Roger Marolt: Roger This
Lots of people are anxious to proclaim that the past decade was, by and large, one to forget: The stock market made no progress, housing prices ended up where they began, unemployment doubled, and people stopped caring about global warming, which means we will not live forever, after all. As a footnote, many of these dooms-dayers were millionaires as recently as 2007. As for me, a guy who plans to live in his current pine box until they transfer me involuntarily limp into the next smaller size at some unknown date in the future, gauging the merits of the past 10 years must be done without the aid of the Case-Shiller/Standard & Poor’s U.S. Housing Price Index. My wife and I have added one new child and amalgamated two teenagers into the billions-fold during the past decade. They seem to be happy and tolerate their father’s quirky personality well enough to relieve their mother of some of the pressure of day-to-day life with him, so, all in all, I have to consider this beginning to the 21st century a tremendous success.This does not mean that I don’t harbor hopes that Y2.1K won’t be better. In fact, the way I see it there is one thing that absolutely must change to ensure the survival of mankind: Above all things secular, I pray that during the ensuing years we all become way more comfortable with technology. Now, I’m not talking about grandpas learning how to text here. I’m not encouraging people to become proficient at downloading apps into their hand-helds while knee-steering their cars through rush-hour traffic. I am not even suggesting that every last one of us needs to know how to order an On-Demand movie. I simply mean that we just have to get comfortable enough with technology so that it doesn’t consume us.Oh sure, that’s a funny thought. Ha! We, the masters of innovation being consumed by our own creation, what a joke! The thing is, though, I’m not kidding. If you happen to be reading this on a bus … or in a coffee shop … or in the gondola … or, Heaven forbid, in a public restroom, have a look around. How many people do you see attached to electronic gizmos by their ears, eyes and thumbs? Don’t worry. Have a look. Nobody will notice you. They’re too busy tap-tap-tapping buttons! It’s like a horror movie. The AT&T network goes on the fritz for a couple hours during Christmas week and it’s a national emergency. Face it: We have advanced to the point where many of us now depend on electronic devices to keep us alive! Tell me, does this mean we are brain dead? Without wires stringing from gadgets to all exposed appendages and orifices we might as well be, or at least wish we were. Frankenstein relied on less technology for his life blood. After one lightening strike through the neck bolts he couldn’t wait to get out of the lab for a little fresh air. Who amongst us is equally anxious to pull their bug-eyes away from the flat screen without at least the cell phone fully charged on the hip to help combat the great loneliness of the meager outdoors?Anymore, silence isn’t golden, it’s preposterous! Sitting on a bench and observing a man across the street picking the lock on his car door with a coat hanger because he locked his keys inside is absurd, not because we don’t think it would be interesting to watch a fellow human being in self-induced moronic distress, but because we would never notice it. Is there any reason to even observe the weather anymore? With its high resolution touch-screen and access to a continually updated five-day forecast, an iPhone is way more interesting to stare at than the sky.Granted, technology came upon us so quickly during the past 10 years that few have had time to adjust. We simply have to experience each and every new breakthrough before we can do that. Nobody can claim that they have lived a completely fulfilling modern life until they have finally broken down and posted a home movie on YouTube. When all of us have finally caved into this temptation the world will finally be sufficiently bored and we can move on.Until then, we will continue to care more about the number of bars on our cell phones than the ones in town where we might meet friends for a beer. We’ll continue to find comfort in claiming to have a thousand Facebook friends who we don’t realize aren’t worth one who will drop whatever they’re doing to meet us for a cup of coffee on a dreary February morn when our batteries need charging. Yes, technology is amazing (at least in the material sense) and thank the good Lord for every bit we have today. But (and this is a big butt like the one you get from playing video games all day), it can’t be truly invaluable until we are strong enough to put it down now and then in order to live our lives. Just because we have it doesn’t mean we have to use it all the time. Just because we pay an extra 30 bucks a month for mobile Internet access doesn’t mean that super-gluing our eyes to a portable 4-inch TV screen is the equivalent of getting our money’s worth out of it. I promise you that someday a Blackberry will be about as exciting as a washing machine. When you need one you’ll be darn glad you have one, but the rest of the time it will be something you can’t wait to get away from. How’s that for forward thinking? This will happen as soon as we discover something more compelling to spend our time on. It will come when we are no longer afraid to be alone and even look forward to it. It may come when we no longer feel that we have to be busy all the time in order to justify all the debt we wracked up during the past 10 years. Here’s to being comfortable enough with technology in the future that we can make a simple toast while being completely unplugged!
Roger Varolt cn no longer spell hi sown name withot Spellcheck. Correct him at email@example.com.
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The COVID-19 pandemic has caused untold amounts of suffering and disruption, and we’ll probably tell those stories for the rest of our lives.