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A prayer for the virtual world

Already in my short lifetime I've lived through the "Space Age" and the "Computer Age." Now we've entered the "Virtual Age," where nothing is what it seems (as if it ever was).

Well, I like it--of course, I've never found reality all that engaging. I just read about a focus group study that proved conclusively that reality doesn't track well in focus groups. People just don't like it. They prefer television where the actors look better-than-life through the ancient miracle of makeup and the modern miracle of wrinkle-erasing cameras (it's true, CBS has them). I'm not sure if people ever liked reality--we complain about how hard our lives are but it's never been easy to live on this planet. Or is it just that movies, then television, allowed us to see into other people's dreams and found that, for the most part, they're a lot more interesting than our own lives (and, sometimes, our own dreams).

The only problem with all this is that it makes us even more slaves to technology. Yes, slaves. Want to prove it to yourself? Either go through several big storms like we did this winter in Northern California, or find your circuit breaker and turn off all the switches. Unplug your phone. Spend 144 hours without any power (as we've done so far this year). It doesn't sound hard, and, in fact, it can be quite relaxing (if you're on vacation). But you quickly realize that almost everything in your house is electric--from your refrigerator (which doesn't stay cold that long--even with ice), to your microwave oven, to your radio and television. From food to entertainment--you're hooked. And what you may actually miss most (especially if it's raining so hard it's dark outside during the day) are electric lights. You walk around automatically switching light switches (without thinking) and you're still in the dark. You're powerless. Literally.

In my case, since I work out of my home (and don't have a battery-powered laptop), I couldn't do my work. I can still write with a pen or pencil (albeit slowly), but it's not the same. I can't write by hand as fast as I can type. I can't backspace. I can't drag-and-drop. I write on a computer--not just type on one.

If we all had solar panels on our roofs (and maybe even on the top of our hats--and definitely connected to exercise bikes, stairmasters, and all other exercise equipment that otherwise is a complete waste of effort), it would be one thing. But we don't. And so, despite all these expensive plastic boxes filled with all this marvelous technology-we can't do a thing without power.

So, my prayer is that instead of just finding new ways to use power, we find new ways to generate it safely. I'm serious about tapping into exercise equipment. Can you people at gyms not find something constructive to do for exercise? Gardening? Vacuuming? And if you can't, then at least all your pedaling and climbing (which takes you no place) should power the lights and exhaust fans of the gym. Who knows, you might be able to pay for your gym membership by generating power.

Copyright © 1996 Daniel Will-Harris,