Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Wednesday's Words for February 6, 2013

As much as I manage to “keep up” with the changes in technology in these modern times, there are still moments when I am held completely in awe.

There was an item online the last couple of days. You may have seen it. It wasn’t even really immediate news, and yet there it was taking up cyberspace. Apparently, last year, in the city of Leicester, in England, human remains were discovered under a parking lot. I guess that sort of thing happens a lot in England and Europe. Their recorded history is far more extensive than ours.

Most often here, in North America, if someone is demolishing a building or digging a new foundation and they discover bones, the question that comes most often to mind is, “did I just find a recent murder victim?” Over on the other side of the pond, where recorded history stretches much further back, other questions come to mind.

They must have had some suspicions on who those bones belonged to, because they conducted DNA tests in order to be sure. Those tests have now confirmed that the remains discovered are of King Richard III.

That in itself is pretty impressive, don’t you think? That hundreds of years after a man is dead, his descendants (how many generations removed is that, anyway?) can provide a sample to prove genealogy.

Better yet, and what certainly gave me a few creepy moments, was the fact that the bones included the skull, and with modern scientific means, experts were able to perform a “facial reconstruction”—giving us a fairly accurate likeness of what this not-so-glorious king actually looked like.

Holy time travel, Batman.

When I first set eyes on that reconstruction, knowing that it wasn’t a painting created in his day and influenced by the painter’s own bias, I shivered. It just seemed so other-worldly to me that such a thing is possible—that I could be looking at the actual face of a long dead person.

Of course, I’ve long known about the science of facial reconstruction. I know it has been used to help identify bodies when no other means has worked. I understand the concept. Heck, I’ve even read fiction in which the heroine was just such a scientist/artist. It’s just that to use this method to give us a picture of someone dead for so long—someone I studied in high school and who Shakespeare used in a play, is eerie.

At least it is to me.

I’m kicking at the gate of 60, and the world has changed so much just in my lifetime. It’s no wonder to me that older people begin to feel disconnected. It’s really hard to keep up. The most notable area, of course, where the enormity of this “change” has become manifest, is in this thing, right here. The computer. I joke with friends and family that my first computer was an abacas.

Only it’s not a joke.

Thirty years ago, there was no Internet. The significance of that for me is profound. Today, I make my living on the Internet, and in fact, this computer of mine and the various places and people it connects me to quite literally make up my life.

Of all the things for which I’m grateful, this is the biggest: that for the most part, if I’m not right on top of all the new developments coming down the pike, I’m at least connected.

I can at least see the contrails of the speeding jet before me.


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