Future Shock

I am sitting in front of a technological marvel. Typing on a word processor that can erase my mistakes with the click of the backspace key (oh for such a wonder in typing class in 1966!) There is a midi file playing that I downloaded from the internet a few days ago that is very beautiful. I can set it so that it just plays once or over and over if I want it to. I can change the way my computer screen looks and sounds in a thousand different ways. The spell checker prompts me when I make a mistake so that I can fix them write away….. well, most mistakes…. right away and turn out a document that is not a complete embarrassment in that personally deficient area of my life, (the old spelling area). I am wondering what I would have thought of and done with all these things when I was a teenager. The possibilities for creativity and self-expression may have opened doors for me, or for all we know, may have just made me lazy and peevish. We will never know.

But I think about this kind of stuff. I have to. The world has been altered so much just in my own lifetime. And we race every day to try and keep up with the changes that are taking place even as we speak. I wonder if humans were made to function well under this much uncertainty. Just this year MOST of my close relatives have moved or gotten new phone numbers and email addresses. Including us ! We changed our ISP a couple of months ago. Geeze ! I spend a significant amount of my time updating my address book these days. I feel a nasty case of Future Shock coming on, and I think my immunity is wearing off.

The concept of permanence is quickly disappearing. Perhaps it was an illusion in the first place. Maybe. Probably. – but oh, I don’t want to go THERE….( This way there be dragons….) But our fascination with the “new” in an insidious way is engendering in us a contempt of the stable as stodgy, old, decrepit, non “progressive”. Progress to WHERE ? I ask you?

I have a feeling that none of this is good for us, but have no idea how to unplug.

Although in truth all this whining is funny coming from me, because I live a pretty quiet life compared to so many around me. I am grateful for it too. I know my limits. Growing up in the country, I learned many a humble, non technical skill. How to plant a garden, how to milk goats, care for chickens, make homemade bread and learned how to preserve all kinds of foods. I sewed clothes for myself and my boys. I learned how to make handmade soap, quilts and candles, and we even cut and split our own firewood to keep warm with in the winter. All these things I have done, and done well. And with only a few minor differences, some of these things were done the same way for centuries before me. As we write and read these words, someone in America is milking their goat, by hand ! All these activities had tangible results, food, clothing, warmth. Those bare minimum things that humans need. It is a satisfying way to spend one’s time. Can we say the same about a state of the art digital camera ? Do you know how to fix it if it breaks ?

I’ll bet not.

It’s as if I’m stuck in a slow contemplative style of living yet watching the world whiz by at ever increasing dizzying speed. Even though I try to stay out of the loop, every now and then the mayhem reaches out and gives me a good spin.

Maybe some of my cognitive dissonance comes from watching the ubiquitous teletube that seeks constantly to shape my perception of the world. To tell me I need MORE stuff all the time. New stuff, complicated stuff, cutting edge stuff. Stuff that needs a manual just to figure out how to turn it on and off. Stuff that costs WAY too much money. Stuff that I can’t eat, drink, clothe or shelter myself with. Toys. Complicated, expensive toys.

I should just turn the stupid tube off you say ! But so many of us ARE watching and way too much of it. I worry that so much of our information about the world comes from such a narrow and untrustworthy source, that our conclusions about life are becoming more and more distorted.

Real life does not make good TV, Ozzy notwithstanding. Too much down time, not enough action. But who can measure with a camera the thoughts and dreams and other amazing things that run through the human mind ? How many quiet hours did it take to hammer out the Declaration of Independence ? You know, it doesn’t look or sound like a document that was whipped up in an afternoon committee meeting. Many people had to think some very deep thoughts for quite a while to come up with it. Who is making time to think deeply about things today ? And what will be the consequences of actions taken without a good deep think ?

Oh, I am sure you are tired of reading how I struggle with this stuff. I apologize, and I admit that I am not even articulating my dilemma very well. This is a recurring issue for me and I wrestle with it often. And I just as often throw up my hands in despair. Sorry, but I just don’t have the answers yet, so I “write out loud” to see if it might help somehow….maybe I will go bake some bread. A small act of defiance. Power to the contemplatives !