The power went out. For many… it was frustrating, inconvenient, boring. For me it was profound.
I watched as neighbors, usually clamored around a television or hunched over a screen stepped outside. Doors, usually closed to keep the air conditioning inside were opened to let the breeze flow through. Children, with no electronic distraction, filled the playgrounds. Teenagers, unplugged, tossed footballs and frisbees. Mothers pushed strollers and pet owners held leashes. The endless whir of electronics silenced, I heard the birds, the crickets, the frogs. As the sky began to darken, teenagers grabbed flash lights and continued to run around fueling only by their imaginations.
The house was pitch black, we all gathered in one room to pool the candlelight. We told stories, we laughed together, we bonded. Something rarely seen, a feeling rarely felt.
A distant smoke alarm drew me outside to the dark. I didn’t grab my flashlight, nor my cell, like those cartoon fingers from my childhood, the sound beckoned me to follow it. When I arrived at the house, its smoke alarm still blaring, I ran into a few other neighbors also there to investigate the sound.
Once we notified the fire department and established the house was empty, I walked home, again in the dark, only this time the courage that drew me to investigate the smoke alarm dissolved into the darkness. Something compelled me to look up at the stars. It was here that I saw the real reason the universe had lulled me outside my cocoon.
As I saw a star shoot across the sky, I began to feel my own insignificance. I pictured myself as an ant to those stars, just a tiny fleck of dust on a giant rock. A tiny cell, an amoeba. A fleck of dust, just a blip on its radar. The problems in my life, insignificant in the grand scheme of things. No matter how many times I’ve heard that phrase, its sound never impacted my ears the way I felt it, I literally felt my own insignificance.The night the lights went out, my ego died and my eyes opened, if only for a short time.
Technology has brought us many, many benefits. But the technology that brings us together has actually driven us apart. We spend hours together without speaking. We have conversations without looking into each others eyes. We communicate through machines. We no longer have family dinners, neighborhood barbques, children no longer play in the street. We talk more than ever… yet say nothing at all.
We have libraries at our fingertips, we have access to more information than any other generation could have fathomed. Education is the most powerful weapon in the world yet we squander it watching celebreties act like fools, flashing their egos everywhere.
Instead of learning from history, philosophy, religion we watch in entertainment as people repeat the egotistical mistakes of those we could be learning from instead. The great stories with moral lessons have taken a backseat to ridiculousness, cat videos, violence and sex. Our egos have taken over, feeling entitled and self important, we write public diaries about our mundane lives. Instead of living, we tell stories and watch others live. Since our faces are planted into screens, we no longer live, we no longer learn, we no longer engage each other in human interaction. Machines literally are taking over the world. We think others are interested in our commentary. We base our value on the number of people that respond. Always, in the limelight, we post photos of ourselves, seeking affirmation, admiration, adoration, support, friendship, love. We flaunt our good moments, we want everyone to know we are successful, we are having a good life. Or we post all of our misery, searching for someone to commiserate with. We blast our insecurities out into the world, air our dirty laundry for the world to see. We become our drama. We become the machine.
We base our self value on the number of electronic friends and followers we have yet we keep those sitting right next to us at arms length. We have become self obsessed. If ego is the enemy, we are all becoming egocentric. Who cares what you had for dinner? Let’s eat a meal together and talk about something important. Life is short, we are insignificant and small…
The night the lights went out, my eyes were opened.