Books

Is Living Simply Anti-Modern?

My wife was tentatively offered a Kindle for Christmas, with the added note that, there are plenty of public-domain works you can download for it.

“Why would I want a Kindle when all the books I do read are in the library?” was her response.

Walking to the library is a healthy activity. It keeps the kids active and occupied. It supports and validates our right to have libraries in general. A Kindle keeps you at home, distracts you from the kids, and teaches your kids that owning a gadget is more important than visiting the library or going for a walk.

A decade ago, I would have loved to have a Kindle, because I read avidly, especially technical publications that I really now should give away to people and resent having to store on my book shelves. A lot of these technical books are not appropriate for libraries or even book stores because they are essentially obese technical periodicals typically lacking enduring value. I’d rather not buy technical books any more, I’d rather be part of an online technical community like StackOverflow that maintained living knowledge of these technologies.

Is refusing a Kindle being a Luddite? Luddites objected to textile industrialization and its exploitative child labor practices. Modern Luddites refuse to give up the value of traditional means where gadgets rear up. Do Kindles, iPads, and other electronic book substitutes erode literacy? Probably not. Erode community? If you consider that if e-books are cheap enough to lull people into not to funding their libraries…yes. Did we see the same with cars? The value of parks, sidewalks, and downtowns across America all changed when we started driving every where, and considered that convenience more important than funding the simple safety of sidewalks.

People who live with gadgets end up throwing the gadgets away. People who have Internet tend to stay home instead of go out, or get less sleep to use it. Cars are an example of a gadget that people make you fat, pollute and kill people regularly. Most of us own lots of gadgets and they probably don’t make us healthier. They also tend to isolate you from your community. We are fools for technology. I know I’m one. As I age, I find that technology shows me what a sucker I have been, too. Staying healthy and living more simply does not require much technology. Biotechnology isn’t necessary for simple food.

If we don’t end up with a Kindle, that’s fine with me. Some gadgets are pretty handy, I admit: smart phones rank in my book…I appreciate those technologies which allows me to be active and social.

Ursula: Only in Dark the Light

Ursula K. Le Guin, a remarkable author. I just finished reading A Wizard of Earthsea to Liam.

A Wizard of Earthsea

Only in silence the word, only in dark the light, only in dying life: bright the hawks flight on the empty sky.

How many science fiction and fantasy stories echo this intrinsic theme of mortality, simplicity and humility before the universe? How many religions provided it beforehand–I cannot count. Babylon 5 is a notable example of contemporary science fiction that also expresses many of these basic themes. I’m glad to be reading this story to Liam–I look forward to reading The Tombs of Atuan next. Ultimately, I look forward to Liam and Jesse recognizing these themes in other stories they read and watch in the future.