There’s a lot of talk these days about our over-reliance on technology.
But that crazy, twenty-minute rain storm last week and the scorching heat this week here in Chicago have got me thinking that each time we get bent out of shape over how tangled up we are in our electronic devices – the laws of nature always show up to straighten us out.
Because my home had power, mine was the go-to house last week. Neighbors charged their cell phones and laptops, stuffed our frig with milk and yogurt and our freezer with meats. One neighbor came over to blow dry her hair. Arranging this meant actual knocks on the front door and chats on the grassy lawn.
The storm had may have pulled up tree roots and taken down branches, but it also brought my block together like the backyard fence conversations of yore.
After the storm, when it started to get really hot, I was sitting outside and reading the newspaper on my smart phone when the screen beeped and went blank. A warning message popped up saying that the phone would soon overheat. Those casings may appear to be indestructibly thick, but the heat of the sun wins over plastic and metal every time. I went inside and read a book.
On the second evening of her darkened, post-storm quiet home, a colleague of mine told me that she lit a few candles and sat quietly in her living room enjoying the silence. Her college-age daughter strolled in carrying her guitar and, without a word, started to play. They sat together like that for a long while. The other options for the evening, unavailable. A moment, she said, that would not have happened if the power had not been outed.
Before we could exit from the present moment by checking email, surfing the web or texting a friend at super fast speed, quiet moments of clarity could occur. My friend tells the story about how it took one of those moments for her to realize that the guy she was dating was the One. It was in the pre-cell phone 80s. They got their signals crossed and she went to his apartment while he went to hers to meet for dinner. Waiting for him in the front hall of his Chicago apartment building, my friend thought process went a little something like this:
Hmm, he’s not here. I hope nothing happened to him.
Then: hmmmm… something better not have happened to him.
And finally: Wow. I really really like him. I think I may even … love him!
Something similar was happening to him over at her apartment. They were engaged soon after that hallway epiphany and have been married ever since.
I’m not implying that this love story would never have come to a happy end if they had working cell phones in their hands. What I am suggesting is that without the option to plug in – the option that Mother Nature has recently been taking from us with these electrical outages – we have fewer moments like they did. Or like my colleague had sitting, lit by a candle, with her guitar-playing daughter. My phone refusing to provide me with the contents of the newspaper, forcing me to read a book. A neighbor blowing her hair dry in my upstairs bathroom.
We may be dependant on technology – addicted even – but summer rainstorms and excessive heat waves will keep us from completely losing ourselves in wire and metal.