Tuesday, July 28, 2020


Henry Miller, the avant-garde, bohemian writer and activist said it best:

“If at eighty you’re not a cripple or an invalid, if you have your health, if you still enjoy a good walk, a good meal (with all the trimmings), if you can sleep without first taking a pill, if birds and flowers, mountains and sea still inspire you, you are a most fortunate individual and you should get down on your knees morning and night and thank the good Lord for his savin’ and keepin’ power.”

Henry Miller probably didn’t know at the time that he could have been talking about the paradigm of growing older today when he made that statement back in the sixties.

In science and philosophy, a paradigm is a distinct set of concepts or thought patterns, including theories, research methods, postulates, and standards for what constitutes legitimate contributions to a field. And the fields are endless.

Paradigms are happening all around us and now at a faster pace than ever before. Even the idea of the aging process has evolved. The old paradigm that defined the last phase in a person’s life has changed how we look at old age.

Becoming a senior isn’t what it used to be. The old ideas of retiring and waiting for the inevitable are now a thing of the past for many older folks. It also means they’re old enough to see the power of paradigms happening all around them…all of the time, but especially now in the time of the pandemic.

Back in the eighties, Joel Baker, a local author out of Burnsville, Minnesota made quite a name for himself writing several books about the phenomena of paradigms. I was reminded of that recently when I watched a fascinating documentary on comic books.

Marvel and DC Comics ruled the world of comic books for decades. Their stable of cartoon characters hadn’t changed much over the years. It wasn’t until the early 1990s, when radical change came knocking on their corporate doors. From their talent pool arose a group of very unhappy artists who were chaffing at the bit to create new action figures and colorful characters to match their fertile imaginations. The group broke away from Marvel and DC Comics and formed their own organization under the banner of Image books. They totally upended the world of comic books.

Other examples of shifting paradigms abound all around us:

In the past, if a person wanted to stay overnight someplace, they had the choice of hotels, motels, and resorts. The lodgings came in all shapes and sizes but the premise was pretty much the same. They had rooms to rent; with or without amenities and the competition was limited.

Then two guys got this crazy idea that perhaps there were people who were willing to rent their rooms out to perfect strangers and a whole new lodging industry sprang up seemingly overnight. Now any world traveler can couch surf anyplace on the planet and never step into a hotel ever again. Now Airbnb, VRBO, and other facsimiles crowd the short-term lodging market.

Then there was Yellow cab, Super Shuttle and local, regional, and national cab companies that dominated the shuttle business. They had the market sewn up since the advent of the automobile. Once again, a couple of folks thought that private transportation might be an attractive alternative to the fixed high rates charged by most cab companies and shuttle services. Hence, Uber and Lyft came about and changed the industry forever.

At one time, there were six major publishing houses; each with many smaller imprints for specialized subject matter. Many of these publishing titans had been around for more than a hundred years. Their business model hadn’t changed since the mid-to-late-1800s.

Those six houses have now shrunk to three or four with more consolidation taking place every day. Electronic publishing and the new world of Print-on-Demand has turned the old publishing model on its head. Minimum print runs are a thing of the past and the internet has broadened the marketplace to include the entire planet.

Broadcast television made its debut in the United States in the late 1940s and gained a strong foothold in American consciousness in the early 1950s. That broadcast model/formula remained stable until the advent of cable television in the mid-1980s. Then, just as television had usurped much of the power of the movies, cable television disrupted the power of the major networks.

From there it was off to the races with the advent of DVDs and home entertainment crowding into the movie/ television business. CDs replaced LPs. Eventually computer technology allowed streaming content on multiple platforms to replace much of the DVD business model and the broadcast influence of the networks and cable channels.

The examples of paradigms disrupting the ‘tried and true’ procedures and processes continue at an ever-quickening pace. It’ll be up to my children and grandchildren to embrace and adjust to the changes swirling around us. For me, it’s an excuse to reflect, smile, and mostly watch from the sidelines. On a more personal level, it means the old adage that I grew up with of ‘retire and wait to die’ has now been replaced by ‘retire and now what?’

Following Henry Miller’s advice, I’d like to reach my eighties in good shape and still writing. It’s been one heck of a wonderful run thus far. I can only imagine what is in store for my grandchildren as they maneuver their way through life in the future. I’d like to stick around for a while to watch them do just that.

1 comment:

Channing Hillway, PhD said...

Well said. You'll remember Marshall McLuhan, in the 1960s, and Alvin Toffler, in the 1970s, explaining their conceptualizations of what I call Technocultural Paradigm Shift. It's an important topic. Thanks for promoting better understanding of a piece of it.

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