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                                                                                JOURNAL 224

                                                                              January 3, 2017

 

          An informal poll indicates that, for most people, the most moving piece of music associated with the holidays is "Auld Lang Syne." It's originally a Scottish poem written by Robert Burns in 1788. The music is from a folk song. And why is it so effective? It sets people reminiscing about relatives and friends from earlier times. Often these are people who have been lost, who have either wandered out of our lives, or who have passed on. This is the time of year, that final evening, when we think back with regret about those who for whatever reason are no longer with us.

          My impression about the New Year celebrations is that they are directed toward the future, but we don't really get emotionally involved in that part of the holiday. Some of us make resolutions. We'll lose weight, stop drinking so much, stop smoking, launch an exercise program. But that's rarely anything more than simply signing on to a standard routine that we know is not likely to last more than a week or two. That's why they call it a launch.

          The tendency to cling to the past is understandable, despite the fact that we live in an era that's moving faster than any other time in the history of the human race. My dad was born in 1899, before the Wright Brothers flew. And he lived to see us land on the moon. I grew up in a world filled with discrimination and a mistrust of anyone who had a different skin color or religious view or whatever else we might not agree with.

          I wish I could say we've gotten past all that, but I think, at least, we've come a long way. And we seem to be headed in the right direction.

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          Science has changed the world immensely. The average life span in the USA in the middle of the 18th century was thirty-eight. The average American born in 2017 should make it almost to eighty. And scientists are claiming that we are approaching a major breakthrough in halting the ageing process altogether. Possibly, they say, we may even be able to reverse it. Any of you seniors want to go back out and play some basketball? We may be close.

          And then there's nanotechnology. What's that? The ability to manipulate atoms on the smallest scale. And I know that doesn't sound as if it would be of much interest, but I'm working on a nanoshed in our backyard. I haven't installed the device yet, but when I do I'll be able to take in several shovels of earth, turn it on, and I will have a Lamborghini. And I know that sounds crazy. But, at the beginning of the 19th century, scientists were claiming the era of inventions was over. Close the patent office, science had reached an end.

          There's other stuff coming as well, like smart bathtubs. But I probably shouldn't get carried away here.