Real Life Matters

June 26th, 2009

Today may be the hottest of the week as temperatures have soared.  I heard a swimming pool in the region brought in 20,000 pounds of ice to cool it down for a swim meet!   I remember growing up with temperatures over 100 degrees for quite some time, but we just seemed to make do. “Dang it boy… when I was young…!”      No, we enjoyed air conditioning (and a cool basement!), but a lot more folks made do without.  We spent a lot of time working outside none-the-less, and just drank lots of water.  But we didn’t think about it- everything was “local” back then, and weather was a lot more mysterious to the lay person without digital radar updated every few seconds.  We tried to find out what the weather was like in a few cities to the west, and guessed at cloud formations.  The forecasters were often as wrong as they were right- a lot less accurate than today.   Of course we didn’t have internet, email, or cell phones- but it’s more than that.  Because of our networked world today, we have instant-on news and information from nearly every part of the world. 

With that data-centric awareness we can always be “plugged in” but our minds can easily be filled with extraneous and brain-consuming information.  I use the computer every day, and love technology for the productivity it can bring to our lives.  Yet sometimes I wonder what we miss or give up to stay so connected.   They say that folks aged 16-24 are “texting” around 50% of the time while on the road driving… that amazes me.  And that about 20% of adults are texting on the road.   I’m sorry but that is a dumb thing to do.  It just isn’t necessary- why risk your life or someone else’s to have a conversation with your fingers? 

I don’t like the idea of state laws dictating what we can or can’t do in a car, but can you imagine being responsible for an accident while texting (or even talking on the phone)?   The problem is that it doesn’t relate directly to operating the vehicle.    Even voice converstations can be so distracting- I’ve talked on the phone while driving, but it takes a lot of concentration.   It’s just not a natural thing to do for most people, and because it doesn’t relate to the physical activity taking place, it is a separate activity. 

There’s a reason the FAA has rules for airline pilots that prohibit “small talk” unrelated to cockpit duties while the aircraft is below certain altitudes…  so they can concentrate on operating their aircraft.  I flew a couple jet aircraft in the navy- incorporating some amazing technologies.  Sometimes our hands would operate dozens of near-simultaneous command inputs while flying- usually without voice actions inside the cockpit.  But tons of voice information would come into the cockpit at the same time.  I can tell you it’s very difficult to concentrate on the mission- but just about everything is related to that mission.  And there’s a ton of training that takes place.   Texting and talking while driving is not related to the actions of driving- it’s a distraction, and it’s usually a distraction in an incredibly dense operational environment.  Anyway, it’s an issue sure to grow, I would think especially in legal realms.

It’s more than just driving.  I was in the grocery store a while back- stuck behind a woman in the aisle.  I thought she was trying to choose something from the shelf… then after a couple minutes I realized she was texting!  Sheesh…  for some people it’s like their brain turns off.   She was embarassed when she realized she was blocking the aisle, lost in her digital world.  

Sometimes I yearn for those days when our world seemed so much smaller at home, and bigger far away- we just didn’t know everything, hear everything… or wonder or care about everything.   I think it’s important to get outside, slow down and take the time to detach… for me, a rural lifestyle provides that balance but it’s a choice.   Real life matters.  



Two icons of pop-culture passed away yesterday.  I remember growing up admiring the Farrah posters that I would see in stores or at friends houses- and yes, I even watched Charlie’s Angels a time or two.   Seems like yesterday, and we all have our time.   And the musician.  I remember wondering what the point was of a tv music channel that was on every day… until I spent a summer in college studying physics.  Then I would take a break and watch MTV at a friends place, amazed by it all.   Watching Michael Jackson’s Thriller music video the next year… what an amazing musician and performer. But I never watched a lot of MTV.  Real life mattered more.

That long range digital forecast says it will start cooling down this weekend, with a cooler week coming up.  That sounds pretty good and I hope you stay cool too.

6 Responses to “Real Life Matters”

  1. I think we are turning ourselves into such temperature weenies that should we be without electricity (i.e. a/c & heat) we will die as a species, at least here in the United States.

