Thursday, September 5, 2013

I never learned how to set a VCR. "Candy crush saga" sounds stupid. And, I'd rather waste time on tangible piddling.

A lot of you have probably already seen the video below. It's been floating around Facebook for the past two weeks or so. A lot of you also know that I, with my sliding keyboard in hand, am one of the lone hold-outs in the cool phone race. I hate to hear "app" almost as much as I detest seeing "lol" and unnecessary exclamation points. I relish the fountain drinks and granola bars that are actually no better for me than delicious, delicious Snickers (but that have some reference to high protein or whole grain on the packaging) that would be nonexistent if I had a GPS.  Although possibly handy when the ol' Elantra makes one of its many mysterious noises or when trying to come up with some obscure 20 Questions prompt (I love me some car games), I really don't need Internet access in the car.  I try to keep my phone use to a minimum when I'm around friends and family and find myself frustrated when others don't do the same.

Now, this, of course, is not to suggest that I am not a slave to technology just like everyone else.  Obviously, I'm spouting all this stuff on a blog I have had for over three years. I enjoy Facebook, Youtube videos and Spotify and typically get my morning news from the Huffington Post. While I do not have cable, I do watch movies on my 14" TV sometimes. I love to take pictures of food, my animals, and landscapes. One of the reasons for my car's mysterious noises is the fact that I drive the wheels off of it (seven years old and it has almost 195,000 miles). 

I just think the video is a nice reminder that, despite our reliance on technology (no matter the degree to which we consider ourselves addicted), we can choose to be more present in our lives.  It made me think of, and go back and read, Wendell Berry's 1989 essay "Feminism, the Body, and the Machine." I particularly find resonance with the bit about the "line being drawn where it can be drawn easily." I would never tell someone else what is healthy or effective for them. I simply think we could all take stock of our lives and cut out some of the unnecessary luxuries that keep us from engaging with the REAL people and places in it. For me, that means not buying a smart phone, getting rid of my cable, doing as much yard and farm work myself as I can with tools my father would've used, and giving those around me the attention I would hope to receive from them. You can, and should, draw your own line.

“Some of my critics were happy to say that my refusal to use a computer would not do any good. I have argued, and am convinced, that it will at least do me some good, and that it may involve me in the preservation of some cultural goods. But what they meant was real, practical, public good.  They meant that the materials and energy I save by not buying a computer will not be ‘significant.’ That is true.

But each one of us, by ‘insignificant’ individual abuse of the world, contributes to a general abuse that is devastating. And if I were one of thousands or millions of people who could afford a piece of equipment, even one of which they had a conceivable ‘need,’ and yet did not buy it, that would be ‘significant.’ Why, then, should I hesitate for even a moment to be one, even the first one, of that ‘significant’ number? Thoreau gave the definitive reply to the folly of ‘significant numbers’ a long time ago: Why should anybody wait to do what is right until everybody does it?...

One of my correspondents asked where one is to draw the line. That question returns me to the bewilderment I mentioned earlier: I am unsure where the line ought to be drawn, or how to draw it. But it is an intelligent question, worth losing some sleep over.

I know how to draw the line only where it is easy to draw. It is easy – it is even a luxury – to deny oneself the use of a television set, and I zealously practice that form of self-denial. Every time I see television (at other people’s houses), I am more inclined to congratulate myself on my deprivation. I have no doubt, as I have said, that I am better off without a computer. I joyfully deny myself a motorboat, a camping van, an off-road vehicle, and every other kind of recreational machinery. I have, and want, no ‘second home.’ I suffer very comfortably the lack of colas, TV dinners, and other counterfeit foods and beverages.

I am, however, still in bondage to the automobile industry and the energy companies, which have nothing to recommend them except our dependence on them. I still fly on airplanes, which have nothing to recommend them but speed; they are inconvenient, uncomfortable, undependable, ugly, stinky, and scary.  I still cut my wood with a chainsaw, which has nothing to recommend it but speed, and has all the faults of an airplane, except it does not fly.

It is plain to me that the line ought to be drawn without fail wherever it can be drawn easily. And it ought to be easy (though many do not find it so) to refuse to buy what one does not need.  If you are already solving your problem with the equipment you have – a pencil, say – why solve it with something more expensive and more damaging? If you don’t have a problem, why pay for a solution? If you love the freedom and elegance of simple tools, why encumber yourself with something complicated?”
Happy early birthday to literally one of my best friends, the sweet-natured girl who never remembers when I fuss or am in a bad mood, the first of my herd of animals who has cuddled with me as I've cried and jumped and played with me in creeks and lakes across Kentucky, the unselfish one who doesn't mind if Willie gets his pets or treat first, the little girl I love to come home to everyday.  Happy 7th birthday, Lucy:)



  1. I really enjoyed this post. While I know you didn't necessarily mean to, I found myself being subtly mentioned a few times. And it's probably my own fault. Yes, I am attached to my phone, to a fault at times, and I love having access to the internet at all times (you never know when you might need to know where 2 Chainz went to high school). But, I also appreciate your take on things "techy" and despite my reliance on it, I find myself detesting many of the same things you mentioned.

  2. Thanks for the thoughtful comment, for attending Lucy's birthday party, and for making me ponder who exactly 2 Chainz is.;)
    And, I promise, I wasn't thinking of you at all. Mom is much worse than either of you;)