Sunday, March 1, 2015

March Madness

We awake to March today. That means that our average temperatures, no matter how low they be today, will be inching upward in the coming days. 

Where I grew up, in dreary central Illinois the coming of March could mean the total disappearance of snow and the horizon-to-horizon appearance of mud. It brought biting winds, but at last some green blades beginning to appear in places. 

Because my mother, raised farther south in Illinois, remembered March as the windy month of kite flying, we were encouraged to “go fly a kite.” In response we tried to find a dry enough field nearby to loft our homemade newspaper and sticks kites. Sometimes they flew well; more often they crashed and broke, and all we got for our effort, besides exercise, was a lot of mud on our boots and overalls. I suspect what our mother got was an hour or two with the kids out of the house. For that she had to pay by laundering our muddy clothes and mopping the mud from the linoleum floors when we clambered back into the warmth of the house. She usually managed to corral us before we got very far into the house. 

But alas, there will be no kids flying kites this next week in western Wisconsin, I fear. Instead they'll be wildly thumbing their video gadgets, chasing nefarious characters down the corridors of virtual mazes, blasting them to smithereens, splattering the walls with their blood and littering the floors with body parts.  

Don't you imagine the size of the average man's hands a thousand years from now will be twice what it is now? 

For all the discomfort and mess of those Illinois kite-outs, and despite their remarkable lack of success, I still think they were better for us than sitting around playing video games. But what do I know about the kind of precision remote drone operators we are training by accident with those little machines. And who knows, one day (or perhaps already today) a doctor in rural Montana, trained as a child on video games, may be able to remotely operate a surgical machine, saving a life, in a tiny Tibetan village. 

I sometimes worry about all that virtual blood splattered on virtual walls inside those video games and wonder if there is any connection between their ubiquity and all the violence in our society today. But then I remember the “cowboys and Indians” games I used to play as a child, the “side arms” I strapped around my waste, and the virtual bullets I fired into my brother’s heart. He is still alive, and I own no guns at all, am very close to being a pacifist. 

But still . . . I worry about those video games and wish the kids could get outside more, flying kites.


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