Sunday, February 08, 2009

Written Words

I woke this morning to the sound of children playing football in the street in front of my house. It took me back. I grew up in one of those neighborhoods where almost all of the families had kids within just a few years of each other. We all played together all the time… it was idyllic, but there was no way we could have known that at the time. Many of those families still live there, but the children are now grown and gone. There is a new group of youngsters in my parent’s neighborhood, but I am just not sure it's any different from where I live now.

Although my home is idyllic in other ways, the activity and innocence that comes from neighborhood kids gathering together for no particular reason is not the norm. The sound of children playing in my neighborhood is unusual. And I don’t know if it’s the dynamics of this neighborhood or that neighborhood… if there was a perfect storm of factors that went into what became my childhood home, but it seems that those unplanned close-knit communities of days gone have been replaced by… progress.

We did not have cable TV. No video games. No Internet, no computers. There were no cell phones to stay in constant contact with our parents or each other. We had bicycles, roller skates, balls of all sorts and our imaginations. Yet we made do. We were not driven to school unless it was raining – hard; we walked and then (when we got a little older) we rode our bikes – usually together. Up until about the seventh grade, this core group of kids who had grown up on the same street lived a much simpler life together. Or, maybe, life is much more simple today?

I’m not one to turn my nose up at technology and the convenience that springs from it. I am in contact with vast numbers of past friends and acquaintances that, if it were not for the communicative technology we now have, would be lost forever. But that fact does illustrate the premise that maintaining relationships takes work and the truth is that for many of us, myself included, the effort required often proves to be of a lower priority than what lies directly ahead. Indeed, it should not be surprising – this phenomenon is nothing new. Even before much of this modern technology came along, the art of letter writing was all but lost to the telephone.

And in some respects, technology has taken us back to that. Although few actual personal letters are ever written anymore, communication via the written word has enjoyed a resurgence with the advent of these modern wonders of communication. Email, texting and the many forms of social networking have made writing important again. True, it has evolved (especially where texting is concerned) into an abbreviated, some might say bastardized form, but it is today (and again) relevant. But it wasn’t always that way.

Two thousand years ago, literacy was rare. Communication was an oral and aural art. Texts were difficult to produce and impossible to mass-produce. Gutenberg’s movable type and other factors helped to bring us to an age of literacy. Some would argue that we are less literate today than we were when I was a kid playing with my friends in our neighborhood. Perhaps, but technology today is conducive to written communication and, like Gutenberg’s press did, has shown it is still important. Indeed, not only is it is still important, it always was.

Now, if only there was some kind of technology that would bring the kids out of their homes and into the street to play football…


Thumper said...

I'm not so sure the absence of kids playing outside has less to do with technology than it has to do with fear. parents keep getting this message that there are bad people out there who will inappropriately touch or kidnap your kids...better to keep them inside and safe. The statistics don't bear that out, but people tend to believe it.

In the last 15 years or so I've only lived one place where kids playing outside was a matter of course; we were living on an air force base, and the Moms all sat outside and watched the kids play. It was awesome, and it was a tight knit neighborhood for the two years we were all together.

Couple fear with the convenience of we are.

Here from NetChick today!

Man Named Kim said...

first - you are sounding really old. our parents you to say "When I grew up..."

next - although i see your point in the mass of communication being supported by technology, i wonder (often) about how good that communication might be. i rmember sitting in awe listening to some of the great orators of the past - men and women who had a mastery of words and images... i miss the well spoken word and i'm not sure technology contributes anything to that fading art form.

lastly - kids playing outside is always good. 'playing' being the critical component. :)

kenju said...

The only thing that gets my oldest grandson off his computer is fishing! The girls get out because they practice cheer leading - but that's about all until the summer and the pool opens.

~Easy said...

My childhood was much like yours.

Sadly, there are no kids in my neighborhood that are the same age as my kids, but one of the factors you bring up is all but gone from this city. There are no more neighborhood schools.

When we had more kids in the neighborhood, all of them were at different schools. That's one of the signs of our times too.

utenzi said...

I'd add to your list above how much more structured kids time is today. So many kids are being carted to this sport or that class after school that they rarely play outside anymore. Whe they're home they're in front of the tv or on their gameboys.

Netchick sent me over, Mike.