Opening Pandora’s box

Published 9:47 am Monday, June 29, 2009

To my way of thinking, the Internet is nothing more than Pandora’s box that, once opened, unleashes many evils on mankind – ills, toils and such.

Not being a member of the NOW generation, I’ve had little to no reason to associate with the Internet. I’ve faired all right without it.

But, if there’s any truth at all about the big jar that Pandora toted around, then there was, at the very bottom of it, hope. And, like Pandora, curiosity led to my opening of “the box.”

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“Now,” I’m not saying that I’ve found any hope in the Internet, but I’ve stumbled upon a real singular purpose for it and, I’m kinda liking it. No. Honestly, I’m lovin’ it.

I had noticed that the young folks around the office sat in their cubicles with plugs in their ears that attached to tiny cords that connected them to Pandora’s box. I didn’t ask. I didn’t want to know.

But when a set of ill-fitting ear plugs was offered to me, at first, I politely refused.

Now, I need to say that I have a CD player on my desk and I play “my” music which, grates on the nerves of my co-workers who are still wet behind the ears.

So, they needed the plugs, not me.

But, when it was explained to me that Pandora is free Internet music and you can order up your kind of music and it plays without the interruption of commercials or news, my ears perked up. Just me and “my” music?

Ahhh. Plug me in.

With youthful assistance, I “created” my stations – Highway 101 — because they sing my kind of country music. Ralph Stanley — because I’m a bluegrass fan. Jean Ritchie — those old Appalachian ballads are my heritage. John Denver — who is my all-time favorite, and Peter, Paul and Mary whose folk music sustained me when I was off “finding myself.”

Learning to listen wasn’t easy.

I still “bothered” the young man across from me. “Too loud?” I didn’t think anyone could hear the music except me. Then I noticed that another young fellow had his plugs IN his ears. Mama told me to never put anything smaller than my elbow in my ear.

“No, you’ve got the earphones on backwards,” he said. “This piece (the microphone) fits IN your ear, not outward.

When I inserted the plugs, I no longer broadcast “my” music throughout the office. But I’m not used to having music played inside my head. After about two hours, I was as dizzy as a doodle. I couldn’t walk straight and my head was spinning. I had to swig down a co-cola just to right myself.

Now, I just put an ear plug in one ear, but I’ve gotten a little concerned. I think I can hear better out of my right ear than my left, and I worry that I’m losing my hearing. So, I’m using the left ear plug to exercise my left ear drum. I don’t want to have to wear a hearing aid. It would interfere with me and my music. Me and Pandora.

The really great thing is that I open Pandora’s box, click on one of my five stations, and then it’s up to Pandora to play one song after the other from my “stations” of music.

For a while it was Highway 101, then Tanya Tucker and Reba. All of my favorites from that “station.” But, since I clicked on Peter, Paul and Mary, I haven’t clicked again.

Their music – that station – has taken me back to a best time in my life –the summers that I spent as a national park employee. A time when college students were on the edge of asserting themselves, expressing their opinions and demonstrating against anything and everything. But only on the edge.

We were still on the soft fringe of innocence. We were idealistic and optimistic and deeply appreciative of being “on the mountain side where the rivers change direction across the Great Divide.”

My Peter, Paul and Mary station took me back to the starry nights when we sat at the foot of the Grand Teton Mountains and sang softly into the night great songs like “This Land is Your Land,” “The Answer Is Blowing in the Wind,” “500 Miles” and “Never Die Young.”

Songs with words that you could understand and tunes that forever lingered in your mind and in your heart.

Songs that were so sweet and meaningful that, when you heard them again 40 years down the road, they took you back to that wonderful time when you were young and idealistic and filled with the hope that is always at the bottom of Pandora’s box.