I was driving home (doesn’t it seem like we are always driving?) and I began to daydream about spending one day without touching any kind of machine. No cellphone, no refrigerator, no stove, no watch, no washing machine, no radio, no laptop. Imagine that. We lived for thousands of years without all these machines.
Even just to imagine a day without machines is a way to notice something, to notice how our everyday lives revolve around machines. To notice all the moments (like now when I am typing this) when I am touching a machine.
Imagining a day without machines is a way to notice how there is another world on the other side of the bubble that we create around us with our machines. This is the world that is inhabited by every other being on earth except us humans. A difficult and dangerous world, perhaps, but do we choose right in shutting it out? Notice how we can barely imagine it anymore, how it frightens us. What to eat? How to live?
Notice how our culture and civilization pushes us away from that world and towards the world of machines. How it is always pushing and pulling, nudging and “incentivizing” us to abandon and disown and trivialize that world. How civilization actively undermines and destroys that world by its economic exploitations — all in the name of keeping the machines running. How civilization makes places – great buildings and factories – where the non-machine world is kept out almost entirely. How it is considered childish and idealistic to even believe that the natural world exists in its own right anymore.
Machines are very useful and help to make us comfortable but are they what give meaning to our lives? Are they what we really want?
Speaking entirely for myself here, I don’t believe in machines. They don’t give meaning to my life. I use them to go along with everyone else and to do certain things but I don’t much care about them.
Why are we driven and herded to act as if we believe in them even when we don’t?
I care about people and animals and plants and the land.
But it seems like a great struggle to remember that and to live like that.
It feels like I have to fight against the tide to affirm that love, to affirm that the natural world even still exists. It feels like an act of faith and rebellion to just reach out and touch that world of plants animals air water, instead of the world of machines. Or it is considered quaint and impractical.
Why is it quaint?
Does anybody actually believe in these machines, when the chips are down, when you look at your life and what matters to you? Do we only believe in them because we are afraid?
What are we so afraid of?
Maybe we should stop being so afraid. Maybe we need courage.
We need the courage to reach out and touch that other world. To touch it is to believe in it. To believe in it as much (or more) than we believe in the world of machines. To give our time and our intelligence to it. To delight in and draw strength from it. To believe in – rather than fear – our own humble, vulnerable human-animal selves.
We need the courage to assert the right of that other world of plants and animals to exist and to be sustained. We need the courage and confidence to make that other world somewhere where it is possible to live again, where we can choose to live in again. We need the confidence to be champions of a world that does not define itself by machines, a world that will exist long after the last machine runs down. We need the confidence to remember and keep remembering, despite the subtle and blatant pressures to forget and disown, to fear and despair.
To remember this other, older realm will not make you rich but it will make you strong. You will be part of something older and bigger than the life and death of individual beings. You will be part of the fabric of all beings. That is a truth to be strong in. So raise it up in your heart and in your mind: this realm, our humble home, our dirt-poor family.
Maybe we can’t stop driving and burning fossil fuel today or tomorrow. Maybe we can’t figure out how to do that today or tomorrow. But if can know that we are home then perhaps we can see what is beautiful right in front of us. If we know that we are home then we can slow down. If we know that we are home, then we can reach out and take pleasure in the world as it is. If we know we are home we will not be driven and then maybe we can stop driving.
2 Replies to “A Dreaming”
When we were looking to install solar PV energy on our home I read several books about the topic. The writers suggested the first step was to reduce energy use in order to afford a smaller size system. We critically evaluated the amount of electricity we used by measuring it. We bought an inexpensive meter and began measuring the amount of energy devices used. Actually collecting the information really opened my eyes to the amount of energy machines use. I don’t think I ever really paid attention before. But having done this exercise I can’t help but pay attention now.
The next step is to reduce our usage by replacing any that are not efficient or eliminate them entirely. I stopped using the dishwasher and washed dishes in the sink. We put up a clothesline and stopped using the clothes dryer. We eliminated the upright freezer that, to be honest, tended to get filled and neglected anyway. We put the dehumidifier on a timer because the controls on it never seemed to turn it off. We replaced light bulbs with CF bulbs and then replaced them with LED’s. We reduced our energy usage by 30%.
I began washing dishes by hand, as I had done when I was growing up. I started hanging clothes on a line as my grandmother had done. And surprisingly, I found it was time I enjoyed. Slow time. Time to think and reflect. Time to enjoy the sights and sounds outside, the fresh outdoor smell of clothes dried in the sun and wind. Time when I didn’t need to hurry.
I agree with you completely that we need to stop using machines, mostly because we need to use less energy if we are going to have a chance of preventing catastrophic climate change. But what I’ve learned in the process of this exercise is that life is actually much better when we use less machines. We don’t notice the noise of machines in our life because we are rarely without it. We don’t notice the smell of fresh air, the sound of birds, because we are rarely not hurrying from a building to our vehicle to another building. Once we take time to slow down the difference in quality of life is loud and clear!
There was a famous author on the radio the other day muttering that none of his poet friends drive. Some of them know how to, he said, but they choose not to. “They’re just not cut out for it.”
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