Monday, June 1, 2009

My XBox is Natural After All!

Sometimes in my search to live simply and naturally, I find myself becoming slightly radical in my thoughts--and you know if I think it's a radical thought, it must really be a radical thought. I have to admit that some of my desires and goals are motivated simply by the fact that before the industrial age, there was a way to provide for all of our needs using completely natural means. Take refrigeration for instance. Immediately before the electric refrigerator was invented, people stored milk and eggs in the ice box—a box that held a big block of ice cut from a frozen river and sealed the air in so that the ice and the inside of the box would stay cold for a very long time. Before that, people stored meats by curing them; vegetables by drying them, burying them underground, preserving, or storing them in cellars; and dairy products were simply consumed fresh or fermented to give them a somewhat longer shelf life. I have always had a big ideological problem with refrigerators because there are so many ways to do the same thing a refrigerator does without polluting the environment or becoming dependent upon man-made technologies. It seems like a big waste.

Refrigerators are not the only things. Electric and gas oven ranges are pretty silly in my opinion too. The automobile is a good invention. It does something that no other natural means of transportation can do—it travels faster, longer, more comfortably, and with more cargo space on less fuel than any horse or mule ever could. Back to the original point...

A lot of times we tree-hugging types tend to lump in all modern technologies as evil (or its 21st century politically correct equivalent) because they are unnatural—they weren’t around in Biblical times. They weren’t around in medieval times. They weren’t around for Alexander or Genghis or Xerxes, and now all of a sudden we have cars and electricity and dishwashers and pollution and global warming (which is a MYTH—don’t get me started on that one) and gee, wasn’t life better before Ben flew a kite?

My answer is, “No.”

Human existence on this planet is much like the life cycle of the individual human. As human consciousness, intellect, knowledge, skill, problem-solving, and industry has evolved, so have the methods, tools, paradigms, principles, and capabilities—just as a human progresses from infancy through toddlerhood, childhood, adolescence, adulthood, parenthood, and old age. There was a time when all fires on the face of the earth ignited by natural means—dry vegetation in hot climates; lightning strikes, and so on. There was a time when all tools were accoutrements to either a human or animal body, i.e. teeth, fingernails, fists, tusks, tails, etc. There was a time when all electricity was working in the atmosphere, only occasionally visiting the surface of the earth during storms.

Human curiosity has observed these phenomena over the millennia and harnessed them, manipulated them, and focused them into efforts that have advanced the human race. The most natural of all these forces is the human need to progress. So it is only natural that in this late age in history mankind has learned as much as we have. It is only natural that we are using tools, fire, and electricity to make our lives better. The biggest challenge now, I think, is learning to use all these things in a way that works with the earth rather than creating more work for it and ourselves.

Of course, lest we think we’re masters of any universe, we must remember that even with the “advanced” technologies we have, we still have not even scratched the surface. Think about the technologies God uses. He has a huge ball of burning gas invisibly, intangibly tethering at least nine other heavenly bodies to itself. This ball transmits energy over an invisible, intangible medium through 93 million miles of empty space, where it meets with our atmosphere and is distributed all over the surface of the earth in the form of light and warmth. This energy powers every single living thing on the planet either directly or indirectly by first finding storage in the cells of plants and then making its way through the food chain.

None of this knowledge about the natural world is news to anyone, of course. Nevertheless, there is a difference between comprehending it and understanding it or being able to use it. We may be able to say we have come a long way, but until we know how to create a battery as big and powerful as the sun or generate gravity or write computer programs that can feel and reason and observe dynamic scenarios and make appropriate judgments, we don’t know squat. After all, we still don’t even know how to cure a cold.

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