a bazillion books at the public library. A bazillion because until I read them, I couldn’t be sure they would contain the sorts of information I wanted for my report. But I also couldn’t be sure they wouldn’t. I remember that many times, it all came down to our Encyclopedia Britannica set and me at 3am.
The information we had access to was all we had access to. We couldn’t search multiple sources (beyond other books, which often had the exact same information, referencing the same original source) for contradictions. We could speculate, but what we could find in books? That was our truth.
I’m truly glad that we now have the resources to access many different interpretations of important historical events. I’m glad that my kids aren’t tethered to a white, patriarchal interpretation of things like the Civil Rights Movement, or Christopher Columbus and his discovery of the New World. Because on a lot of those subjects, we got seriously shortchanged.
But I do miss books. I miss knowing that a first edition is going to mean something someday. I miss the days when writers typed on typewriters and had small batch releases of their work because small batches were all we were capable of turning out.
I think it’s truly amazing the way YouTube has transformed the concept of fame into something achievable for anyone willing to come up with a catchy concept and market it to the masses. I love that with hard work and perseverance, anyone can have a novel published, or cut an album, or create art and find an audience. I love that the need for cutthroat competition has dwindled.
I do, however, think that there’s something to be said for talent. And for earning your way and paying your dues. I think the current climate for the gain of fame nurtures whiners with a sense of entitlement who somehow FEEL like they’ve earned their way, but who really don’t even know what that means.
Don’t get me wrong. Brilliance is discovered every day. But so is a lot of tarnished metal pretending to be gold…and we buy it. For a while.
I’m not even going to waste my words on reality TV “stars”. And that should tell you all you need to know about how I feel about THAT.
But THIS, THOUGH…
A few weeks ago, the world lost another great artist. Such a great artist that I don’t even need to say his name.
The news of his death spread like wildfire, and the world grieved its loss openly and honestly.
He was so revered that even the results of his autopsy failed to harden our hearts or change our minds, and that, my friends, is a modern day miracle. It is a testament to how beloved this man truly was. Because most people don’t make it under the scrutiny of our internet microscopes.
Sometimes I think we know far too much about people these days. Every piece of information is available at our fingertips instantly because of this constantly streaming miracle network that never sleeps.
Because my mom is a huge fan of musicals, I cut my teeth on Rodgers, Hart, Ziegfeld, Gershwin, Sondheim, Cohen, Gilbert and Sullivan, Hammerstein, Lerner and Lowe, and all the rest of ’em. She taught me to appreciate those triple threats in life. I loved how cool the Rat Pack was. Oh, I loved to watch Sammy and Frank perform Me and My Shadow. I was giddy whenever I saw Gene Kelley sing in the rain. I would give my left hand (and I’m left-handed) to sit down to lunch with Fred Astaire or Ethel Merman and dish. I was Johnny Carson’s biggest fan under 30, I’m pretty sure. My mom taught me to love amazing music, coupled with unequaled showmanship that made you feel something.
As an adult I’ve read several biographies about my favorite artists who have passed, and I know now that regardless of the show they put on in front of the cameras, some of those guys were absolute bastards to the people who loved them in real life. And I know, now, that some of them died for unnecessarily tragic reasons.
But I didn’t know them in real life, and I don’t want to remember the part of their lives that I wasn’t a part of. Nobody told me that stuff was my business.
I want to remember their greatness. I want to remember their genius. I want their show to always go on.
And sometimes, in this world full of instant information about everything, I think we lose sight of that and get focused on the parts of a life we were never invited into.
I think of all the “news” I was pummeled with about Whitney, and then later, her poor daughter. And about Michael. And Phillip Seymour Hoffman. Amy Winehouse. I think about how that stuff became all anyone ever talked about.
And I think that sometimes, this new, high tech world leads us to forget about what they brought us. What they gave the world.
I think sometimes, we forget the music.