Twiddling Thumbs

These are the facts: You know what you know and you don’t know what you don’t know. There is so much knowledge and information that nobody but god could possibly know it all and who knows if there is a god? One person can only learn so much in a lifetime and we all know only that fraction of all knowledge which is useful to us. We aren’t expected to know everything. It is not necessary to understand the principles of fuel injection and hydraulic brake systems in order to drive a car.

It’s every engineer’s dream to invent the machine that is so elegant and complex that it can be operated by a simpleton. Smart phones come to mind. I had a science-fiction vision that the next generation will be born with hands that look like mittens. The fingers will have fused to form a pad perfect for holding an iPhone and our miracle evolutionary opposable thumbs will have adapted with tiny points on the ends perfect for typing on a mini keyboard.

In my school career I failed two classes. One was junior honors English. I got into a professional disagreement with my teacher which degenerated into a series of ugly incidents involving toilet paper being draped over trees and shrubbery in the early morning dew and a rebellious satire handed in for a term paper. It was my first battle with a bossy woman over poetry. It wouldn’t be my last. The other class that I failed was typing. I don’t know why I found it to be so difficult. I’m reasonably agile with my fingers, I pick my nose with refinement and play musical instruments, etc. But typing on those old acoustic typewriters was hard for me to learn, plus the letters were not in any comprehensible order. It was more confusing than the guitar. I had to work at it. So, I took pride in finally learning to type with all ten fingers. I felt like I had entered the realm of the true literati by mastering this secret handshake. This is why I am bemused by sixteen year old girls who can type faster than I can using only their thumbs.

I couldn’t send a text message if my sex life depended on it. I’ve never done it. I’m a total text virgin. Part of it is my failing eyesight. I can’t tell if you are holding an iPhone in your hand or a deck of smokes, much less read the characters on that tiny screen. Part of it is my stubborn devotion to the English sentence. Besides, I don’t LOL. Even in real flesh and blood life, it’s hard to even get me to smile. When I’m really amused I might CUMB (chuckle under my breath) but the kid has to be pretty drunk or high on acid before we hear any laughing out loud. More often I LTM (laugh to myself.) I’ll trade you an elegy for an emoticon any day. But what do I know? Maybe I’m sucking my thumb.

In short, I’ve been overtaken by the technology. My ten fingered world is turning into a binary, two-thumbed universe where we all still know just what we know and we don’t know what we don’t know. Google is laughing at the Dewey Decimal System. One day libraries will be kept in museums and we’ll all swing by our thumbs through an information jungle so dense and snarled with every vine and root of human knowledge or superstition that entire tribes and civilizations will flourish and fall undiscovered in its veil. When these tribes meet by chance, they will touch thumbs in formal greeting and they will know only what they know.

The day will come when they can no longer keep Steve Jobs alive with modular organ upgrades. Thumbs are still hard to transplant. Two generations have passed since they released the iPhone X and everybody knows how to work them but nobody remembers how to make them. The satellites are all out of warrantee and losing altitude. Apple has found it easier to make money selling stock than by selling phones and computers and there are a few Chinese old-timers who remember how to stamp the chips but they have no idea what they mean. The best engineers are now making air purifiers and surveillance drones. The technology crashes like a phony economy. Lonely thumbs are groping, pointlessly reaching for a WiFi signal. They know what they know.

The Poet’s Eye notices that things always work better when the right people know the right things at the right time. We live in a world where our thumbs can be the smartest finger and find out anything we need to know so that we don’t need to know everything. The thumb is the grasping digit. It lets us take hold of the world. Still even the thumb knows what it knows and doesn’t know what it doesn’t know.

I have two little thumbies
They’re with me day and night.
My favorite thumb is on my left.
The other’s on my right—Bruce Lansky

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One Response to Twiddling Thumbs

  1. Barry says:

    brilliant. although i think you cribbed that next to last paragraph from the good book – revelations – total “in exile” imagery…
    the future is news to me.

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