Monday, November 7, 2011
To read the introductory post, click here.
I apologize for the late posting of this blog entry. Over the past few weeks I began applying for grad schools, wrote and had my thesis proposal approved, and applied for a job and was hired. Needless to say, unfortunately this final post kind of hit the back burner for a while.
But here it is—the last day of the six-day electricity fast: six days without electricity over six weeks. How did it go? What did I learn?
Well, to begin with, the last day without electricity was the easiest. I had by now recognized when in the day I would get restless, so planned taking a several mile walk. I knew how painful those several hours of night would be without electric lights, so I planned going to a friend’s place. It became easy to find things to do that did not involve electricity. But, the habits are still there—the turning on lights without thinking, the turning on the hot water before realizing, the impulse to get in my car and drive before remembering. All of these things have become second nature to me, so even consciously trying to avoid electricity it was still near impossible to do so.
Indeed, one of the main things I learned was just how much what is called the “Western lifestyle” is dependent upon electricity. From taking warm showers every morning to using the microwave to heat up some leftovers to having a bedside lamp to read from—these are all little things that we hardly even think about. Yet there they are, consuming electricity, supporting a comfortable lifestyle. It gets to the point that it is hard to imagine a life without electricity—indeed, many ecologists have written about how now that we’ve opened the electricity can of worms we can’t go back. Sallie McFague, for one, speaks out against some of the more radical ecologists who envision a world without electricity, saying that it is more realistic to find sustainable ways to power our needs. Her book Super, Natural Christians was a shock to me—here was an ecologist—an ecofeminist, no less—that doesn’t speak against the urban life, but rather argues for it—at very least, calling for increased urban parks and green spaces.
I also spoke about previously about being present. That has been perhaps the most personally awarding result. Without internet, without television, without the distractions electricity provides, one has the chance to be present in the moment. One is not constantly being fed news and internet memes and status updates. That is kind of the contradiction, you see: on the one hand, knowing what is happening all over the world immediately; on the other, being able to be fully present and aware with what is going on around you. There has to be some balance—certainly knowing what is going on in the world is helpful, is necessary to live in any sort of community with one another. Unless one wants to retreat to an anchorite or hermit, knowledge of both local and global communities and events is necessary. But, the ability to stop and process, to stop and think, to just be present with friends or a good book without being interrupted by tweets and status updates—there is something in that, too.
Perhaps most importantly, what does this mean for the future? I plan on using less electricity throughout the day. Keep the lights off when it’s sunny outside. Unplug appliances when not in use. Easy things, simple things. Open the windows when it’s a nice day out. All things are so simple, so easy to do. Perhaps that’s the last thing I learned—as hard as going without electricity is, it’s also really easy. The world doesn’t stop, it keeps on going. I don’t need to have a hot meal every day. I don’t need to be watching television or on my computer every day. There are books out there, there are friends, there are activities like hiking or taking a stroll through town—all these things which are fun that don’t use electricity. It’s really simple to cut back. The benefits of a day without electricity—more time being active, more time with friends, more time reading books, more time to just think--more than make up for any inconvenience, in fact, not only does it make spending some time away from the computer or television “worth it,” it makes me wonder what joy I found in spending hours in front of the computer or television to begin with.
It's like that Toyota Venza commercial (embedded below). The daughter talks about having all these friends on Facebook, and she even says "this is living," meanwhile, her parents are out there actually living.
Another writer went a week without internet, and posted some similar points. It's on cracked.com, so just a warning, some of the language and themes on this humor website are a little vulgar. But nonetheless, he came to some of the same realizations I did. If you do not mind a little bit of language, I encourage you to read the article here. Suffice to say, electricity--with all the marvels of modernity--has its drawbacks. The ecological crisis alone shows us that, in fact, that's the very reason I chose to take on this fast. But, it can also keep us from living, from being present. And, that I think is Sallie McFague's greatest point in Super, Natural Christians and the greatest thing I learned, the environmental crisis isn't just about electricity and over-consumption of resources, it's about the reality that those of us living the Western lifestyle of comfort and ease have forgotten what its like to be present in the midst of the earth. To be present in the midst of the earth, to be truly present, just may be the first step towards moving out of this crisis.