A place to play with my world view. A space to pontificate, ruminate, and cogitate. A home for words that somehow escaped my mind.
Tuesday, February 23, 2010
Slide rules, chamber pots, and buggy whips-
My first time in college was a few years back. For one class a tool was required. It is called a slide rule. It is a calculating device, used much like a calculator is used today. This was way back in 1971. Though electronic calculators existed, they were rare and expensive. The slide rule had been around for some time, and they were affordable to college students.
I learned to use it, after a fashion, but never mastered the tool. Now they are relics of another time, collectible in like fashion to abaci. Just for fun I also learned how to calculate with an abucus. I have considerable respect for the electronic calculator after having learned these more ancient calculating systems. I also have great respect for the people who built the present using such interesting tools.
How do they relate to chamber pots and buggy whips? Well, they were all produced through maufacturing, were once common and sold in sufficient numbers to be relatively inexpensive. They are now less common, rarely used, and more of a curiosity than a common element in modern life.
I can imagine that an owner of stock in a company producing these items would have seen a steady income for a good many years. However, if that owner of stock did not occasionally assess and update their portfolio, reliance on these particular sources of income would eventually have dried up and left the owner destitute.
Few people have a fondness for slide rules. An occasional collector, perhaps. I don't actually know anybody who depended on a buggy whip to accelerate their vehicle, but I can't see it being something that encourages feelings warm enough to want to return to those old ways. Having actually used a chamber pot, I know by experience that more contemporary plumbing improves the experience of eliminating waste by an astronomical degree.
Sure, collecting some anachronistic items can be fun. However, there are reasons people have moved past such things. It is good to retain the concept and some skills with old ways of doing and thinking. Keeping blacksmithing skills and similar arts alive in our culture provide educational perspective. They also insure a fall-back resource in the event of a catastrophic breakdown in culture.
Similarly, keeping alive some sense or flavor of old ways of thinking can serve to provide cultural perspective, and also add some leaven in thinking toward the future. To consider ancient ways of thought and hold the people of ancient times in disdain simply because they were "backwards" is disrespectful and unwise. Those old ways of thinking were steps toward how we think in our own time. A little effort to understand and respect old ways and how they became modern ways can yield a richness and depth of experience in living today.
I have intentionally sat at night on several occasions, writing with a steel nibbed pen (the kind you dip in a pot of ink) by the light of a candle. Giving myself over to the mood I used my imagination and felt an emotional link with the hundreds of generations of humans who sat similarly lighted at a similar task. I have used old methods for performing calculations to get a sense of history to enrich my understanding of applied modern mathematics.
Now is a good time to be alive, because it is the only time we are alive. The past is a resource, a source of information, richness and pleasure. The future is an adventure yet to be set out upon. Here and now is the place where potential becomes real, and where history begins.
The intersection of Here and Now. A great place to be alive.
I am currently 62 years old. At present I am a retired correctional officer with 20 years of service. (My real job these days is being a Grandpa.)
I am married to my long-suffering wife, Linda. I have three children; Matthew, Beth, and Jon. I currently have six grandchildren; Alexandra, Madelyn, Wyatt, Lucas, Abigail and Landon.