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May 31, 2013

STAWAR: Don’t shoot the black swans

Last week at the Springfield College commencement, Massachusetts Sen. Elisabeth Warren advised graduates that they should always be open to the unexpected, since that is where opportunity often resides. 

She also said they should never be so committed to their life plan that when they hit that inevitable bump in the road, that they lack “the resiliency to rethink and regroup.”

In the years since my college graduation, an incredible number of unexpected things have happened that no one saw coming. The personal computer, the Internet, video games, social media and smart phones are a few of the most obvious ones. Father John Culkin of Fordham University once said, “A lot of things have happened in the 20th century and most of them plug into the wall.” 

In the wireless 21st century, most of them now involve screens. 

When television first became popular, people said that watching too much would make your eyes go square, and even today people worry that too much “screen time” might harm your vision, as well as your health and social life. To counter this, some schools, families and even businesses are now requiring a certain amount of “screen-free time” each week. People apparently have a natural affinity to watching screens, which is probably related to our ancestors being fascinated by the sights seen safely from their cave windows. 

Virtual screens have been with us as far back as the 11th century, when Saint Clare of Assisi is said to have watched church services miraculously projected onto her bedroom wall when she was too ill to attend in person. In 1958, Pope Pius XII declared Clare the patron saint of television. 

As a young child, I would stare at a cardboard box with a circle drawn upon it and imagine that I could see spaceships. Eventually, video games easily caught up and surpassed my limited imagination, as did word processing. 

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