Saturday, May 8, 2010

Little house in the sprawling suburbs

When Laura Ingalls was 10 years old she – or anyone else in her family - could have told you exactly how everything in her home worked… and her family would have made 99% of the things that were part of their life… from their home itself to the bread they ate for dinner… everything had at one time been a part of nature that they had used their own hands and ingenuity to transform into something that sustained their lives… it’s so natural and amazing… I think that was supposed to be the stopping point for technology. With that situation… you really could lose it all – your house your possessions all your money and just start over and be fine in a couple years. The only things they really could not make themselves were glass, their gun, nails and maybe their pots and pans… but people have been melting down metal and sand to make those things forever so I’m sure if they really wanted to and lived near a mine and/or a beach they could make those things on their own too.

I cannot even being to explain most of the things in Tony’s and my house were made… I would guess that machines spit out about 90 % of everything we own. Even fairly simple concepts like electricity in its most basic form – a light bulb- are too much for me to really comprehend – I do understand that a light bulb works because the filament inside is superheated and gives off light… I just don’t really follow how the electricity is created, stored and brought to me by PG&E. I think there was a quote in Little Town on the Prairie about how” no one really know s how electricity works but we know how to capture it now” (not a direct quote by the way – just a vague recollection). Even photographs or radios- technology that has been around for quite a while (by today’s standards) boggles my mind. It might as well be magic; I just have no idea how you can capture images with light and broadcast sounds thousands of miles through wires… and not even through wires now. There are a few super geniuses out there (or maybe a lot of super geniuses) who really get that stuff and could make it from scratch on their own… and they should have that technology in their home though, but I really feel like many of the world’s problems come from the fact that people all have these things in their home that they cannot make on their own… The technology that is supposed to make our lives so much “simpler” just ends up making them so complicated that everyone barely has time to have a life anymore…. We want these things that we don’t understand – and can’t make ourselves so we need to buy them with money (or steal them)… but let’s assume we go the money route - We need a job to earn money … oh but wait… how will we get ourselves to the job there are so many people that we can’t all work locally, so I guess we need a car or a bus pass or whatever to get to work – more money- and if we’re off working at the job how will we have time to grow our food… I guess we won’t… we’ll buy that too – we need more money – oh and by the way who is going to watch the kids while we’re earning money for the food and the car… and that other thing we wanted to buy with the money we wanted in the first place… hmm I guess we’ll have to pay someone to do that – more money… and in the whole swirl and mess of all of that we all become focused on money rather than the actual things that make our lives possible... and we feel like we need all of this technology because everyone else has it and commercials make it seem vital to happiness… but the things that are really vital to happiness and survival – food and family and friends are things that get put on the back burner most of the time.

I see my parents and my brother only a few times a year now… and most of my really good friends live hundreds if not thousands of miles away. I call them and email but its not the same. I spend 10-12 hours a day at my office working – then waiting for Tony to give me a ride… and I am there all by myself so I really only get a few hours of actual human interaction a day… and once Tony and I get home – after I make dinner I am usually too tired and stressed to do much besides sit on the opposite side of the couch from Tony and watch TV (often while I surf the internet on my laptop and hesurfs the internet on his) … is that life ?

Our society is so fragile and codependent- Hardly anyone has seeds enough to grow food to feed their whole household… for the next year so if we didn’t have the money and capability (transportation etc) to buy food we’d all pretty much starve… we rely so much on the technology that we have and the strangers whose job it is to fill their certain role that makes society work- and yet we don’t even have time for each other while we all go off to earn money we leave our families and our friends behind.

The Ingalls made everything themselves. Tony and I are responsible for making less than 0.1 % of the things in our home… even when I make bread I make it with flour that was grown hundreds of miles away, milled somewhere else , treated with chemicals, packaged with packaging materials from god knows where and shipped to the Costo from which I purchased it… and that is probably simplifying the whole scenario… It is impressive –or at least mind boggling the technology that exists in the modern world… but I just don’t feel like things are really “better” and although people seem to be frowning in the pictures during “little house on the prairie times” after reading Laura’s books I know that they really weren’t unhappy. – they had a purpose and they had a handle on the world. Things now are just so out of control and so so interconnected… everyone is born with the same potential, as the Ingalls were, to create a life for themselves out of only what is found in Nature… that would be awesome… once you are exposed to the modern world though I think its kind of hard to get out there and figure out how to function without technology… people have done it I supposed… the Amish still live that simple and satisfying life… and I read a book about a guy who went and lived in an Amish community for a couple years and he did fine… I think they had a machine that bailed hay and or threshed wheat or something so I:m not really sure if that totally counts though… anyway, people act as though Amish are psychos or at least a little odd… but I think they’re awesome… except for whatever oppression they have towards woman and weird religious stuff. I think in the perfect world there would be life like on the prairie but without the religious stuff getting in the way…. How much pressure would it take away if you didn’t have to worry about money… If money was just something that brought unnecessary luxuries and you realized that they were UNECESSARY… I mean hell… I guess I do live in that world where these things are unnecessary it’s just that I, like pretty much everyone else, feel like I need these things to survive… but If I could find someone to teach me how to make a log cabin and dig a well then I guess I’d be all set… the one thing that makes it seem like only a crazy person would shun techno is medicine… the fact that we can save a family from all dying of small pox or scarlet fever or whatever… that is nice… sickness was a lot more serious on Laura Ingalls’s prairie… but I wonder if we could just take our new knowledge of medicine and make it work without having to use so much high tech stuff. Obviously it wouldn’t work as well without lasers and defibrillators, but we could probably do pretty ok … right? –well maybe not, medicine is one of those things that is way over my head (like lights and cameras).

when I think about where the world will go from here I can only hope that somehow we’ll start to go backwards towards that…maybe we can take our new knowledge of medicine and our ideas of equality and compassion for nature and go back to a simpler life… maybe… I don’t really see that happening, even I would be hard pressed to give up the technologies in my life… after all I’m “writing” down my thoughts about how I’d like to get back to nature by typing on a lap top in my centrally heated home whilst I recline on our lazy boy sofa. I wonder if I could do it for a week though… just totally give up technology … I wonder if I could get Tony to do that … I think they did that on an episode of I Love Lucy and it went HILARIOUSLY wrong… but I already know how to bake bread without it magically expanding to the length of my whole kitchen and pinning me against the sink so I think I could manage it… I wonder if I could get Tony on board… I guess not he has to drive to his job where he works on computers… I suppose I have to be on a computer for my job too… and I guess my bike really isn’t natural… although I think its allowable… maybe we could do it on a weekend… or I could Tony probably would not be on board…It would have to be during the summer though when I had more food in my garden… Ok Memorial day weekend… that’s when I’m going for it…maybe depending on what’s growing I wish Tony could be on board with that kind of life but he is a little tech child and gets anxious when he is too far from a computer… I guess that’s why he needed a pocket sized computer phone that can be with him always… blah. What is the world coming to?

I try to “be the change I want to see” though. I have my garden… and I make my own bread (mostly) by hand now (I can’t help that I love my kitchen aid mixer) and I bike to work and I am hoping to be able to save enough money to move some where that I can afford to be home enough to raise my kids rather than sending them to day care and that is what life is about… being with your family and having a life that you feel like you are a part of and can be proud of. I guess I can satisfy myself with that until the rest of the world decides to start winding things back to the way they should be. Hopefully most people will eventually get on board.