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This Blog used to be about the question: What is Science?
Now, it asks: What is Happiness?

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

getting old...digitally

I was tossed a bit of a curvy a few days ago. An older resident of the flats, Dr Fisher came to me most concerned. She had gone to the local photo shop to have ID photos taken and was highly sceptical about the whole process. 'There was no click and no flash, and then the man said it was done!' She queried this and he told her 'it's digital'.
'What', she asked, 'is digital?'
Gosh! How do I leapfrog an elderly lady from the analogue age to the digital when she is clearly not intending to go past the front door, let alone join me for a copious tea drinking session while I unravel the mysteries of the binary world?
In a sort of free flow and with lots of hand waving, I said that it was a bit like going to see the doctor. If Doc tells you what your problem is, that is kind of analogue. When you retell your friends and family, it changes a bit and loses some of its original clarity. If, however the doc gives you a printed script, then the chemist will know exactly what was asked for. That's digital - it kind of doesn't degrade.
'Oh, thank you so much', said Dr Fisher, 'but, I must say I have been out of medicine for so many years that I am not too sure what you mean.'

In the days afterwards I have been thinking a lot about old folk. My mum is a glorious 88 years old and instead of going grey is losing the use of her legs. Try as we might we cannot persuade her to slow down on her daily domestic chores. She's up (with huge effort) at 6 and complaining about how she already has too much work to do. Any vague attempt to get her to change her habitual daily routine of the last 77 years is simply met with a stolid stare and non-compliance. Not surprizing as she has been running a home since she was 12 when her mother died. She has also not had a single day since 1945 when there was not a child, grandchild or great-grandchild coming back to her home after school for a meal. Try to change a 63 year old habit and you WILL FAIL. But she is clearly not as adept as she used to be. Her vinyl is getting worn and scratched. Eventually the expression of her daily life will be barely recognizable and the needle will just go click-click-bzzzz. But until then...rock on!
Now, if her life was a digital DVD, she could have just replaced the outdated bits with easier alternatives, all the while retaining the core, with little or no degradation.

I guess, that is the ray of sunshine I have got from Elizabeth Fisher's question. As a child of the analogue grown into digital adulthood, I now have the chance to learn the art of subtle change, as change is due. In this sort of digitally pure way, maybe I can not notice the scratches, whirrs and pops of old age!

The moral of the story is that while you can still travel the world and take photos of your feet in different oceans, do it.....and share the pic with your mum who may not be able to get there any more, but will smile in delight at the memories of youthful adventure that it conjures up.

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