Friday, November 9, 2012

What I Learned From Two Weeks Off the Grid

When the power went out a couple of weeks ago, I'd just finished watching the season finale of Doctor Who. At the end, the time traveler's companions wound up stuck in the early 20th century, forced to live out their natural lives out from there, unable to ever reconnect with modern times.

Just as I was contemplating what that might feel like, a particularly seismic wind burst roared through, knocking out the electricity. Between that and the gas shortage, I've had neither power nor fuel for most of the past two weeks. So there was plenty of time to contemplate the stuck-out-of-time scenario from an unexpectedly personal perspective.

Back then, before corporate models of human interaction had metastasized into society at large, people were friendlier and more genuine with one another. Things hadn't gone meta; the world was not yet World World, all cloned up and corporate. The fabric of daily life was much richer. Each bakery's chocolate chip cookie had a unique flavor, every bowl of chicken soup was a snowflake, and bookstores and hardware stores had distinctive personalities. Arriving in a new town made you feel like you were really somewhere else (just typing that, as if describing something remarkable, shows how sadly homogenized it's all become).

But, in spite of all that, coming off these past two weeks, I've got to confess that if I were permanently relocated in an earlier era, without my iPad, DVDs, central heating, and car (let alone antibiotics), I'd howl and whine like Eva Gabor stuck in Green Acres.

Two weeks of doing without ought to have left me feeling grateful. And it did. The problem is that I'm feeling a bit too grateful. I never realized how fundamentally tied to my gizmos, comforts, and entertainments I am. I'm chilled by the sudden recognition of what a complete ditz I am.

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