Better Off: Flipping the Switch on Technology

[written 05/08/06]

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  by Eric Brende
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<p>
  a young couple decides to try an experiment: live among the amish for a year and see how hard or easy it is to live without technology. a good book in general, with some great bits interspersed with some not very good writing. an interesting read all the same. here&#8217;s my favorite quotes:
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<p>
  &#8221;&#8230;and this explained not only why time moved more slowly but also why we had more <em>of</em> it, why we were able to relax and read the way we were doing right now: in the absence of fast-paced gizmos, ringing phones, alarm clocks, television, radios, and cars, we could simply take our time. In being slower, time is more capacious. The event is only in the moment. By speeding through life with technology, you reduce what any given moment can hold. By slowing down, you expand it.
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<p>
  Shortcuts lead to emergency mending sessions in order to piece back in what was cut out, to lengthen what was shortened: Computer users, cramped in a cubicle all day long, jogging around the block. Bureaucrats and financiers, zooming ahead along their career paths, then reversing gears to attend school concerts, ball games, and parent meetings. Captives of the technological environment fleeing for brief weekends to mountains, beaches, and rustic cabins.
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<p>
  What began as short lines become circles &#8211; myriad overlapping loops that, described on paper, resemble nothing so much as the cloverleafs of our freeway systems. These roundabout routes to satisfaction leave their followers less time than ever. For the better part of the day they are in transit, simply speeding forward, never arriving. In a world in which everything is in motion, motion finally comes to seem the absolute, the unfailing standard by which everything else is gauged. Progress becomes its own self-justifying local loop, the endless cycle&#8230;&#8221; (pps 67-8)
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<p>
  &#8220;In our era of high technology, affluent westerners spend billions every year to &#8220;get away&#8221; to exotic locales. They do so surely to escape the stress and frustration of modern life, but also to relieve its monotony. They spend forty-eight weeks of the year in the same job in a climate-controlled environment; when they go home in the evening, they travel on the same stretch of freeway to a subdivision where all the houses look the same; they watch telovision programs that reduce the complex issues of life to half-hour segments on a flat screen. They crave diversion, depth, escape. So they fly to Bermuda. Or for a few precious days, they stroll through Disney World&#8217;s mockup of the architecturally diverse midwestern downtown their grandparents once ambled through whenever they wanted to, and spend all the money they saved during the previous forty-eight weeks in the same job.
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<p>
  There might be another way. What is they just noticed the weather changing? Those who lack western affluence already rely on the weather for dail variety. New weather alters the look and feel of the landscape without alterling your location. You don&#8217;t have to travle elsewhere to experience the exotic; the exotic travels to you.&#8221; (pp 150)
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