Are we stuck?
We struggle with traffic snarls. Where man once ventured to the moon within a decade, we quarrel and sit on our hands. Few write. Speeches reach a new level of nonsense with every wasted word. The world lurches into an uncertain future.
We have evolved into hamsters making a wheel going nowhere.
David McCullough latest book chronicles an American historical movement. In The Pioneers, McCullough chronicles the journey of men like Mannaseh Cutler and hundreds of others who made their way to what was then the unknown, the banks of the Ohio River.
This began before Washington became the first president, before the U. S. Constitution had been ratified, before electricity, telegraph, trains, or any other modern convenience.
As I read the book, it struck me of how much they accomplished. The men hewed out forests and built small log houses. They cleared timber and planted fields. They fought marauders, staved off fatal diseases, built cities, and forged the civilization beyond the mountains.
They did all of this without the benefit of modern technology. That is the paradox that fastened itself to my imagination while I wrote on a modern laptop computer.
One truth haunts me. How could the pioneers do so much with no technology, and we struggle to finish anything with massive amounts of technology?
Dinner is a chore with modern ovens, stoves, and refrigerators. We complain.
We can write thousands of words, but none compare to the prose of the Declaration of Independence.
Why? Why did they shape a society with so little? Why is the writing better? Why are cities built out of nothing without machinery?
I sifted my world and can only think that our tools have become toys, and our devices became distractions. When I don’t have to stop and discover my latest status on Facebook or Instagram, I have more time to do essential things. When I don’t check email, I can think, creates, and make progress.
The problem I find for myself is I get so enamored with the technology that I ignore the work technology is designed to help us perform better.
In writing, perfect formatting replaces better prose. Game of Thrones eclipses a view of the stars in the heaves.
The answer is to “throw away technology.” We have a harder time because we have to choose…and often we don’t make the best choices.
As Aldous Huxley said,
Technological progress has merely provided us with more efficient means for going backward.
There comes a time to stop and think soberly.
What quality is added to our life because of our technology? Is it better or just more crowded? And does that create greater joy or more significant stress?
I have to ask those uncomfortable questions.
Perhaps we have reached a point seen by C. S. Lewis:
We all want progress, but if you’re on the wrong road, progress means doing an about-turn and walking back to the right road; in that case, the man who turns back soonest is the most progressive.
This kind of change is personal, not societal. Each of us chooses to push lives forward.
What choice are you making?