Friday, January 16, 2009

Enlightenment 2.0


Believe it or not, there are many people who lived full, productive and even pleasant lives before the world changed so dramatically. Before our very own age of enlightenment.

While most people under 30 can hardly conceive of a world not wired, those of us beyond that age did manage to survive in the medieval time I label - B.I. ... Before. Internet.

We called a travel agent to book our flights. We purchased movie tickets at the theater. We read a newspaper to keep up on current events. We bought our pornography at the convenience store.

It wasn't always easy, but we functioned, we coped, we survived.

Since the advent of this conglomeration of switches, cable and protocols, our lives have altered dramatically. Major changes have occurred across all aspects of our existence impacting industry, finance, medicine, education, government and on and on. Ah, the wonder of the ages. I give you ... the Internet!

Now that I have sounded sufficiently portentous, let me confess. Changes to our world wrought by the Internet are impressive. Miraculous even. But I want to talk about something far more important. I want to talk about what the Internet means to me. How it has changed and enriched my life in ways I never could have imagined. Sometimes I actually believe the Internet was created just for me.

As my profile indicates, I am one of those people with a constant thirst for meaningless drivel. I will learn a small, obscure scrap of information and chew on it obsessively, much like a dog with a $200 pair of shoes or the passenger side seat-belt in your Audi.

Before the Internet, not living in Oxford or Cambridge, I had little opportunity to satiate my thirst to know everything I could about a subject of absolutely no relevance. Growing up, my reference library consisted of my Dad's 1928 World Book Encyclopedias, missing the volumes "K" and "R" and with no mention of television, satellites, or the Vietnam War. A trip to the public library was an option, but I found Dewey and his Decimals less than cooperative.

So, there were several fascinating topics I was made aware of, tantalizingly teased about and left bereft because I knew just enough information to be enthralled, but not enough to feel that warm feeling deep in your tummy we call "full".

A partial list of the odd bits my brain was anxious to explore in detail:
  • There are people who drill holes in their heads on purpose.
  • In Oneida, NY they make pottery and china. But it was also home to a 19th century religious sect based upon the practice of older members of the sect introducing younger members of the opposite sex to the joys of, well, sex.
  • There was a Welsh prince named Madog who supposedly sailed to Alabama about 400 years before Columbus, went up river to the midwest, settled with a Native American tribe that to this day have blue eyes, blond hair and speak perfect Welsh.
  • Mormons have special underwear. (As a child I had specific underwear issues so this one really captured my attention.)
  • I was aware of the following physical conditions but had no idea how to tell them apart: goiters, carbuncles, plantar warts, pilonidal cysts, boils and pustules.
  • I had it on good authority that there was a pope, last name Borgia, who had a bunch of kids (did I mention he was a pope?) who liked to kill off their rivals, have sex with each other, bear their sibling's offspring and then, kill each other off.
  • My great grandmother made me aware that Solomon Grundy only lived one week, but somehow made the most of it. Jack Sprat and his wife took care of the lean and the fat, but no mention of a dog, so who took care of the bones? Eanie, Meanie, Minie had nothing to do with the Three Stooges and yet bore some sort of relationship to Moe. There was an elderly woman who evidently had a severe footwear fetish. How else to explain the whole "living in a shoe" premise? Where did these bizarre parables come from, what was the background story to each and why did adults continue to pass these snippets of information on to their children?
I was burning to know the rest of the story on each of these topics and so many more. I wanted knowledge of the unabridged kind, not the tantalizing whisper of a few truncated facts. And then, one day, my prayers were answered. The Internet - Enlightenment 2.0

Thankfully, I can confirm that my quest for information on the world wide web has led to more details on each of these topics than even I could absorb. And as an added plus, in my Internet search for answers to my life's great questions, I am continually piqued by new tidbits, new topics, new mysteries that I feel compelled to explore and resolve, to my intense satisfaction.

So, the next time you are pondering all of the great and noble changes the Internet has wrought, keep in mind its most important role, keeping me, Lulu, endlessly entertained and enthralled in my relentless pursuit of irrelevant knowledge.

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