Thursday, January 11, 2018

“That’s better”

We might still think of Wi-Fi as fracturing family life, with each member of the group off in front of a screen. Here’s an earlier story of improved technology and one family’s response. Ben Logan (1920–2014) recounts what happened when his father bought an Aladdin kerosene lamp for the dining-room table. “The new lamp gave more light,” Logan writes, “opening up the corners of the dining room, letting us scatter away from the little circle we’d always formed around the old Rayo.” And then one night Logan’s mother announced, “‘I’m not sure I like that new lamp’”:

Father was at his usual place at the table. “Why not? Burns less kerosene.”

“Look where everyone is.”

We were scattered. There was even enough light to read by on the far side of the stove.

“We’re all here,” Father said.

“Not like we used to be.”

Father looked at the empty chairs around the table. “Want to go back to the old lamp?”

“I don’t think it’s the lamp. I think it’s us. Does a new lamp have to change where we sit at night?”

Ben Logan, The Land Remembers: The Story of a Farm and Its People. 1975. (Minnetonka, MN: NorthWord Press, 1999).
“I don’t think it’s the lamp. I think it’s us”: exactly. As I’ve written more than once in these pages, technology makes it possible to do things, not necessary to do them. Logan describes what followed in his family’s farmhouse:
Father’s eyes found us, one by one. Then he made a little motion with his head. We came out of our corners and slid into our old places at the table, smiling at each other, a little embarrassed to be hearing this talk.

Mother sat down with us and nodded. “That’s better.”
[Thanks to Chris at Dreamers Rise for pointing me to The Land Remembers.]

comments: 4

Berit said...

Why do we forget that we can choose our behavior? Personally, there are many ways in which I do remember, even when it is a contrast to how peers and others close to me are behaving in going with the flow. For those, I can be branded "weird" (where one would more kindly say "quaint"). Or worse, "judgy"; like one of those "I don't even HAVE a TV!" people who are assumed to be judging everyone in earshot who owns a television. P.S. Not a fan of "judgy"; but it is a thing now, along with bougie and boujee, and we can only hope that none of them become words of the year soon!

Michael Leddy said...

I’ve never heard “judgy” before. But I think the best response is to just enjoy going your own way. I think it’s telling that people feel obliged to label someone who doesn’t go with the flow. Anyone who doesn’t is in some way a danger to groupthink, no?

Rachel said...

I love this.

Michael Leddy said...