“The only thing constant is change.” —Greek philosopher Heraclitus
If Ol’ Heraclitus was moved enough to wax philosophical about change while hanging around Ephesus 500 years before Christ, one wonders just what words of wisdom he might communicate today?
In my youth, I marveled at thinking about the changes my grandmother must have seen in her lifetime. When Hattie Lois (Farmer) Aldridge was born in 1905, riding in automobiles and flying in airplanes were still rare experiences for most. Yet, she lived long enough to ride in luxury cars with undreamed-of automotive options, fly in an airplane piloted by her grandson, and watch men walk on the moon via yet another unheard of concept in 1905—television.
Similar feelings surfaced years later while reading Lewis Grizzard’s 1984 book “Elvis Is Dead and I Don’t Feel So Good Myself.” The late columnist and author humorously elaborated in his best-seller about the many generational changes that left him feeling lost and confused trying to keep up in a society considerably different from the one in which he grew up. His witty and nostalgic observations detail how growing up in the 50s good times “… hanging out at the local store, eating Zagnut candy bars and drinking Big Orange belly washers” left him ill-prepared to cope as an adult in the 80s where “… assassinations, war, civil rights, free love, and drugs had rocked the old order.”
Like it or not, coping in today’s world with values and traditions differing from those we grew up with is a common transition in life. The difficulty of giving up pieces of our past and learning new ones that we may not always understand is a concept that requires a significant number of birthdays to fully appreciate.
Those familiar feelings flourished one more time last week when Mount Pleasant High School classmate and long-time friend now residing in Colorado, Richard Shaw, commented on a Facebook post dealing with a topic near and dear to my heart: the art of communication.
It was news to me when Richard noted the method of addressing the Alpha, Bravo, and Charlie of communication I recognized as aviation communication was known as the ITU phonetic alphabet and was also shared with short wave and ham radio operators. All I knew was that learning the Delta, Echo and Foxtrot language was something required of me to earn a pilot’s license in the 70s and one of those things I never forgot.
The social media exchange brought to mind another form of communication, one that has not fared as well in my memory moments. Morse Code earned me a merit badge in Coach Sam Parker’s early 60s Mount Pleasant, Texas, Boy Scout troop where we memorized the “dots” and “dashes” patterns using flashlights to transmit messages the length of the old MPHS building ground-floor hallway from opposite ends of the structure.
While I remember the X-ray, Yankee, and Zulu of the aviation chatter I was once part of, I retained very little of Morse Code that was used widely to send and receive messages in World War II and by my grandfather at the Pittsburg, Texas, depot for communicating up and down the Cotton Belt Route in the years following “WW II, the big one.”
With eons of communication education and practice behind me, I’ve seen more change with every decade than I could have possibly conceived might occur in a lifetime when first entering the world of wordsmiths almost 50 years ago.
Just as my grandmother likely never envisioned travel as she experienced it in her lifetime, I never envisioned a world experiencing old words changing definitions and connotations—let alone changes to instant worldwide communication via electrically charged digital knowledge.
When I started writing, ‘digital’ was defined simply as an activity having to do with fingers and toes. And that’s comforting to know. That way, if someone pulls the plug on my modern electrically charged digital, I can still count ‘digitally’ to ten…like Heraclitus might have.
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