Saturday, December 31, 2011

Monkey Number 101

I just had another birthday. I’m not going to say which one, but I am wondering if you’ll still be sending me a valentine. Birthday greeting. Bottle of wine.*

Lately I feel that my life is like a car whose brakes have failed and I'm hurtling downhill toward a brick wall with no way to stop. One may say that this sensation is simply the theory of relativity at work -- time just seems to move faster when one has more behind than ahead. But I beg to differ. I think time actually is speeding up. It must be. It can't be that my brain just can't keep up. Sometimes I become homesick for the 1970s, as though that decade were a physical place.**

Things, they do change, don't they? The ancient Celts disapproved of writing. They believed that it spoiled the memory. An educated person spent a lifetime memorizing lore and stories to word-for-word perfection. A modern person would consider a bard's memory nothing short of miraculous. For most of human history, the skills a person learned in youth served him most of his life, but over the last century, events have been moving at such an accelerating pace that it has finally become almost impossible to keep up. A person's knowledge becomes obsolete practically as soon as it is learned.

A couple of days ago I was talking to a friend about the “One-hundredth Monkey” philosophy, which, briefly, goes like this: If you teach a certain number of monkeys (maybe a hundred, it’s a nice round number) how to do something, then suddenly and mysteriously every monkey in the world will know how to do it. This idea is based on a Japanese research project that occurred during the 1950′s, which is too convoluted to go into here, but in the end, the scientists proposed that this phenomenon suggests some sort of monkey collective consciousness in the universe. There was a book that was published a couple of years ago called The Tipping Point, which proposes something along the same lines for human beings. One person can come up with an original idea, and tell it to another person, who tells someone else, etc., until a point comes where the idea has spread throughout human consciousness, whether each individual has been told or not. I like the idea that we’re all connected somewhere on a subconscious (or should I say superconscious) level.

All throughout my life, I’ve felt rather like monkey number 101, at least where my generation is concerned. I’m a leading-edge baby-boomer, and since I was quite young I’ve noticed that as soon as I get a brilliant and completely original idea, it suddenly becomes a standard Boomer fare — from getting tired of curling my hair and letting it grow long and straight (1960s), to horrible fear of housewifeliness (1970s), to suddenly wanting all-white walls in my house (1980s) And those are just a few of my innumerable 101st monkey moments.

Then as I passed the half-century mark, I started to look back and take stock. I became open to something I had never even considered before — appreciating my elders. I think that writing about the past is an attempt to understand a mind-set and way of life that was completely foreign to my young self. I was clueless about the world of my foremothers. Just as the Millennials are clueless about the world that made me.
* Now, there's a Boomer reference for you.
**I’m kidding. No one who ever wore platform shoes or drove a Pinto is homesick for the ‘70s.


Vicki Delany said...

Thanks, Donis. All so true. May you join the Monkey club in 2012.

Frankie Y. Bailey said...

Great post, Donis. I've always belonged to the 101th monkey club too.

And I confess - my first car was a used orange/yellow Pinto. I was living in Seattle at the time, and climbing those hills. . .

Strange you should mention time speeding up -- my resolution for the New Year is to slow down. I'm from the South and I going to try to take my head back to those long hot summers when we all moved slow and only did one thing at a time.

Happy New Year, everyone!

Donis Casey said...

My first one was a yellow Pinto, too, Frankie. We're lucky to be alive!

Rick Blechta said...

Happy Birthday -- a bit late!

Donis Casey said...

I'll take it, Rick.

Aline Templeton said...

Love this one, Donis. Hope the year between this birthday and the next one is great for you.


Aline Templeton said...

Love this one, Donis. Hope the year between this birthday and the next one is great for you.