What is Essential

How the concept of “necessary” tools changes! I can hardly remember how I managed to survive a full day without my laptop, despite the fact that when I was young, personal computers were strictly the stuff of fantasy, and most computers were, in fact, whole rooms full of refrigerated, card-punching machinery. And no, whatever anyone may tell you, I am not a million years old.

Yet here I am, forgetting how to send letters via snail mail when I can email them; wondering how I can Get a Signal in some remote place so I can wirelessly post my daily blog missive off to readers from India to Ireland, from Kansas to Katmandu. All of this, I expect to happen in the blink of an eye—and mostly, it does.

Strange that things so recently thought utter luxuries become so quickly apparent necessities for survival. So quickly we think the newly acquired stuff can no longer be done without. How do we get so spoiled by our wealth that it seems as important as life itself?

It’s not that I lack appropriate appreciation for my many privileges. It’s not even that I don’t think I could keep living a happy and healthy and contented life if I had to give them all up suddenly, let alone that I’d think myself suffering upon losing my high-powered towns and tools for a short while. I will recover, and probably even rediscover some good things about myself and my world if I am smart enough to pay attention.

In the meantime, I am ever so happy to have a clothes washing machine and dryer, running water, a houseful of LED light, flush toilets, central heating, and yes, all of the little electronic goodies that make it possible for me to blog and email, not to mention talk to family and friends overseas, make artworks in space that are able to be brought into the real world as physical entities, and keep other parts of my life in a semblance of order. I do enjoy the privileges of my office!

digital illustration

The original desktop.

12 thoughts on “What is Essential

  1. This was great, Kathryn! We have been experiencing a type of reduction that you talk about. No cell phone service, internet only where I am working, no radio and we haven’t watched commercial TV in over 5 years and our DVD player broke a couple of weeks ago. It has been a good experience, and we can survive. 😉

    • May the pleasures of that slowing down only improve with their use! R and I are plotting about how we can train ourselves to commit to a more regular tech sabbath (weekly) or at least sabbatical (monthly, perhaps) so that we can also remember how to slow down and savor the unplugged wonders of life as they deserve to be appreciated. Hope you two are doing wonderfully these days! Easter was a particularly hectic one, for us, with the church interim—Highland Park had around 10,700 attend throughout the day’s multitudinous services. The choir sang well and we had a lot of fun, but we were plenty tired by evening! Actually, the highlight of Holy Week for me was the Good Friday service. I’ve never heard the choir sound better, and the pastor who led the service was amazingly gifted at doing the readings in a way that was dramatic without being histrionic and was remarkably exegetical just by virtue of how he emphasized various words and phrases. A real, thought-provoking treat.

  2. I loved this, Kathryn, and it’s a topic we often discuss with our “young adult” children…I think of my Dad now at the age of 94 and all the changes he’s lived through. He does enjoy the computer, goes on my blog, has a fb and a cell phone. He’s amazing! 🙂 My father-in-law is quite the opposite! To each his own! By the way, I love your new blog title! Chchchchanges…♫

    • I’m pleased you approve of my updates here. I think you’re the only person who’s even noticed it thus far! 😀

      We have similar paternal tech personalities: for Richard and me it’s that his dad was an early-adopter, being trained as a Safeco employee to be one of their first wave of computer guys (punchcard days) and now still avidly learning, at 87: takes classes regularly, etc. *My* (79 year old) dad, on the other hand, has and uses a cell phone and computer and does use FB some, but his kids’ secret nickname for him is Mr Happy Fingers because he gets over-enthusiastic whether it’s on the phone, computer or even the TV remote and he often clicks too soon or on something random and surprises himself by deprogramming or deleting or hanging up instead of what he’d intended. Nothing incurable, of course! Perhaps it’s this very fact that he manages just fine despite having less expertise than Dad S does that encourages me to remember not only that we can get along perfectly well with less than perfect techno-skills but also with less technology, period. Something worth considering on a regular basis! 🙂
      [Singing along with you now…!]

    • I have it on good authority that having a child challenges one to ponder all aspects of life in very new and urgent ways a whole lot more often and deeply than B.C. (before child)! Your sweet boy is so fortunate to have a mother who takes that seriously—yet clearly still knows how to fill his life with numerous opportunities for untrammeled joy.

  3. It really is amazing how technology has wormed its way into our lives, taking hold like the worst of narcotics. As proud as I am to have steered clear of much of the social media, or use it very sparingly — I only use it for the blog and I’m ChgoJohn everywhere — I will go apoplectic if my broadband connection is interrupted for a few hours. I still remember being PC-less. We were simple folk back then. 🙂

    • I was, am, and always will be a Simpleton. But yes, those were simpler times! 😉 Who could possibly have imagined how fast these changes would come in our own very brief life-spans???

    • I wish I could say that as an aspiring artist I’m always more observant than average, but I suspect that the truth is rather the opposite: that I live in my own head and imagine my life so thoroughly that I often miss what’s directly in front of me!

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