Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Heathenry, Unplugged

I'm really a technophile, despite all my attempts at leading a semi-subsistence lifestyle. I was one of the folks who helped bring about the whole technological revolution we see today, (don't get too excited--lots of people did more than I did). Even so, if I had been smarter with money than I had with technology, I probably would be in some huge place enjoying retirement rather than working for a living.  Ah, hindsight being 20/20.

Technology Addictions

That being said, one of my not-so-secret addictions is technology.  No, I don't have to have the latest and greatest things, but I wouldn't object if someone handed them to me to play with. I spend a ridiculous amount of time on my laptop and now, my cellphone. A goodly portion of it is for work, but let's face it, with Netflix and Hulu, I get some entertainment there.  I wouldn't be putting out this little Heathen blog without computers and the Internet.  So, it has become a necessity.

Before the Dark Times.  Before the Silicon Chip...

 And yet, I remember a time without computers.  (I can hear your collective gasps as you read this: "Just how fucking old is the Rational Heathen?") Okay, computers existed, but they filled government and University server rooms. You used punch tape and punch cards and printers.  My first experience with computers was an HP that had 1 MB of RAM that was time shared with 33 other users across the state. Hey!  That was downtown!

I was one of the few holdouts who looked for payphones to make phone calls.  Even now, it has flummoxed my sisters that I don't text (try explaining the lack of cell service where I live.) So, I am a techno-savvy Luddite.  Yes, eventually even I have to stay connected.

Getting on Point

I'm not going to wax eternal about the halcyon days of the days before computers, the Internet, and cellphones, but I am going to talk about what it is doing to us as a species. Nowadays, we rely on computers to entertain us, keep our knowledge, and teach us things. Unfortunately, the more we use the technology, the more we rely on the technology.  The more we rely on the technology, the more we can't do the things we need to know if we are to survive should there not be that technology present.

Luddites and Stone Carvers

Now, I know what you're thinking.  Surely there were Luddites out there when the printing press was invented, stating that if we use printing presses, people will forget how to use calligraphy.  Or maybe when paper was used, the stone carvers were up in arms because vellum could be destroyed, whereas stone was nearly forever.  I can just hear the stone carver telling his son, "I don't care how portable that contraption is!  It'll burn, and then you'll have nothing! You'll see!"

Somehow the portability and convenience won out.  We figured out ways around having paper being burnt up, although there were certainly setbacks (i.e., the library at Alexandria), but for the most part we got beyond it.  We made copies.  We treated fragile manuscripts with care (we still do).  But having repositories on computers make works more accessible to more people. We simply have to be more careful with the original.

Nothing demonstrates this more than with our own Declaration of Independence.  The original was damaged sometime in the early 20th century in an attempt to make it more legible and the writing continues to fade even though great care has been taken to preserve it.  Yes, we have made copies, but having the ability to read it right from the computer is important, too.  It gives us accessibility.

Where I'm Going with This

Technology has its place.  I know this.  But technology isn't everything.  When I was growing up, we were promised technology would fix our problems.  Well, certain problems, it has, but it has caused more problems.  You see, the basic issue isn't the technology: it's us.  We mortal, organic creatures are limited by our very nature--a nature that we're getting farther and farther away from over time.

The past few days I've been in a blend of technology and nature (a weird mix, to be sure).  I've been hunting turkeys. I've been working on projects on the computer.  I've been getting new goats.  I've been butchering a chicken and cooking it.  I've been milking goats and collecting eggs.  I've been setting up a podcasting studio.  I've been enjoying the beauty of the arrowleaf balsamroots and glacier lilies that have exploded in color.  Everything I've been doing has been taking up my time, and yet, I've been living in two different worlds.

The Peacefulness of Nature

Despite the hard work of hand milking, I really enjoy peacefulness.  I'm working with the animals, who really don't care what I'm writing--they only care about getting grain and getting their udders relieved of pressure. I am outside, in the forest where my home resides, and enjoy feeling the sun on my face and see the deer and other critters around me.

It can be peaceful or stressful, depending on the circumstance.  We have some very big predators here: wolves, coyotes, black bear, grizzlies, and mountain lions.  The mountain can kill you if you aren't careful: the weather can turn deadly in a heartbeat for those unprepared.  Then, there are the even present threat of wildfires.

Unplug for a While, and Be Present

But there is something to being with nature, despite all the hazards. And there is something to being unplugged, at least for a while.  Imagine, if you would, nobody calling you, texting you, no social media to interrupt you. Just be present in the moment.  Look around.  Admire what the gods have created and feel what it's like to just be alive.  Sometimes just doing that is all you need to connect with them.  That's how I finally connected with Skadi, after many years of trying without success. Your mileage may vary, of course, but I've found if you open yourself up to the gods, they may just come to you.

Accept what they offer, even if it is only a feeling, a word, or a thought.  The more time you spend with them, the more often you may hear them.  And isn't that what Heathenry is really about?

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