Throughout the ages mankind has had to cope with change. New rules, new laws, new discoveries. New faiths. New ideas. In more recent history there has been foreign travel, with its accompanying new foods and new materials.
The arrival of train travel broadened horizons. The industrial revolution made massive changes to the lives of working people in this country.
Someone once told me that people of my mother’s generation (she was born in 1910) saw more changes than any generation had before or would since. Air travel, space travel, transistor radios, plastic, machines to do housework, a new currency to replace their old £ s d. Films, television…. And they also lived through two world wars. What a tough, hard-pressed old bunch they must have been.
So what is new about having to cope with the mobile and the computer? I have to say that at times I have resented it. I have been known to moan to friends, ‘We had to learn to walk and talk. Then to read and do sums. We’ve done it all. Grown up. Learnt to drive. Raised families. Then… and now we have to learn to use a computer!
Writing about what it is to be 60 in the internet age irritates me because age is not the issue. The big question is how to be human. There will always be people who have no telephone at all, no television, and who might never set foot outside this country. People who are perfectly clever and full living; people who have managed their lives without a mobile phone.
I am more interested in the fact that here are people of forty and maybe younger who never move, and who never grow inwardly, at all. And people of 60, 70, 80 and beyond who use the Internet competently for their interests and research.
With them it is not their use of technology which fascinates, but their continuing interest and their thirst for life. I have an aunt of 102 who still reads the newspaper daily, ‘Because I want to know what is going to happen to us all’.
The people I talk of go to museums and exhibitions and talks, fervently. Always wanting to know and to go on learning. And, as an onlooker and writer, to me they live as though they will live forever.
Maybe that is what being in the moment means. This current focusing on ‘mindfulness.’
In the present there is no future, so there is no ending. If you are happy and involved, engrossed, you will be in the present. It is only through unfulfilment that you seek the future.
Two rabbis sat talking. Someone asked another rabbi what heaven would be for those two so engrossed. And he was told, ‘They are in heaven now’.
So – the technological age for the over 60s is no different from advances that have faced people over history. It depends what kind of human being you are.
In my next book, a collection of my poetry, I have written a poem about a man of 80 and the notion that he has of ‘eternity’ in this life.
Maybe we who embrace (as best we can) the technological challenges are the very ones who can feel a sense of what it is to be everlasting. And maybe that is where this blog meets my thoughts on books about the future. People with a thirst for life are perhaps imagining themselves here – or at least affecting the world – forever.