virgin islands scene

How can we expect a harvest of thought who have not had a seedtime of character?
-- Henry David Thoreau
 

 

Wednesday, January 31, 1996

In - dependence

Monday morning I got ready to go somewhere in my car and it wouldn’t start. Fortunately, it was just a minor problem, but it kept the car out of commission all day. Tuesday morning, one of my phone lines went out (because of a cable break) and stayed out until mid-afternoon. (That’s why there was no “Daily Motivator” yesterday)

Last night an arctic cold front blew through. If you’re in North America you’re probably familiar with this one. Our temperature went from 76 degrees F yesterday afternoon down to 26 this morning. About 6:15 am, as everyone was getting up and turning on their lights and heat, the power system became overloaded and the lights went out in this part of town. We ate breakfast by candlelight and I wrapped a “snakelight” around my neck to put out the trash. When the power finally came back on, all sorts of things, including my computers, the microwave oven, the VCRs, had to be re-set or re-started. Even the light switch in my office had to be re-programmed before I could turn off the light.

In the space of two days, three very critical things that are usually very dependable, and that I have come to depend on, failed. Our electricity, our telephones, and our automobiles (to a little bit lesser degree) are usually so dependable that we never even think about them not working. We certainly take them for granted. They are all very powerful tools that enrich our lives immensely. Without electricity and a telephone line, it becomes much more difficult to get on the Internet, cook waffles, keep warm, and make an appointment for a haircut -- things we ususally do without even thinking.

What was interesting about the power going out was that it was kind of fun. Eating breakfast by candlelight and using a flashlight to put in my contact lenses was an adventure. The loss of power forced us to think about the things that we usually do by habit. And it made me realize that there is a whole world going on right in front of my eyes everyday, and I don’t even see it. It’s all pretty much automatic. I don’t analyze it, or pass judgment on it, I just do it. Day after day.

I wonder how much of that stuff is wasted effort? I wonder what I could be doing better? I wonder what assumptions I’m making, just out of habit? It’s hard to know because I’m so attached and dependent that I can’t get far enough away to see.

The car, phone and power troubles are (hopefully) behind us now. But they have reminded me of the need to, every now and then, shake things up. What if there were no electricity? What if there were no phone? What if there were no car? Humans prospered and created great things for thousands of years without these tools. What would I do without them?

Step back and look at yourself sometime. Look at all the things you do by habit. Look at all the things you take for granted. Look at all the assumptions you depend on. And think about life without them. It might just open your eyes to a lot of new possibilities.

— Ralph Marston

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