The memory bank is a treasure chest, heavy-laden with rich and abundant stocks of words and images from the past. They incessantly assail the mind, suggesting new meanings and shapes to things that I once thought I knew. It is a virtual deluge or torrent of remembrances. Is it any wonder that someone eventually captured this reality by exclaiming;
“I Can’t Escape My Thoughts!”
Looking at the FAITHGATEWAY website, my attention is drawn to an advertisement for the NIV life hacks Bible. Further, and of greater interest to me, is the definition of “life hacks.”
The term “life hack” has become popular for describing advice, shortcuts or tips that make difficult tasks simpler to do… life hack methods (to) give you practical and achievable tools to integrate spiritual habits into your busy, technology-centric, 21st century life.
I first called my blog Thoughts Becoming Tales. I now realize that I may have shortchanged my readers in working with that broad and non-specific title. I need to define myself. I am old school; whether it be (that old-time) religion, my musical tastes, books, films, philosophy and technology (?) I know the last entry is debatable. You see, I cannot honestly say that my mobile phone is solely for making and receiving calls. In 1995, it was. Today, I have accessed other uses made possible by advanced cell phone technology. However – and this is my gripe – I remain distant from what my children can do with their phones. I still have to read, re-read and safely store the gadget’s operation manual for guaranteed future use. On the other hand, my children effortlessly navigate the online maze to answer problems they may encounter. Being old school and grounded in my traditional values, I do not use the same model of phone with them, if only to enjoy a semblance of uncrowded space. I call it my controlled jungle. Yet I must admit that on more occasions than I can remember, the “technology-centric, 21st century life” has bowled me over. I can see their knowing smiles even as I write this.
I hunger for the old way of doing things. Granted, it cannot stand alone. It must incorporate adaptations from the now crazy and fast-paced world we inhabit. I am fully aware that however much the old school hunger consumes me, I cannot function fully in today’s world without borrowing from the 21st century.
So, why I do I even bother about the old school? I think as a senior citizen, I cannot fight the nostalgic craving for the Old Normal. Or, simply, “Normal” as we once called it. I always get on edge when I hear such terms as the New Normal or what wordsmiths tellingly characterize as Normalizing the Abnormal. In trying to fathom the meaning of the New Normal, it is incontrovertible that its approaches to life are alien to traditional values. I must hasten to emphasize that these are my views. It is worrying to note that our social narratives are now largely driven by the media in all its forms. No one can deny that this causes unnecessary fissures and ructions in our families, communities and societies.
I am, today, stretched to the limit in trying to find good and wholesome family-viewing movies and television series. I wince and cringe when I hear the language that laces so-called hit songs today. While song titles and lyrics may vary slightly, there seems to be a scripted chorus or refrain that many musicians include in their songs. A Newsweek report by Zach Schonfeld on October 11, 2015, entitled “Does the Parental Advisory Label Still Matter?” observed the following:
Thirty years ago, parents breathed a sigh of relief and adolescent music fans felt a shiver of fear. The Parental Advisory label was born. In November 1985, the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) ceded to demands from a concerned parents’ group and agreed to put warning stickers on inappropriate records. By the 1990s, the black-and-white rectangle signaling “EXPLICIT LYRICS” had become a staple of music shopping. Its power was particularly fearsome to young people….
These days, the Parental Advisory sticker is so iconic it even pops up on fake album covers…But its power has been diminished. In 2015, teenagers aren’t waiting in line..to pick up the album – they’re streaming or grabbing it on iTunes, and a warning label to parents has as much sway as an “I Am Under 18” button on a porn site. But as popular music grew more obscene…some records emblazoned with the warning label were selling in huge numbers. Thirty years on, the Parental Advisory warning is in an unusual place.
It is more iconic than ever, but less practical. It’s easy for parents to research the lyrical content of whatever their child is listening to. But its just as easy for any kid with a Wi-Fi connection to listen to whatever he pleases. Barriers to entry have been blasted to the cloud.
It would be pretentious of me to limit the challenges to the area of music alone. Grade five biology school textbooks carry material that I studied in my third year of high school. I realize that every possible way of mitigating the threats facing our youth today must be given a try. However, in doing so, the Old School parental role should not be discarded. If anything, the world should seek to assist and empower parents. I recently saw a touching documentary called “Hard Earned” on Al Jazeera TV. I was obviously struck by the extent to which communities and people go towards earning a decent living. Nothing, however, is as gripping as the parents who work late nights and are thus unable to put their children to bed. The anguish suffered by a parent who has not kissed his or her child “good night” became a deep and revealing psychological examination of the relationship between parents and their children? No parent wants to lose his or her child to the “technology-centric, 21st century.”
Let me be clear. The challenges visited upon us by the “technology-centric, 21st century” reduce well-meaning parents to complete novices when it comes to raising children in this troubled age. To what extent are parental controls effective or desirable? How does a parent allow his or her children to be part of the digital age without losing them to its corrupting influences? Indeed, can the Old School recover its rhythm amidst the cacophony that plays out in the world around us?