Apocatastasis

“How wonderful would it be to go back to the way things were? I mean, just keep progressing, but backwards instead of forwards? You know, back to the wonderful days of blatant racism. Back to when gays weren’t even given a closet to hide in. Back when women had a place in the kitchen, not the voting booth.”
—random 70-year-old idiot, stuck in time, hoping to die because they refuse to change.

It all sounds so delightful to some I’m sure. The worst part is that if you ask around a bit, you will find many people that actually agree with this notion, and not just older generations failing to grasp the difficult reality of forward progress.

Take for instance this article: Taking Away the Cheat Sheet

I was recently recommended this article on Twitter by someone I believe to be a very intelligent individual. Being that it was midday on a Wednesday, and I had some time to kill, I dove in for the brief read.

After reading it, I thought of how many times the argument that the author proposes has been brought up, even to me as recently as a couple of months ago.

Now, I have no doubt that the purpose of the article was to pitch the author’s new novel, based on the same premise of the article, and that, overall, the author was presenting the dilemma in a more light-hearted tone. Still, I just can’t help but to play a bit of Devil’s Advocate here and offer up another “What if?” scenario.

If you haven’t read the article yet, I ask that you do read it so that you can understand my own thoughts in regards to it. If you don’t have the time for that, well, here’s a TL:DR of the article’s theme: What if the internet were to be disintegrated? The author believes: “The loss of the Internet would allow us to become someone new.” He also offers examples of how we would connect better with each other by actually having to talk with one another in person, without infinite knowledge at the ready.

I don’t disagree with that. The author’s arguments are sound. My problem stems from the idea that the only way we can better ourselves is to get rid of the internet.

Why must we destroy progress, especially something as vital and important to humankind like the Internet, in order to better ourselves? It’s not just this guy’s opinion of the Internet either.

People have proposed that times were better “back in the day.” Memories flooding their heads with a rose tint, forgetting that not all was so great for everyone back then.

I’m not saying the present, nor the future, is any better. In fact, I believe there will never be peace on earth. There will always be problems, issues and war. They just change with the tides. Our problems now—lack of articulation, over-reliance on technology, willingness to settle for mediocrity, etc.—are just the problems we face today.

These problems may have not existed in the Roaring ‘20s, but the problem of instant communication was prevalent back then. It’s also hard not to think of all the social issues as well. No matter your stance on him, Barack Obama would not have had a chance to even dream of being president of the United States of America in the 1920s.

Getting back to the article, I know the author is not so serious in tone because surely he is aware that the loss of knowledge that he seems to hate so much would be absolutely detrimental to humans the world over.

Would all of the data be lost? No, I’m sure amongst all humans we would be able to piece it back together. But how long would that take? The effort of trying to recover the lost data would impede further progress.

So how about this: Instead of doing the seemingly first human instinct of just destroying and dismissing things we don’t understand, let’s start to work forward and educate our young in the art of conversation, social skills, etc.

The problem isn’t the internet. The internet is a tool, like a hammer or a wrench. Use it wisely, learn what it is capable of, and you will go far. The problem is today’s parents. They need to teach their kids how and when to use tools such as the internet. Just handing them a smartphone or a laptop will surely result in the child doing what they feel best with it, which is understandable.

Bottom line: Parents need to step up and educate their children on the uses of things such as the internet. If they don’t, the child will be subjected to learning those things from their peers. Even Willy Wonka knew who to blame “back in the day”:

We seem to forget how new the internet still is in relation to history. It barely became household accessible in the last 30 years or so, and there are still many people without access to it.

Of course we abused the hell out of it, especially my generation. So much so that, yes, we have become over reliant on instant knowledge at our fingertips. But come on, let’s not be brash and wish for the internet to just be done away with.

As a future teacher, I know that I will face this problem head on when I start to teach. Students will write essays in text lingo, they will crane their necks down to read the last text they just received, they will attempt to look up answers to the quiz on their laptop that they “only use for taking notes.”

I still will not endorse a movement backwards. Can not, will not. Well, except for one exception. I will endorse the progression backward of cartoons that children watch. Because, of course, the cartoons I grew up with were far superior than the drivel nowadays. If you don’t believe me, you can always just look it up on your phone.

In Medias Res

Everything in life is “in medias res.” The beginning for one person is simultaneous with the end for another, and somewhere in the middle for everyone else. By the time you learn enough about the world, you realize just how obvious everything is. We are all stuck in the middle of a pendulum, tumbling to and fro, and just as we start to get our bearings, that fucking pendulum swings back the other way, rendering all of our hard work obsolete. We should know better.

