Journey to a sustainable future

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Thoughts on Technology, part 2

photo by Randall Persing, via

I've been reading a lot more about the Amish.  And I'm not going to romanticize them...they are human just like us; and there are a host of reasons, other than the lack of air conditioning, that make me very thankful that I am not Amish!

But they do have some good points, and things to think about, especially as it comes to technology.

The Amish prove to us that it is not necessary for life fulfillment and happiness to have a Facebook "timeline", a laptop/netbook/iPad/Kindle, a cell phone, or any phone at all!, an MP3 player, Netflix, or elliptical trainers.  The Amish eschew items that we no longer even think about not owning, like vacuum cleaners, dish washers, cars, microwaves, and electric tea kettles.

I recently read that 90% of Amish youth decide to stay Amish and choose to be baptized into the Amish faith, and abide by all its rules.  This is even after they have their chance to wear "English" clothes and makeup and go to malls and movie theaters and experience the wonder that is the Internet.  They try this way of life out, and then they decide that these amazing technological things are not going to make them happier than community, family, tradition, hard labor, horses and buggies, and severely limited choices.

I find this very interesting.  Our culture keeps telling us that we need bigger (for houses and cars) smaller (for cell phones and computers) better faster cheaper NOW if we want to be happy.  And it seems that there is always some new technological advance being touted as the latest and greatest invention, and that finally THIS item will deliver on what the advertisers promise: an easier life, and a happier life.

But it rarely, if ever, does.  Community.  Family.  Tradition.  Time to think and create and play and do work you enjoy and find meaningful.  A true place to belong, and people to belong there with.  Connection--not Internet connectivity, but true and deep connection--these are the things that bring joy and peace to our lives. 

The Amish remind us that our use of technology is our decision.  And it is up to us to make wise decisions with it!

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Musings on Technology, part 1

I am reading a book by Sara Donati that takes place in 1800.  In the first part of the story, Elizabeth's husband Nathaniel has to leave her and their infant twins to go to Montreal to rescue his cousin and father.  He is projected to return home in  4- 6 weeks, depending on the weather.  When they don't hear a word from him in 8 weeks, Elizabeth takes matters into her own hands and goes to Montreal to see what happened.

The whole time I was reading this portion of the saga, I kept thinking to myself "Good grief, if they only a cell phone!  Or email!  Or telegraph!  Heck, the pony express would be fantastic right about now!"

But it made me think a little this case, knowing if your husband even made it to Montreal without being attached by marauding bears or a cougar would vastly improve your quality of life.  It would legitimately make you happier.  I certainly enjoy the fact that Steve can call me from work and say, "Hey, something came up, but I should be home for dinner."  I then do not spend the next 3 hours fighting back images of him dying in a fiery airplane crash. 

So many times, though, technology does not actually improve our quality of life.  And when it does--let's say that having a computer with email capability legitimately makes you happier--then why do we think that we need faster/bigger/better/smaller/smarter version?  If your true happiness lies in emailing people to stay in contact with them more easily, then do you really need a machine that will connect you to the Internet in 2.3 seconds rather than 5?  Will getting a monitor with a larger screen be the key to your sense of fulfillment in life?  If the computer breaks, can you bear to part with it for a week, or less, while it is getting fixed, or must you have a new one THIS INSTANT because to go without Internet capability for even a few hours is an insurmountable obstacle?

Along these lines...check out this youtube video: