One more example. Sometime in 1994 or 1995, my step-daughter, who was then in her late 20s, told me that she and some college friends had begun using something called email to stay in touch. I’d heard of email (vaguely) but all I knew about it was that it required a computer connection. (Computers, I knew. I’d started using a PC in 1984 and had owned one since 1986.)
“Why?” I asked her. “Why not just write a letter? What’s the point?” It struck me as a total waste of time to use a computer to communicate. I could see no utility to the idea of “email.”
Flash forward to September/October 2006: My agent had just sold my new book proposal (for the book about meat, which I’m working on now), and he called to tell me the details of the contract. We talked, we finished our conversation.
I hung up the phone, and my first thought was not, “YAY. Contract completed. Book sold,” but: “By the time I finish this project, will there still be ‘books'”? What will a ‘book’ look like?”
In the space of a decade I’d gone from being baffled by email to pondering the meaning and form of one of humanity’s oldest, most common forms of communication: the book. That’s a fundamental change in how I see, think, and act in and upon the world.
No. Correction: that’s a profound change. And one that unfolded in a short period of time.
To end this long train of thought (and I thank you for sticking around to the end), I leave you where I started: Peggy Noonan’s column. She was commenting specifically about the current economic collapse, but her point can be extended to include . . . well . . . life, the universe, and everything. She ended that column with this:
Dynamism has been leached from our system for now, but not from the human brain or heart. Just as our political regeneration will happen locally, in counties and states that learn how to control themselves and demonstrate how to govern effectively in a time of limits, so will our economic regeneration. That will begin in someone’s garage, somebody’s kitchen, as it did in the case of Messrs. Jobs and Wozniak. The comeback will be from the ground up and will start with innovation. No one trusts big anymore. In the future everything will be local. That’s where the magic will be. And no amount of pessimism will stop it once it starts.