I bought this domain about two years ago. I figured I would start writing on video gaming. I’d include reviews and in-depth analysis of the current trends in the video game industry. The idea was to get something written and “published” as soon as possible so that when I was ready, and had built up a decently sized following, I would be able to apply for my dream job at Game Informer or some such publication. I would read articles and opinion pieces by so-called video game journalists and I was astounded at how underwhelming their writing was.

Then, like always, life got in the way. Laziness, apathy, insecurity—I just wasn’t going to get this website going, no matter how hard I didn’t try to try. So I shelved it, coming in to add a draft of a post that I had thought of every once in awhile, whimsically believing that that was the day I would hit the “Publish” button.

Then something changed. I no longer dreamt of pleasing the growing horde of ever-voracious gamers looking to feast on yet another review of the game they were going to buy anyways. My dream had changed; and this isn’t the first time that had happened.

Dreams are meant to change—they are Change Incarnate. They are a foggy mirror held up to your innermost thoughts and feelings. A child dreams of leaving his home, living free and happy, no restrictions binding him to any earthly matter. That same child may grow to one day want to settle down in an average-sized house on the west side of town and get married—the epitome of restrictive rituals. There is no right or wrong with dreams, though; if you want a new dream, you just have to change what is on display in the mirror.

My new dream started to manifest about a year ago. I decided to go back to school and finish what I had started. I had put school off for so long because I was afraid to admit that I made the wrong choice when dropping out and going to work full time. “But, the money! The freedom to buy…things! Isn’t that what life is all about?” Nonetheless, I made up with myself, swallowed my pride, and decided to go and re-enter the classroom amid a new generation of youth I wasn’t sure I had much in common with. Surprisingly, after a couple classes, I started to realize something: This is where I belong.

Sometimes, the pendulum swings in a way that is quite convenient, allowing yourself, who was falling over beforehand, to gather, even for just a brief time. Looking back on my life, I realize that I had squandered a few of these times before, and probably still do. I would pick the superpower of time travel if I had a choice.

There are three components to the classroom: 1) The instructor, 2) The students, 3) The class material. They all need to work homogeneously in order for the class to be a success. If the instructor cannot teach well, the students will not learn. The material is only as good as it can be taught. This places a lot of pressure on the instructor, but, rightfully so. The instructor needs to be, above all else, concerned. Concerned for the students and concerned for the teaching of the material. If they do not care, then the class will be a lost cause. How they come to that state of concern, or how they show it, is independent to them.

I belong in the classroom, instructing youthful minds, because I am concerned. Deeply, utterly, devastatingly concerned. Above all, I am concerned for the students, mostly because many instructors I come across are not concerned anymore, or are concerned about things that should not matter in regards to the classroom.

How can the students grow to fulfill their own dreams when they are being taught by uncaring, selfish teachers? Do not blame the children; when they were but babes, they were full of potential, wonderment, and dreams. If a child is lost, look to the various instructors in their lives, and tell me if they were ever truly concerned for the child.

I know, I know. “Mike, you don’t understand. The education system is fucked. Teachers are handcuffed, they are not allowed to teach anymore! You will see, you will be broken and beat by the system. Then you will understand the plight of the teacher in today’s America!” —random teacher on Reddit.

You’re probably right, random teacher. I will probably graduate from college, look for a job as a teacher, dreaming of being the next Mr. Escalante, settling for a job as a sub, doing that for a year, realize that I need an M.A. to have a chance at a better job, start doubting my life decision again, buck up and go back to school while doing small teaching jobs all the while never quite liking any of the kids I have taught yet, do this for two years, get my M.A., settling for a job as a sub, doing that for a year, realizing that I definitely made the wrong life decision, get a break at a school I never heard of about two hours away, not liking any of the administration, realizing that I won’t be able to sustain myself on the salary they are offering, contemplating suic….

I know, I know. I have thought about that, I know it’s a possibility. But I don’t care. I am going to do this, logic and rationality be damned. If everyone just stopped dreaming and started acting rationally, there would be zero innovation. The system would never change. I’m tired of letting the pendulum decide what I do next.

The answer to the pendulum problem is to not try and go with the movement; you may keep up for a bit, but the pendulum never tires, it never stops for rest; it is relentless and infinite, and thus, you will eventually be left in the dust. No one will care about how long you were able to keep up, only that now, at present, you are tripping and useless. The answer is to go against the movement. When the pendulum swings left, go right; right, go left. This will allow you to not try and keep up, but rather stabilize yourself. It’s not the speed of the swinging that does people in, it’s the false comfort that everything will be alright forever when they have a bit of footing going with the movement. The pendulum is going to swing; there is nothing anyone can do about it. So just be yourself, there in the midst of things, in medias res, and just take on the movement as it comes.

So, here I am, writing an essay, not for any other reason than it being what I happen to be doing currently. I may never write another post; I may write 1,000 more. It all depends on which way the pendulum is swinging at the time.