9.23.2010

R.I.P. photo albums…and other things

I’ll just admit it. I have photo album guilt.

My oldest child is six. That fact alone has enormous ramifications. It means that I have six years’ worth of digital photos sitting in folders on my computer. Yes, they are organized there. Yes, they are backed up. But no, they are not displayed in albums, except for my two baby books.

It is the digital age, the age of technology, the information revolution. Blah, blah, I know all that. I have never thought of myself as a luddite, opposed to all the sweeping change around me. Actually, my lack of current photo albums proves that point. I am a Generation X’er. I facebook, twitter, blog, and own at least one device that begins with a lowercase i.

But I confess that I miss opening up a book to look at photos rather than locking my eyes on that ubiquitous screen. I miss turning pages, sitting comfortably, flipping through an album. Scrapbookers aside, who does that anymore? I fear that those old-fashioned albums are dying. And alas, here I am, an active participant in their deaths. I can only hope that books do not await the same fate. I don’t think I could stand reading a whole novel on a screen.

I am aware that there are options. Websites like snapfish will make prints and photobooks for me if I make the effort. Even the local drug stores will make prints from my digital camera. But the thought of sifting through hundreds, maybe thousands, of pictures on my computer is so daunting that I am averse to the task.

The slow death of photo albums points to larger issues. Think about the last time that you wrote a letter. Not a thank-you note or a quick “thinking of you” card and certainly not an e-mail, but a detailed, handwritten letter. I remember spending summers in the mid 90’s apart from my college boyfriend, now husband, and writing letters to each other then. Has it really been that long since I sat down with pen and paper to write a lengthy letter to someone? They are quickly becoming obsolete, if they are not already.

One of my college professors introduced me to the Internet as we know it. How could I have grasped the impact it was to have on our lives back then? Going back much farther, my dad told me what a VCR could do before our family owned one. “You mean I could record TV shows and watch them over and over again?” I asked him. Because no greater prospect existed in my young life at the time.

That tired buzz word change does not really begin to describe what has happened in the last 20 years. I suppose that we are better off than we used to be. How could finding the answers to everything we could ever need at the click of a button be bad? Life is more convenient, business is more efficient, people are more connected. It’s all marvelous. Except for this one little thing…the sad, uncomfortable feeling that I get when I hear the shadowy word obsolete. It’s at times like those when I want the world to stop, please, so that I can get off of it.

Just today, I heard someone saying that his blackberry was a ball and chain. Before the information age, none of us knew what we were missing. Were we that disadvantaged when we lived in the relative ignorance of the past? Probably. But at least we didn’t know it.

In mathematics, the “constant” is the part of the equation that doesn’t change. My memory of algebra is foggy, but I do remember that pi equals 3.14 followed by a string a numbers stretching to infinity. It is a value that is always held constant. Parts of life’s equations are always changing, variables within them alternately increasing and decreasing, depending on how the wind is blowing.

No matter what is ahead for this generation and the next, this truth remains: “I the Lord do not change,” Malachi 3:6 says. It’s a weighty statement, in light of the fact that everything else does change. Seasons. People. Technology. Environments. Interest rates. Time. “Whatever is good and perfect comes down to us from God our Father, who created all the lights in the heavens. He never changes or casts a shifting shadow,” (James 1:17). These days, the shadows are shifting so quickly that it’s difficult to pinpoint the location of the sun.

But no matter. He’s there anyway, the center of the universe, the unchanging Son who casts no shadows at all in this world that is hurtling forward at the speed of progress, while photo albums collect dust. He…and He alone…is the constant.

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