Saturday, January 8, 2011

Culture of Switches

I noticed in my reading since retiring from the rat-race that no one ever has to turn anything on or off. Other than saddling a horse or hitching it to a carriage; or lighting or extinguishing a candle, their days are free from flipping switches. Of course most of my reading is 18th century or earlier not because I am some kind of genius but because I find modern literature detestable with all of its graphic descriptions of bladders and bowels voiding, mucous, and other bodily fluids. I am also turned off by the abrupt stilted language which tends to be little more than Subject-verb and the subject-verb - "Bill did this" and then "Bill did that". I blame Ray Bradbury for the popularization of this style of action based writing. I enjoy the 3 page paragraphs, the colorful language, the inner-thoughts of the characters, and the use of semi-colon. I could probably trace the decline of our civilazation to the all too infrequent use of the semi-colon; but I digress. (See? Semi-colon!)

I began thinking back to my typical day BQW (before quitting work) once I realized that not only did I not need to know when, how, or where D'Artagnan urinated; but that he never had to spend time away from horseback riding, sword fighting, or Damsel-in-Distress saving, to turn anything on or off before he started on his adventures.

Here's a typical day BQW: (notice the use of two semi-colons and one colon in this post)

PM - turn on the alarm clock.

AM - turn on the SNOOZE (this can be done multiple times especially since I was able to calculate how many times I could take a 9 minute snooze before I really had to get up to go to the office)

Turn off the alarm clock, turn on the bathroom light, turn on the razor, turn on the water, turn off the water, flush (turn on) the toilet. Turn on the shower. Turn off the shower. Turn off the bathroom light. Turn on the toaster, turn on the refridgerator light, turn on the car, turn on the radio, turn on the beeper, turn on the blackberry, turn on the cell phone, turn on several left and right turn signals, turn on the headlights, turn on the gate to the parking deck, turn on the door locks and alarm, turn on the automatic doors with my ID card, turn on the elevator, select which floor. Turn on the light to my office, turn on my computer, turn on all the applications I would use that day, turn on the radio. turn on and off any number of machines, meeting room lights, projectors, laptops, windowshades, etc. Then in reverse order turn on or off just about everything I had operated that morning till the last thing - turn on the alarm.

When did I have time to do anything really productive? Was all of that turning on and off really necessary?

Our culture has become one that is incapable of functioning without the use of switches, valves, handles, and buttons. In a sense we have become a slave to our machines and gadgets. I realize as I am writing this that I had to turn on any number of things to make this blog happen. In fact I am also listening to the football playoffs as I am typing this and I am listening on my MP3 player which I had to turn on before I could use it.

In many aspects of our new life we have eliminated a great number of the machines we use. We make coffee in a French Press, I till my garden with a shovel, and starting January 9th - with the exception of using this PC to update the farm blog, I will be writing letters should I need to communicate with anyone. That should slow things down a bit!

I invite you to join me on January 9th (National Letter Writing Day) to do your best to write a letter to someone - anyone. And to mark the inaugural "Don't Flip a Switch" Day. Try not to turn any thing on or off the whole day and see how you do. Even if we can't make it the whole day, perhaps you'll notice, as I have done, how much time you spend flipping the switches of our masters - the machine.

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