I Want My (unplugged) MTV

I’ve been a Sirius Satellite subscriber for about 15 months now. It was free for the first year when I bought my Jeep, and I’ve become addicted to the 80s on 8 channel. It’s not that I’m especially in love with all of the music they play (although I’m keeping a list of the songs I’ve forgotten about that, when a few free bucks become available, I’ll stop on over at the iTunes store and do a happy download). In fact, much of the music they play is from the Hair Bands (Poison and the like), which I was never spending much time calling in for free concert tickets.

It’s not about what they’re playing; it’s about the fact that there’s a station that dips back into my high school and college days, happy days that I spent with so many good people and had so many good times.

It’s also about the nice engagement that’s going on with Facebook, where I’m reuniting with many of these good people and catching up on our lives, where somehow most of us made it through, relatively unscathed, and managed to settle down and build little family empires.

To be honest, it’s a blessing to be this age and this alive at this time in our history. Never before has it been possible to blend the past and the present so seamlessly, both technologically and in person, to create a clearer picture of who we are and how, although we have evolved into moms, dads, and specialists, so much of our true personality has not changed in that evolution.

All of this puts life in a more appreciative perspective for me. And by “life,” I mean that world that is bigger than my communities that include Facebook, text messages, email, chatrooms, IM, and even phone conversations.

I’ve somehow managed to appreciate the unplugged parts of my life even more.

I had to teach last night at Towson U, a very small class of students fulfilling their University requirement for an English course. Before I had to rush to find a parking space near Stephens Hall, I spent an hour with my family at our elementary school, trying to stay warm as the kids took turns flying down the snow-covered hills.

Seeing them–hearing their screams of fear and delight as they soared down the snowy hills, I felt like I was 10 again, playing in the snow with my sister and all of our neighborhood friends and their families. The Johnsons, Moudrys, Shanahans, Queens, and Birkmaeiers were all out there with us, turning a hilly street into an Olympic-like sledding track that looked like something out of a Norman Rockwell painting.

Back at Cromwell. As my own kids communed with their friends (we met a few families–rather serendipitously–from our pool), I enjoyed slipping into an appreciative state, observing the beauty of the snow on the trees along the horizon, the distant echos of children making their own memories as they high-fived at the bottom of the hill, the taste of an air filled with fresh-fallen snow, and the clean feel of the breeze brushing over my cheeks.

All of this blended into a gracious appreciation for the timeless joy of playing in the snow, the reconnections with old friends, and the awareness of love flowing through these decades. I remember when AOL was first on the radar, and we all jumped on it like it was that great, undiscovered world we never believed possible. It consumed our lives, just as the World Wide Web did when it was emerging in the early-to-mid nineties. It was a period of great imbalance; many of us became lost in that seemingly endless web of information and entertainment. We were addicted to sitting in our chairs, in front of our 14-inch monitors, believing that it just could not get any better than this.

But we know better now. We use our time online more efficiently now, thanks to social online groups like Facebook and Ning. We reconnect, reflect, and share our most immediate, and sometimes inane, updates of what we are doing. We even use our phones to stay connected to these communities. But we are getting out more again, re-emerging from our techno-cocoons, and returning to the unplugged worlds that we remember just before the birth of MTV. It’s not necessarily a return to innocence as much as it is a return to how all of this started for us 30, 40, and even 50 years ago.

We get the chance to do what no other generation before us has been able to do: embrace the relatively new technology as a means of blending the Then with the Now, yet with the appreciation and the giddiness that comes with having something that wasn’t available to us when we were younger.

Times are tough for all of us with the changes this world is going through. But at least I feel like we’ve got the chance to get through it with a younger heart, a brighter mind, and an appreciation for the things that matter most in this world.

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