My Oct. 12 column in the Mille Lacs Messenger:
Thank you, Steve Jobs, for your part in the transformation of global culture.For the technological changes that have simplified written communication into 140-character blurts, for this we give you thanks.
Some may say comparing these outbursts to bird song is an insult to the birds, like comparing flatulence to a symphony, but we’ve grown tired of slaving away at arguments, with the rigorous demands of logic and grammar, tired of tying thoughts together with transitions, tired of formulating a focus and supporting it with all those awful details. For delivering us from the evil of spelling and punctuation rules, for this we give you thanks.
For the ability to spend our brief time on earth staring at smaller and smaller plastic rectangles, for this we give you thanks. Some say the supper table has been turned from oasis to desert, that it’s wrong to text someone sitting across the room, and that the warmth of human interaction has been cooled by smartphones, tablets and MacBooks. But the flashing pixels are mesmerizing, and you can’t have too many YouTubes of cute kittens, skateboard crashes and brilliant-yet-undiscovered singer-songwriters.
For rendering obsolete Chuck Jones and ushering into retirement all the other human animators with pens in hand in favor of more efficient programmers and more lifelike computer-generated images, for this we give you thanks. Some may say your three-dimensional pictures are more one-dimensional than the old two-dimensional kind, that all these talking cars and toys come to life could never match the primitive artistry or storytelling of Gepetto’s cuckoo clocks, but we’re starting to like wearing cardboard glasses to the movies, and you can never get enough fart jokes.
For helping bring to our fingertips in every corner of the globe a million images of the human form, for this we give you thanks. Never again will consumers suffer the indignity of pulling down hat and pulling up trenchcoat collar while sneaking into a bookstore or theater in a questionable part of town.
For helping create computers capable of peering into space and time, and someday maybe curing cancer and finding a clean source of energy, for this we give you thanks. Some naysayers may lament the number of potential Nobel laureates spending their days killing zombies, but we know that a gamer in his spare time can do more good than a thousand Albert Schweitzers in a thousand thousand years, and for this we give you thanks.
Thank you, Steve Jobs, most of all, and most sincerely, for these, your words at Stanford’s commencement in 2005: “No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don’t want to die to get there. And yet death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be, because death is very likely the single best invention of life. It is life’s change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new.”
For reminding us that seemingly timeless, world-altering changes are as fleeting and insignificant as bird songs, for this we give you thanks.
In your honor, I will one day stop to help a flesh-and-blood turtle across the highway, and chuck my iPhone in the nearest swamp.
Brett Larson is the editor of the Messenger.