Thoreau Thursday

Do what you love. Know your own bone; gnaw at it, bury it, unearth it, and gnaw it still.

This quote from Thoreau will no doubt draw varied interpretations, but I think Thoreau was channeling dogs. “Chew your favorite bone. Don’t steal the other guy’s bone. And be sure to save some for later.” Good advice. As dogs (and Thoreau) know, the simple things in life, like a good bone, are worth savoring.

Thoreau was a guy who liked simplicity, silence, and solitude. He would no doubt freak if he knew how complicated, noisy and crowded life had become. The poor man would not even have been able to find solace at his home on Walden Pond today. He would surely feel assaulted by the well over half a million people who visit his home site each year and buy “Simplify” signs at the gift shop.

Every day, we are too assaulted, by the noise and complexity visited upon us by technology. TV, radio, cell phones, pagers, computers, Twitter, Facebook, etc. -- all have crowded into our lives. Just think of that guy you saw on the street recently who had three or four little devices hanging off his belt.

In his book of 20 years ago, Information Anxiety, Richard Saul Wurman said that the average person in 1989 received more new information daily than someone living in the 14th century would in his entire lifetime. Imagine what that statistic would be today.

The number of cell phones in the US has risen from about 1 million in 1989 to nearly 300,000,000 today. The Internet, which just “celebrated” its 40th birthday, was just a kid 20 years ago. Nearly everyone has a computer, and many people have several. We’ve gone from a handful of available TV channels in 1989 to what has to be hundreds of channels today, thanks to cable and satellite feeds. Radio now comes at us in our homes, cars, and even on cell phones. Facebook recently claimed over 2 million registered users, with 1 million of them using Facebook at least once a day.

A technology assault indeed. Thoreau would be horrified. But not I.

I love technology.

I like the Internet. I like a lot!

I like the easy access to instant gratification for a nagging question with a forgotten answer. You know the one: the answer to this afternoon’s question that always comes in the middle of the night.

I like being able to do my holiday shopping from the comfort of my desk chair, rather than driving an hour from my home in West Nowhere to the nearest urban shopping area.

I like being able to back up my opinions in a debate with researched factoids. You can always find something to support your side.

I like having my cell phone (like that much-coveted Star Trek communications device) nearby at all times. I can reach out whenever I want to, and people can reach me. I think this is a vestige of my high school need for popularity, but I still like it.

I like being able to keep up with my entire family on Facebook. They are so busy with the noise in their own lives that they rarely call or visit. But they do find time for Facebook (which will surely be identified as a social addiction one of these days). Logging on to Facebook is like traveling through a portal (like that much-coveted Star Trek transporter) into their lives.

I like TV. This is an unpopular admission today, but hey, what can I say? I like it. A recent show on PBS about Roosevelt’s Civilian Conservation Corps mesmerized me. I like having that sort of entertainment right in my living room.

I like my satellite radio. I can boogie on down the road to the Beach Boys or Beethoven, though I am partial to the Beatles. Koo koo kachoo.

Sorry, Thoreau, but the complexity, “noise,” and companionship that technology brings make me happy. And as dogs also know, when you're happy, you should dance around and wag your entire body.

This is me dancing and wagging with abandon.

1 comment:

  1. I love technology too. In fact, my day job is all about technology.

    But where we gain, we lose. I had a rare and precious opportunity 9 years ago to live at a meditation center. There were no televisions, very limited access to computers, no cell phones, no newspapers, no radio. These were not enforced, but understood.

    Instead of being entertained, or having instant gratification for all of our intellectual curiosities, we had long conversations, we sat in meditation with our own minds, we created things, learned from one another, entertained each other, played, sang, and danced. I saw people rapidly develop talents while there, because we had a lot of time on our hands.

    It was difficult at times, living with 40 other people with nothing to distract us from having to face ourselves and others in the raw. Sometimes it felt like being rubbed constantly with a very fine sandpaper.

    Oh, this comment could go on forever. It was a transformative, and magical time. I often long for it, and can't help but to feel that my mind is very different now that I interact constantly but fleetingly.


Thoughts? I would love to hear from you.