Sunday, December 24, 2017

Let's All Be Grateful

As the year winds to a close and we celebrate one holiday or another, this is a good time to reflect on the things we enjoy and treasure. Gratitude is one of the very best emotions or practices as it insulates us from a host of not very good ones like resentment, anger and depression. Yes, I know that sometimes I claim that we are all going to hell in a handcart, but let's put all that aside for a while and contemplate how good we really have it. Most of us, unless you live in Venezuela, have bountiful food and drink to enjoy, which in most of human history was not the case. Most of us are likely in good health, which was certainly not the case for the vast majority of history. Most of us have a warm and comfortable home, again, likely not the case for most of the past. And on and on.

I saw some charts a while ago showing just how much human history has changed since the Industrial Revolution. Science, technology, government and economics have improved so radically and spread over much of the world so that a chart of almost any parameter: per capita income, education and so on, looks like a long depressing tail to the left, and on the right, a stupendous, nearly vertical climb. In the last hundred years, much of humanity has climbed out of misery and poverty to enjoy prosperity. Sure, there is a long way to go, but we have come a long way.

In the normal course of things, it behooves few politicians or public intellectuals to even mention this because they tend to gain influence and votes by claiming that we are on the edge of disaster, not enjoying an upwelling of good things. Even artists and composers tend to delve into some kind of aesthetic darkness, if only for the sake of contrast. But the truth is, if you were some sort of disembodied soul, drifting in limbo, and you could choose any time or place to be born, then now, the early 21st century, should be your preference--by far! Modern medicine, dental care, the accessibility of virtually any kind of material possession delivered to your door, every book imaginable available on a hand-held device at a reasonable cost, access to any piece of music there is, for free. Twenty or thirty years ago, if you had told me that it would be possible in the future to communicate with video to nearly anyone in the world, I would have believed it. But I would not have believed that it would have been free! But through Skype, it is.

Just look at how things have changed in the last couple of decades. My first computer was a second-hand Mac Plus:

That's a 9 1/2 inch black and white screen. It didn't have an internal hard drive, so I had an external one with 20 megabytes of storage. There were 2.5 megabytes of RAM! I actually wrote my first book on that computer running early versions of Pagemaker, Word and music software. If I scrolled, it took about 30 seconds to redraw the screen! But this was a huge advance because it meant I could create the musical examples, text and layout all myself. Then I just sent the completed file to the publisher and they slapped on a cover. That was this book:

Now I have an iMac with a 27 inch screen, color of course, and 8 gigabytes of RAM with a one terabyte hard drive. Wireless mouse and keyboard. Compared to what was available twenty years ago, it is a dream. The really astonishing thing is that I spent only slightly more for my current computer than I did for that old Mac Plus! I have a little device from Tascam for digitally recording music that has much more quality and editing capacity than the Beatles had when they were recording at Abbey Road. And it cost me about $140 US.

Then there is this blog where I can post items that anyone in the entire world, with Internet access, can read instantly and respond with a comment. That level of communication was never available anywhere or anytime before.

So I am deeply grateful, for all of these good things, and especially for my many readers and commentators who add so much to this blog and who are truly an exceptional bunch of people.

Thank You!

and have a very Merry Christmas and a bountiful New Year.


Christine Lacroix said...

That was a lovely Christmas message, Bryan. We are lucky to be living in freedom and in this century, aren't we? When my friends buy lottery tickets I say 'but you've already won the lottery, you were born healthy and in France!'

Wishing you a wonderful 2018!

Bryan Townsend said...

Thanks, Christine. And may you have a wonderful new year!