    I’m guessing I could text with my phone if I cared to learn but I don’t. I guess I fail to see the point.

    Too many people are lost in their own world these days and unaware of their surroundings. I see this not just at the grocery store but EVERY where. Again, I think we are dooming ourselves as a species should we ever have to go back to rougher times.

  2. I try to imagine what Thoreau would make of our existence. I imagine he would tell us that we need to fully experience the natural world — feeling the heat and cold, getting wet or muddy — and that by insulating ourselves of it, we are robbing ourselves of essential human experience. Even so, in my suburban neighborhood, if you tried to go the summer without air conditioning, your children would be taken away from you for abuse.

    Still, I don’t think life was simpler in the old days. I think there were just different complexities and different frames of mind. I think our rosy nostalgia is due in part to the mere overview history books give us of an age past and also in part because we were children and our parents protected us from many of the ugly complexities of the real world. I think our children will look back on this age and imagine it being so much simpler than it really is.

  3. It’s cooler here than it was mid-week when we got to 95! I think banning texting while driving is a good thing for states to do in that it is stopping the “texter’s” liberty at the point that in endangers my liberty (and life). I also think that talking on the phone–especially when in town–is dangerous and drivers should at least be able to have both hands on the wheel. Enough ranting–as for heat, I don’t know how I survived working in a bakery in the south when I was younger.

  4. Ed- It does make you wonder. But I have to imagine that we’ll overcome, adapt and evolve… we may be a weaker species in terms of the physical world, and then again maybe we’ll just leverage technology in new ways. I so agree about dealing with tough times if need be… there’s a host of folks who can’t even do that today when the power’s out.
    Pablo- Interesting that you mention Thoreau, as I’m reading Walden once again, and your words ring true. I see your point in terms of our perspective and experience. I do believe we’ve continued to evolve- especially in terms of communication. I think humans- especially the young, are different now, beyond the obvious. My son looks at me with wonder when we look at the cell phone and he can’t understand why we couldn’t talk easily at a distance when we weren’t home. I showed him an old kitchen phone with a 20 foot cord, and payphones- he thought they were funny and weird. I remember being months at sea while letters took over 6 weeks round trip, and “calling home” was not available, or extremely expensive. That sense of being disconnected was beyond real- it was factual consciousness if that makes sense. I can leave my cell phone at home today and head to the woods… but the knowledge that I can do it, or may meet someone with the capability makes it so different for me. I think our brains, patterns, and behaviors are changing with that connected consciousness around the world. Okay, I’m rambling!
    Sage- It’ll be interesting to see how the laws change, and people adapt. Working in a bakery?! That’s one I haven’t read yet… :)

  5. This is a deep post, not sure a comment does it justice. I spent a decade working for a cellular provider, watching the evolution of the big awkward phones and people staring, to everyone having one plastered to their head everywhere they go. For us, we consciously choose to leave a whole lot of things behind. They are nice, but they come with strings attached… drawing one into a life of being busy busy busy but not accomplishing anything satisfying (my thoughts tonight, anyway). Of course, my views on simplicity are somewhat rosy because I know there is a grocery store I can go to, or a Walmart open till 10 p.m. (small town :)), or that if we had an accident someone would have a cell phone to help. In a sense, I think that the “simple” life is gone, just because we know it is. I don’t think that’s necessarily bad… all that technology that’s available gives us the option of slowing down and fully enjoying it, without worrying about how we are going to eat if the garden fails. In a sense, as much as I hate the evils of modern life, I’m comforted by the fact that I can plug in the AC anytime I want to… but I also like the sensation of a mere fan blowing on my sweaty carcass. :)

    Great post, interesting to read about your experiences in the navy.


  6. Ron- Strings attached… great point. And how we are drawn into being busy, maybe to little effect. I love the aspect of that recognition, having the choice, and weighing alternatives. I really hope the kids learn about those choices and alternatives along the way. Thanks-

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