Friday, April 15, 2005


Each year during my annual physical check-up, the doctor has a serious conversation with me about loosing weight. A year ago, I told her I'd try to loose 15 pounds before I saw her again. Alas! I only managed to loose five pounds. But I'll keep trying, and making this public commitment may strengthen my resolve.

During my life-time, lots of other things have gotten bigger. Our grandparents raised large families in two- or three-bedroom houses. Our parents had fewer children, but felt privileged to have a bedroom for each family member. We raised two kids with a separate bedroom for each, plus a guest room, family room and office. Now in our neighborhood, families with only one or two children are building "monster" houses.

In the 1950s, our parents eagerly anticipated their first car and their first television set. Now we're in the minority with only one of each.

But I must admit that we have five computers, four of which are actively used. And this in spite of the fact that computer memories have gotten bigger at an incomprehensible rate.

My first personal computer held the equivalent of four or five typed pages before I had to download the memory onto a micro cassette tape. When floppy disks first came out (the 5 1/4" disks that really were floppy) they held an incredible 144 kilobytes. My second personal computer had a hard drive that held 10 megabytes, and my husband said I'd never need that much memory. I filled it in one year with text files --- before we had room for image files or color. When my husband brought home our first 3 1/2" floppy disk, it was strangely rigid. Since it had cost $15.00, the two of us shared one, and it took awhile to use all 1.4 megabytes.

Now I backup files to an iPod that stores almost 40 gigabytes. By my calculation, nowdays we get 1000 times more memory for the same dollar. Of course, software has gotten lots bigger, too, and I don't think anything of working with a single image that takes 40 megabytes.

As Americans, we work longer hours for larger paychecks, live in bigger houses, drive more cars, eat more food, buy more stuff, consume more electricty and burn more oil and gas. We think big. Maybe that's because we occupy a country with vast amounts of geographical space. Are we like goldfish? They grow as big as their environment will allow, whether that be a small goldfish bowl or a large pond.

Getting bigger is not necessarily bad --- I'm not ready to give up my iPod! But some kinds of super-sizing can be a selfish and ultimately distructive. And we can't super-size forever. Let's at least temper the present trend with a corresponding effort to super-size our compassion, our tolerence and our willingness to share with others.


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