By Dr. Jim Ferguson

In case you haven’t realized, the world has fundamentally changed and the “New Order” is now in charge.  As 2013 dawns it is apparent that my cohorts are no longer in control – nor am I.  In describing the role of parents, I believe the Proverbist said it best: “Teach your children right from wrong, and when they are older, they will not depart from it.”   I hope our children learned their lessons and are ready for this brave new world they’ve chosen, where absolutes have been replaced by situational ethics.  And I hope they’ll look after us in our old age.

It’s customary at year’s end to close the books on the previous year, take an inventory of one’s life, and formulate resolutions for the New Year.  I never used to make New Year’s resolutions; perhaps because I was trying so hard to make it that I never considered “end game” reflections.  Now, I make resolutions.  The story goes that the god Apollo once told Socrates he was the wisest man who had ever lived.  On reflection Socrates concluded that he may be wise, but only because he realized how little he knew.

My ninety-five year old Mother-In-Law is still sharp as a tack and curious.  I’ve learned much about living and the purpose of life from Joanna and her daughter, Becky.  The Apostle Paul wrote to the Romans that we all have “gifts differing,” so in my family medical questions often come to me.  Recently, Joanna asked me a question and I was pleased to return a favor.  But, before I could do so, she quickly added that if I didn’t know the answer would I please “Google it” on my iPhone.

Three thousand years ago the writer of Ecclesiastes lamented that there was “nothing new under the sun.”  He felt that everything had already been done or considered before, so everything was just variations on the old.  He was wrong.  In the 20th century alone the theory of general relativity revolutionized our concepts of space and time.  And then quantum mechanics made computers, the internet and the Information Age possible.  The internet is such a powerful tool that even nonagenarians call upon the “Net” to answer questions.  It remains a mystery to me why so many choose to live in the informational dark ages, possessing so little curiosity that they trust the perverse media rather than seeking their own answers.  Not so with Joanna.  Confession time, Joanna, it was one of my younger friends, a member of the new generation, who taught me how to “Google it.”

Perhaps if I had been writing for the Focus at the Millennium and was prescient I could have written this essay then.  However, I was thinking about other things a decade and a half ago, and few could have imagined the powerful computer chips that make the iPhones and Droids in our pockets a reality these days.

Recently, I was participating in folk songs around a bonfire at Thistle Farms with kids of the new order.  The guitar pick’n and sing’n suddenly came to a halt when the lyrics for a song proved allusive – at least until Abe Googled them, and with his Droid on his knee the sing’n and grinn’n continued.  Yes, the world has changed.  In the information age I sometimes wonder if there is so much data that we have less time for reflection or personal interaction.  Maybe I’ll discuss this with Mr. Jones, my ninety-one year old patient, who just sent me a medical update from his new fax machine Santa gave him for Christmas.

We hear much these days about the early signs of a stroke, and are encouraged to be alert to sudden difficulties of speaking, walking or confusion.  Recently, I read of a new diagnostic clue to a stroke syndrome.  A man noted that his wife’s text message suddenly became gibberish.  He called her and quickly realized something was wrong and took her to the ER.  The doctors concluded that her warning symptoms, described as “dystextia” (literally, difficulty texting), were produced when her brain was deprived of blood flow and oxygen.  I’ve observed patients with stroke syndromes who demonstrate echolalia or nonsensical baby talk.  But, dystextia was new to me; there was no such thing as texting or the Net during my training!

So, what does this New Year and the future hold?  I’ll go out on a limb and predict that the next leap of humanity will be a chip in our brains that can connect us directly to the Net.  We’ll be able to participate in virtual realities somewhat like a 3D movie, or project a heads up display like a jet fighter pilot as we query the Net for answers to our questions – all with the twitch of an eye lid.

I read once that the past is history, the future is a mystery, but this moment is a gift and that’s why they call it the present.   My New Year’s resolution is to live in the present moment with a focused awareness of The Presence.  This is the key to successful living, rather than facts from my smart phone.  I’m trying to kick back and let go of things.  I’m trying to enjoy the journey because I trust in the ultimate destination.