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Friday, July 8, 2011

Practical Technology

At some point in the last 150 years, life moved from being fairly simple to being quite complicated.  I’m not really sure if it was the Industrial Revolution of the late 1800’s or the World Wars of the 1900’s that did it, but somewhere along the line we changed from a world that focuses on people and the relationships they have with each other and the land they live on, to a world that focuses on science, discovery, and making peoples lives easier and faster.  The ever-present race for the development of new technologies (the application of science for practical purposes), dominates all developed cultures today.
 A recent 4- day power-outage in my neighborhood shed some light on just how impractical some of the new “technologies” are.  Almost every techno device developed in the last 50 years was of no use to me during the power outage.  Microwaves, computers, televisions, cordless phones, cell phones, washers and dryers, water heaters, alarm systems, air conditioning and even food refrigeration were all unavailable, and therefore useless to me, because of their dependence on electricity,
It is during these types of extreme situations that one can slow down the hectic pace of our modern life, and take stock of our surroundings.  After my children retreated to bed the 3rd evening of the power outage, I had time to sit in my candle lit living room and think about the day’s events.  The loss of our cell phone usage had meant we actually talked to one another several times during the day, rather than the usual quick text messages we had become accustomed to. Or meal was composed of raw, fresh summer fruits and vegetables, which were delicious. The absence of television and video games forced us to seek other forms of evening entertainment, and a candlelit card game was enjoyed by all. The lack of air-conditioning prompted us to open our house windows and the pitch black of a street with no lights enhanced the viewing of the many summertime lightening bugs glowing in our yard.  I fell asleep happily to the sound of crickets and cicadas, and felt deeply relaxed. 
The power outage brought to me a realization that the technologies of yore, before the age of science and discovery, could arguably be more practical to humanity. I was certainly grateful for my manual can opener, screens in my windows, a book of matches, the simple locks on my doors, the utensils I ate with, and the entertainment of a deck of cards.   My family benefited from the time spent “unplugged” from the very things meant to make their lives less stressful.
Thanks to the local electric company repairman, we are back to full power now. Electricity restored means full steam ahead in the rushed paced plugged in and wired life of a normal 21st century family.  I cannot deny that I am happy to have the dishwasher, microwave and my computer back. These technologies, while impractical, have made my life easier. Yet, somehow, I hope our family has at least one more night this summer of cards, talking, and the listening to the sound of crickets. 

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