I’m riding the train today. Trains are old-school technology. There is a lot of new technology there, to be sure, but trains may have ridden these tracks I’m riding on right now for the last 200 years, roughly unchanged from those times. A little faster. A little less coal dust, but still the same view on the world – you can travel a thousand miles without seeing a single strip mall. You’re more likely to see an orchard than an office building. You’ll go through a tunnel you never knew existed – how does someone bore a 20 foot diameter hole through a rocky hilltop without it being a big deal? You see features of the landscape that are a little bit amazing, or you wish you knew how to get back to so you could explore, little canyons carved out by creeks, and moving water always holds a fascination for me.
From the train you can see that there are people with vastly different lifestyles and values from yours or mine. A small stack of bloody animal carcasses raises the questions how did it get there. Why so much blood. Were they killed by a man or a beast? What does it take to kill something like that, and then have the presence of mind to stack it like there was not some mindless crime of passion that created that bloody scene? An execution of duty to some perhaps. The carcasses could not even be identified, dogs, deer, sheep, calves, wolves, unwelcome visitors. They were bloody, and they were peeled, and they were stacked, and I saw this from the train at 50 yards and 80 miles an hour.
But violence is not something that callous men impose on nature. No. We are part of nature, and we have learned violence from her. From my perch on the second level of the Superliner car, I see the violence of water and gravity as they carve swaths of earth, rip trees from their places, and pile their wooden carcasses unceremoniously in a pile across a creek bed. Nature is a far more brutal killer than man, and she’s senseless in the way she combines beauty with terror and death.
My train ride took me to see an 8 year old boy who could sit in a room of adults just staring at his small rectangular window into someone else’s made up world. A 3 minute attention span spent flitting between various Facebook games. He didn’t go outside. He didn’t play with the dog. He didn’t use his own imagination to build or make up stories or wonder about things, or even investigate questions about life. He stared into someone else’s made up world and followed the pre-set pathways, following the steps the game laid out for him.
His world was filled with people 70 years or more his senior. One born immediately after world war 1. These people are not prepared to direct an 8 year old’s experience with technology. Their experience with technology is a cordless phone and a microwave oven.
Of course I write this critique of technology from the train, with a laptop, using a cell phone to bring the www to where ever I am. And you are reading it on your little window into someone elses made up world. The real world out there exists as if in a museum, behind the glass windows of the train. Who is being closed in? For the electrofied among us, we have made the outside something we can understand, we have made it part of our world of technology by calling it “the environment”.
Maybe I need to go outside, sweat in the freezing weather, dare nature to take a swipe at me, do something risky or primal. And then of course take pictures of it and put it on Facebook.