Occasionally in the life of every commentator, even those of us who look at the future of the future day and night, you experience what amounts - yes, there is no other word for it - to an epiphany.
The earliest techno-epiphany I experienced was not, in reverse chronological order, the realization that mobile was the new normal, nor that computing was going unswervingly social, nor even that the Web was going to forever alter the economics of insight capture and distribution. Nope. It dates much further back, to the advent of the Internet itself.
Of course, as a Brit, when I talk of "the advent of the Internet" I am doing what Americans do when saying that the Second World War started in 1941...I am speaking about it from a wholly insular perspective. But this was back in the day, and that was how the world was. We are talking about the world pre-"globalization" - a world where each nation, roughly speaking, paddled its own canoe.
My employer in those days was the British Broadcasting Corporation, and it is indeed through the BBC that my epiphany came. At the time I worked for both BBC-tv and BBC Radio in separate but simultaneous capacities, so it was natural that I also ate my own dog food and both viewed and listened to the BBC more or less 24x7.
That is why it is easy for me to remember the day in the early 1990s that, on BBC Radio's most popular and influential morning show, the then Chair of the British Computer Society was called up by the presenter of the show and asked, bluntly: "So how would you go about explaining this 'Internet' thing."
The BCS Chair didn't miss a beat. Of course he'd probably been asked the question a dozen times before in the past little while, but never by a presenter from mainstream media. He could have alluded to the Internet's origins, attempted to bedazzle the huge morning audience with his erudition and knowledge. Instead he did what so few people, in such circumstances anyway, do. He nailed it.
"The best way to comprehend the unique quality of the Internet," he answered, "is first to understand that it is made up many small parts, loosely connected."
Many. Small. Parts. Loosely. Connected.
That was it. That was, unmistakeably, the very essence and core of the Internet. But it was the first time that I had ever heard it boiled down so magnificently...into just five words.
That was all a looooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooong time ago, and since then we have seen the creation of the Web, the dot-com crash, the fallow years, and now the New Boom/Bubble. But the five words still resonate with me. And what is more, they were the first thing I thought of when someone recently sent me seven rather similar words, and caused an entirely new epiphany...this time in a more personal context.
Let us not get too bogged down worrying why anyone would be giving me nutritional advice. Suffice it to say that I have been obliged recently to review my eating habits, mainly because of having lost 10% of my body weight to a radical surgical procedure aimed at curing me of pancreatic cancer. And, in this context, a fellow cancer survivor just wrote me - full knowing that I was struggling to maintain the 90% that was left, let along get my weight back to status quo ante, that's to say, before my Whipple surgery - a brief note of advice.
Here was her wise counsel: "Small bites all day long - whatever tastes good."
So what was the epiphany? Well it was this: the advice was proffered in the context of nutrition, but those seven words leapt out at me in another context completely - forgive me, dear reader, for at this point you will realize that one of the things about cancer survivors, particularly those who have been operated on successfully and are now undergoing six months' of preventative chemotherapy, is that they constantly wax philosophiocal.
I mean, surely those seven words - sent by a dear, dear friend - are a recipe not just for recovery after radical surgery...surely they're a recipe for life itself? For in the banquet of life what better advice could one possibly give a favorite nephew or a beloved son or daughter than this? "Take small bites all day long - whatever tastes good." :-)