Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Sometimes I Tremble

The Incredible Internet that I’ve Known!
by Charlie Leck

“Sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.” That's part of the lyrics of an old, old African-American spiritual that I loved to hear as a child. I remember how I shook when Mrs. Beiser stood there in the choir loft of our old First Congregational Church and sang it so sincerely, as Miss Howell played the old, pipe organ for her. I think at least half the congregation trembled with me. Remembering that moment this afternoon, I clanked into my Internet search engine the words: “Tremble, tremble, tremble!” And up came a page with video and audio that allowed a pianist to play the old, old tune and a choir to moan out the words of the spiritual to me.

The thought I had as I typed out those words was not about religion, faith or the death of Jesus, however. I was thinking more about the Internet and how it sometimes so amazes me that I can actually feel myself trembling from the awesomeness of what I find when I go there.

Here’s my thesis for today: The Internet has given freedom to the world and its peoples in such a way that no one preceding the Internet ever experienced such freedom or ever dreamed they would!

Look! Here’s a specific example.

I am, at this time in my life, taking a course at Yale University – well, not exactly at Yale University, but certainly from Yale University. Now if you think that I ever dreamed twenty years ago that this would be possible for me, you are smoking something illegal. But, yes, I am really doing it.

And, it isn’t costing me a dime.

I’m taking History 119: The Civil War and Reconstruction. It’s taught by Professor David Blight. I’ve got the printed syllabus and I’ve order the books that are required reading. I just finished listening to and watching the first lecture, “Why Does the Civil War Era Have a Hold on American Historical Studies?

There are 27 lectures in this course, each lasting about 50 minutes. After the series of lectures, there will be a final examination.

After listening to the first lecture today, I am as jacked up as I can be. Think of it! Damn it, just think of it. I learn from the best! I can listen to the same lecturer those lucky kids at Yale get to listen to. I can take my own notes and I can read along with them as they work through their syllabus.

If this doesn’t make you tremble, you are some young person who takes too many things for granted. I wish my extraordinary old history professor from college was still alive, so I could call him and tell him about this.

“Doctor Savage, you wouldn’t believe what I did today and how excited and happy it made me!”

No, certainly, Harry Savage, in his time, would never have believed such a thing could ever happen.

Here’s how it happened!
I was playing around on my new iPhone today, downloading a few iApps. This is all “in” lingo that some of you old folks out there might not get. Anyway, I happened on an app called Open Culture and began reading about it. It immediately seemed to me that this idea might work better on a computer than on an iPhone, so I went to That was the start of something big. On this web site you can download free audio books and podcasts, take free courses from universities all across America, take foreign language lessons and take business, science and law classes --- and just dozens and dozens of other wonderful things that boggle an old man’s mind.

There’s more to do on than even a young man could take advantage of in a life time.

I’m telling you – and I ain’t just a’ kiddin’ – that the whole world of studies and learning is open to us today and the wonder of it just makes me tremble, tremble, tremble.

If you want to see my class sessions at Yale (History 119) you can see the list here and watch any of them you’d like to.

If you want to see the Syllabus for the class, just click here.

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