I received an e-mail from an Iraqi friend last month asking me to join him on Facebook. I’m proud to say that I knew what he was talking about even though I had not previously seen the need to construct a MySpace or Facebook profile. I hadn’t heard from my friend for awhile; so I decided to go through the Facebook enrollment process and see if we could get in touch.
I dutifully put in more personal information than I wanted to and even downloaded my picture from the City’s Web site that makes me look fatter than I really am. I shipped all this off into cyberspace; and, although I’ve had no response from my Iraqi friend, I now have made new friends with a whole bunch of very young people. My home e-mail account contained messages from several of my children’s friends declaring that I’m now their friend, too. I guess Facebook opens up intergenerational communication in ways that I never imagined. I enjoyed seeing pictures of a number of young people I hadn’t seen in years and learning about what they’re doing. Most of them have children of their own and seem to be doing well. I suppose it would be inappropriate to list bad things about yourself on the Internet. None of this may seem weird in a world where mores change as frequently as the weather, but I don’t know how I would even begin to explain Facebook to my grandmother.
Shortly after the Facebook experience, I found an e-mail message in my inbox asking me if I would be willing to travel to Beirut for a few days to do a workshop. I travel enough to know that you can get around the world in fairly short order, although I’m still amazed at how quickly you can get from one place to the next. My first trip abroad was aboard a ship headed to England in 1959. I think it took about five or six days to travel from New York to South Hampton. I can now travel to Beirut, engage in a series of meetings, and return home in less time than it took to make the trip across the Atlantic 49 years ago. It also seems strange to me that anyone would want me to go to Beirut to help conduct a few meetings.
I guess we all know that the world is changing rapidly; and, if we didn’t, we only have to read a newspaper, watch television, or scan the Internet to have it driven home. Everyone’s attention is directed to the current economic crisis, and it’s easy to get depressed thinking about what might happen. The best reassurance I can give myself is that weird is normal, and it’s not necessarily bad. Most of us have the tools, not just to cope, but to flourish in a world where threats and opportunities routinely appear in equal measure. Our greatest challenge is keeping our own attitude afloat in a flood of changing circumstances.