My daughter wanted some pictures of her and her bestie to put in a graduation card. In theory, this was a simple task, since over the years there have been upwards of 83 million pictures of the two of them taken. In reality, we could only find about three pictures that had been turned into a tangible form. Everything else existed only in ethereal cloud form.
I’m a paper person. Whenever I have to read something longer than an email I print it out. For that matter, I print out most emails, or at least the ones I want to read again. I know this makes me old, but I don’t quite believe in the existence of things I can’t touch. I also have trouble staring at backlit screens.
Back in the day, before walking, talking children demanded that I give up any scrap of myself for a couple of decades, I was in to scrapbooking. I loved captioning photographs and arranging them just so in the manner of people with free time. Decades on, I love looking at those scrapbooks. They tell the story of building our house, of my pregnancy and my infant son. Not my infant daughter. By the time I had a two-year old and a baby, I was beyond stickers and cute background papers. I was lucky to stick the photos in a box.
By the time they were four or so, we had moved into the digital age, and everything stayed on our phones or computer hard drives. Then it moved into the cloud.
I did really well in math in school, up until calculus, when it got theoretical. I can still do algebra and most geometry. But I never could wrap my brain around the fact that you could take the volume of an infinitely large cone and get a number like 2. Likewise, I can’t begin to even understand the vastness or mysteries of the universe. It’s all to big and abstract for my weak little brain.
Digital pictures, and the 75 billion books on my Kindle I’ll never get around to reading, are not a whole lot different to me than calculus and black holes. I get that they exist. I trust the science and math behind them, as well as the people whose brains are wired to understand such things. But they aren’t 100% real to me. I cannot fully comprehend how my daughter can shoot me that look that burns like lasers, I can point my phone at that look, some server in Redmond, Washington instantaneously turns it into 0s and 1s, and then ten years later, I can access those 0s and 1s and still feel those laser burns. That’s some science fiction stuff right there. Sure, the CGI makes it LOOK real, but can it actually be?
Not if I can’t touch it.
Now that one of my kids is out of the house most of the months of the year, and the other one has one foot out of the door and the rest of her body facing away, I can start translating all those pixels, and make those digital footprints carbon-based ones. I know, I know. The rainforest. But I happen to know that most paper comes from trees specifically planted to become paper and has nothing to do with the rainforest. And the 200 or so pictures I will have printed out will have such a small impact, globally. I’m old enough to say that it’s a small thing you can do to make an old lady happy.
Respect your elders.
Let her make a scrapbook if it makes her happy. It makes more sense than calculus.
 More to the point, the ones I want to prove exist, which happens a lot in my lawyerly life.
 I was disciplined enough to learn the formulas and do well enough on the exam but I never could understand the theory behind them. You feel me, right? An infinitely large cone should have an infinitely large volume? Because if it has a finite volume than it isn’t infinitely large? Right? Right?
 Especially compared to the volumes of emails I print out (see footnote one) and the things I print out just so that I can read them, and then immediately throw out. I mean, recycle. So sue me.
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Lori B. Duff is an award-winning author who practices law on the side. Her latest book, “If You Did What I Asked in the First Place” was awarded the Gold Medal for humor in the Foreword INDIES awards in 2019. You can follow her on Twitter at @LoriBDuff and on Facebook. For more blogs written by Lori, click here. For more information about Lori in general, click here. If you want Lori to do your writing for you, click here. If you want Lori to help you market your book, click here.