Sea Change

I've been watching John Adamsand having an excellent time. It's well acted, fascinating in its depiction of the tiny social details of late 1800s America and I'm learning more about the early history of the US than I ever have before. But this post is not a review - come to think of it, this is the second post this week that starts out with filmed entertainment, yet isn't a review. A new trend?

Somewhere in the middle of the miniseries, John Adams, his wife Abigail and Thomas Jefferson are in Paris and as they watch a hot air balloon take flight for the first time, Jefferson says "so our umbilical cord with Mother Earth has been severed for the first time in history. Mankind floats upon a limitless plane of air." Which is an astonishingly beautiful way of phrasing it and it made me begin to understand, as far as a 21st-century woman can, this moment where what was thought impossible became possible.

What must it have been like to see something fly when in all of history before, nothing except birds and insects had? And the way it's filmed, the expression on the people's faces all coalesce into a sense of wonder and awe, a change so profound that you’re almost surprised there wasn't an audible crack and shuddering of the earth.

And it made me think about what achievement in the present could mirror this paradigm shift. Space flight, certainly. Walking on the moon, definitely - unless you saw them as the eventual natural extensions of flight? And I came back to computers, the Internet, thinking that this must be our sea change.

I remember when I got my first modem. It was 1989 and when I decided to get a 2400 baud modem, I was planning ahead - 1200 was the standard, but I've always bought a bit more than I need to extend the life of my technology. I used it over the phone line, dialing into a BBS where I chatted with other users. And was viewed as a hopeless nerd and loser for being one of those people who talk to others on the computer and when we had meets - actual events where we all got together - the look on "normal" people’s faces spoke volumes. The funny thing is, I met several of my dearest friends there and they're still around 20 years later. In retrospect, we weren't nerds and losers, we were pioneers (imagine insertion of raspberry here).

And then the other day, I downloaded Under the Dome, Stephen King's new book and as I watched the download of one of the five parts zip from the Internet into my computer at the rate of 36 MB in one minute, I boggled. At the concept, at the speed, at how life has changed - for better or worse - with this box on my desk. Surely this must be our limitless plane of air.

Or do you have a better suggestion?