Wednesday, December 17, 2014

A Life of Change

As you know, individuals and corporations and entire nations often resist beneficial change and growth.  As for me, if I see an individual growing from learning concrete skills, such as typing or riding a bull (named Fu Manchu) I find it inspires me. When someone is going through their bucket list, however slowly, it can be contagious.

Besides the example of concrete skills, it’s been wonderful to know people learning to be liberated in various emotional areas.

Metaphorically, to explain such people, and me too, it’s useful to look at a single example of a change-road society has not taken: consider the example of the standard typewriter keyboard being set for QWERTY, as read left to right across the top row of buttons.

The common explanation, for the setup of the keyboard that many of us learned to use in school, is that the letters were set around so illogically in order to slow the typist down, so the flying keys wouldn’t jam together. I can remember reaching forward to manually untangle the keys. But as mechanics got better, and then balls and daisy wheels replaced flying keys, and are in turn replaced by software, do we still need to be slowed down? A better way would be to arrange the keys so the “home row” where your fingers rest, has the letters used most often, such as the vowels.

It’s been done. A man named Dvorak invented the Dvorak keyboard, a board that every Macintosh computer can easily be switched to. I switch mine back and forth whenever I pass my laptop over to client to use, or to a Mac technician. Am I typing any faster using Dvorak? No. Not yet. But if ever I get arthritis I will be very glad I switched. A professional fantasy novelist, with swift fingers, got arthritis very badly, her livelihood was at risk, so she had to risk switching, and it all turned out all right. She got her speed back up.

The way I learned Dvorak—since you can’t take it at night school—was to practice a series of lessons I found on the webs, from a man who obviously likes the sci-fi series Babylon-5. But whatever motivated me to get over the speed bump of inertia in order to change? And why did I persist with “my” typing drills until I had mastered them? The answer is back at community college.

It was at night school that I learned to touch-type. The “recreational” non-credit course was full, so I had to take the “real” one, in a class with folks learning to be administrative assistants. This meant more pressure on me, but what else could I do? I didn’t want to wait for another semester. Happily, I had my own manual (not electric) typewriter at home, so I practiced hard… I got an A—and I raised my grade point average!

Many years later, my willingness and persistence for Dvorak was largely because I had faith I could learn, because I had once learned in night school. And I remembered how liberating and free it felt—such happy lightness—to be able to touch-type with all my fingers rather than being a two finger typist, or having to hunt and peck. As they say, “Nothing succeeds like success.” Now I have the joy of using futuristic Dvorak.

As a boy I read sf writer Robert Heinlein’s “If This Goes On—” (Revolt in 2100) where a young man under a totalitarian theocracy learns to question his cradle-to-grave ideology. After breaking free of government propaganda, he later learns to be liberated regarding a minority group called pariahs (probably Jews) and still later he learns to have a healthy (for him) degree of sexual liberation. It’s as if he got into a habit of life change: After getting liberated in one area he felt a willingness to persist in working through other areas too. As singer K.D. Lang says, “Free your mind, and the rest will follow.”

People in small towns have a reputation of being less liberated. I wonder: Perhaps with no individual pariahs in town to care about, and work through their issues about, they never get a taste of that first happy lightness of being liberated, and so they never move on to other areas. …Or maybe some folks retard their growth in order to blend in with their peer group… I’ve noticed that people with a proven track record of change seem to have multiple areas of broadmindedness, and are open to new information. People such as my writer friends: No wonder they make a good peer group!

Sean Crawford
December 2014

Footnote: Maybe it’s a slow December, but you wouldn’t believe how few hits my last piece received. I am curious to see what happens this week.


  1. I read your post last week. :-)

    Wishing you a Very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! All the best for 2015. I'm heading to the West Coast and I can't wait to see the water, green and most importantly, my family. Yeah! Looking forward to reading your blog in the New Year. :-)

  2. Hi Lee,
    It sounds as if you are going positively into the new year, hitting the ground running… and I feel you encouraging me to do the same…. So I guess I will.

    I will be having days off, but not evenings, so I will stay in town and with fear and trembling try to de-clutter my home, meaning: my books.

    Comic essays are swifter and easier for me than normal ones, so I may switch to funny in the new year, to free up time for fiction and poetry.

    My hit count is about normal for this piece, but still, I won't be crafting any complicated essays, nor offering good re-runs, until after the new year. No use casting pearls at this time of year.

    …I think my re-run last week suffered because google has gone over to the dark side, and doesn't like blog re-runs, as a dark plot to thwart business advertising, but hey, what do I know? I'm a long way from silicon valley, with no one to ask.