“Just a Tiny Grain of Sand”
Joyous greetings and happy holidays. As we near the end of 1999, I can’t help but reflect on endings and beginnings, and the vastness of all things.
When I was six years old, my dad came home from work one day with a strange object: a styrofoam ball with toothpicks sticking out from it at odd angles. He suspended it from the chandelier over the kitchen table. “Sputnik!” he proudly said. We spent our dinner conversation over the next several nights talking about the excitement of space exploration. I became fascinated with the idea of travelling into space and watched many televised U.S. space launches. Because I live a rich fantasy life, I was able to pretend it was me in the spacecraft, all suited up for weightlessness.
The rich vastness of space, the fear of the unknown, the beyond the beyond. In my twenties I began expanding my mind, as it were, and the imponderable vastness of the universe began to unfold. I became aware of the “grain of sand” theory of life and instead of it being all about me, it became so little about me. Such thoughts as how infinitesimal we really are in the vast scheme of things made my reality a bit more humbling. Then I explored the idea that each action we take affects history. What if I had turned left instead of right? What if I had missed the train? What if Thomas had owned a Commodore instead of a Mac? Little events can change the course of history by changing the course of our own lives.
Just as Sputnik travelled the periphery of our atmosphere, I began my journey with the Macintosh. Working from the outside edges toward the center I began to explore in tiny increments the vast depth, breadth, and space of the computer. The hardware, software, and interface so elegantly entwine to create my daily dose of magic. I started on the outside edges by learning how to start up and launch applications. I learned the precise terminology. I installed RAM. I upgraded operating systems. I learn more and more about each application I use daily. And each step gives me one more tiny bit of understanding of how computers work.
So I struggle with my computer and get impatient and frustrated because I want to know everything there is to know about it–right now. Of course things don’t work that way. But I can take heart in the fact that I can surf the net with grace and ease. I can send and receive email like I was born with talent. This is one thing nobody had to teach me. It was like I had some innate ability to do this with no trouble at all. And now I explore the rich vastness of the World Wide Web’s solar system.
My Macintosh is my spacecraft, and I can go wherever I want to go. I am just a tiny grain of sand, commanding my keyboard to take me anywhere and beyond. Some may argue that through this we lose the ability to interact face to face and become anonymous. My experience has been quite the opposite. Email has introduced me to people of all ages, from all walks of life, from all over the planet. Some I have met in real life, but most I never will. I correspond with those who take the time to create visually exciting websites, or websites which make us grow and learn. I send fan mail. I say thank you. I gush, fercryingoutloud.
My Macintosh is my spacecraft, and I can learn whatever I want to learn. I can ask Sherlock to find a dictionary of computer terms, and it does. I can ask for directions from Moscone Center in San Francisco to the hotel where my friends will be staying while at Mac World, and it tells me. I can make plane reservations, then print out My Mac Magazine to read while I’m on the plane. I can even place an ad and get a date. (Well, sometimes.) With my Macintosh spacecraft I can inspire engineers to write poetry. I can converse with the world. I am constantly amazed.
Each morning when I wake up I have a little ritual I go through: stretch, scratch, throw on my bathrobe, stop by Moo to log on (beep, beep, boop, boop, boop, boop, beep….wheee-oh, dinga, ding ding, ding ding; is there any prettier sound in the universe?) put water on for coffee, grind the beans, get the newspaper, feed and water the dogs, then sit down at Moo and launch Claris emailer and Netscape. Each morning I am amazed and awed that I have the opportunity to connect to the world with just a few simple mouse clicks and keystrokes. I climb into my spaceship of Internet travel and command my keyboard to take me wherever my whim demands. And it does.
I remember when I first heard the concept of the World Wide Web. The notion seemed preposterous to me. The excitement of possibilities was probably similar to what my parents thought about when Sputnik was launched. Yeah, space exploration may happen, but will it? When the reality of the event actually happens, it is so much more than first imagined. It takes on its own life with its own place in history.
It’s easy to take for granted these things which we have. I live in one of the most beautiful places on the face of the earth. I constantly remind myself not to become complacent about it. Zion National Park was here long before me, and will be here long after I leave. Putting humans into space is not the challenge it once was, and yet we cannot afford to become complacent about that. It is still an awesome event. Logging onto the Internet occurs every day. I wonder what the future does hold? It’s not likely I’ll be launching webcam first thing in the morning (now that’s a scary thought; I’d need a new bathrobe for that, where’s that darn Victoria’s Secret catalogue?), but the future possibilities for Internet space exploration are exciting to me. And I refuse to become complacent about it.
The power that my Macintosh allows me each and every day is humbling. It is more than just a computer. It is my Sputnik, the beginning of exciting things to come. And with it I can wish everyone who stumbles across these words in their Internet journey a joyous and happy holiday season and a prosperous new year. Be well, world. We are just tiny grains of sand in this vast universe. But even as such, we have infinite power. Think about it. See ya in 2000! Hoo Yeah! I can’t wait!
This month’s column is dedicated to the creator of http://www.backwardm.com whose wisdom and kindness helped change my course in history. Happy new year, bro.