On occasion, when goaded along by probably too much beer, too many people talking about something I find repugnant and pointless or maybe just that I think they miss the fundamental point of it all, I get on my hot seat. Some people may know it as a soap box, and it’s the place I proceed to make, probably, a complete ass of myself. I don’t like talking so much as I like observing and trying to sort life out into the simplest elements possible. It pains me being around people who love turning the world into some grand version of a Rube Goldberg device. They like that sort of thing. I think. They like having ever expanding layers of complexity cloud their lives.
On this particular occasion, I was making corn-dogs and onion rings when the topic turned to computers, the latest OS, making something do this or that, figuring out how to make a work around for it. For no particular reason – other than to make them stop talking, perhaps, I joined in the conversation. I join conversations like this with no grace or dignity. In fact, I think I tend to explode like popcorn. It would be fun to watch from an observers seat. Sometimes I wonder, in hindsight, if people don’t do this for that reason alone. I don’t mind being a spectacle. I don’t seek it. I don’t live for it, but seemingly, I can’t avoid it.
I’m not sure what happened to me, though I’m pretty sure it has to do with handling knives on a daily basis. I used to be a gadget freak, a lover and purchaser of the latest technology. Over the years, I realize that they offer little to my life except ever growing frustration. I loathe the latest and greatest. I am getting old and grumpy and curmudgeonly.
Truly, the world needs skeptics. There’s something inherently wrong when it all changes too quickly, when proper deliberation hasn’t been given to a particular and irrevocable alteration of life. I’ve become one of them, slowly and not by choice. It happens gradually, little things you notice that promise convenience which in fact, end up completely fucking you at the least opportune moment, for no particular reason.
It probably began to diverge for me when my brand new, off the lot with 4 miles, “New” Beetle, by Volkswagen, turned out to be such a demonic piece of shit. It came with a lot of baggage – sensors, computers, a fancy looking shroud over the engine – all in the name of increasing efficiency and making it even funner to own and drive. Its soul, I can only imagine, was owned by Satan, teeming with – perhaps the breeding ground of – every conceivable minion and gremlin possibly imaginable. The car I traded in for it – a 1992 VW Jetta – was pretty much bullet proof. It had little to go wrong with it and I could even change the oil and filter, as I’d grown up doing on all of my other vehicles. Oddly – or perhaps fittingly – the Jurassic engineered Jetta was eons more reliable, got better gas mileage, and handled better than the Beetle, with all the ‘enhancements’ to make it more efficient and pleasurable. It coincided with the time I began cooking and sharpening my own knives.
I appreciate owning things. Not owning them in the childish sense of sticking labels on them proclaiming, “this is mine” – owning them in terms of knowing they are mine, completely. Knowing I don’t worry about taking care of them, because I can. Knowing, it’s not beyond my capacity or skill set to fix it – or at least understand it. Devices and objects in my life are tools – no different than a paint brush, or a hammer, or a pen. I don’t want them to be clever, or remind me that they need attention, or an update, let alone a new personality and interface. I’d buy a collection of tamagotchi and become a ‘digital’ version of a crazed cat lady, if I really thought they should be.
There’s one role of technology I think which over-rules all other things. The first litmus test which must be passed in order to comply before any investment of time or patience on my part. I’m fond of hierarchies, using ancient reasoning techniques against modern day appurtences, asking one singular question before I go any further. I wonder – does this make my life simpler or better? How so? At what cost of investing time and energy to upgrade, relearn, adapt?
The whole point of technology, in my bleak and naïve mind, is that, first and foremost, it simplifies our lives and liberates us to some degree. It’s not a benefit when it takes more time, more energy to understand it, maintain it, coddle it, work around it. At that point, it’s a worthless shit pile which should be rejected.
Seemingly – so much today is just that – a steaming pile of clicking along and agreeing with terms and endlessly upgrading so you cannot do what you did, easily, the day before.
For me, these days, I like the technology of things like a Zippo lighter, actual fires, my old jeep, things I can fix with simple tools that weren’t designed to fail or become obsolete and grab my attention. I like things that function. I like sharpening my knives on a whetstone. Somehow, I’ve become a complete dinosaur, a caveman… In this day and age, I think it is an admirable thing to have become….