Today our home is in the midst of a massive power outage – one that has knocked out radio transmission and cell phone service, as well as the usual conveniences we have grown to love: refrigerator, hot water heater, electric lights, and all.
Information gleaned through phone calls (before the land line service went down too) is that twelve hours after the outage began, the power providers still do not know the source of the outage, much less what it will take to fix it.
I believe that this is not necessarily such a bad thing. I believe we need reminders, especially in our still-basically-affluent culture: reminders of our vulnerability; of our dependence upon one another; of what quiet truly sounds like – the quiet of a home without a humming refrigerator, ringing telephones, and the constant low level din of our conveniences become necessities.
I believe we need the reminder that it is OK to stop for reflection once in a while. Not only OK, but necessary – necessary to re-set our prioritites in life, to check our direction, to re-contact our highest values.
Our culture has not had to think of survival as one of its highest priorities for some time. The advent of electricity, telephones, automobiles, has made life increasingly easy – and easy to take for granted. But natural and man-made disasters, like Hurricane Katrina and 9/11, and smaller disasters like power outages are creating a pause for re-thinking.
I believe our energy needs (or demands) have us skating on very thin ice indeed. Our world is revolving around the adequate production of power. The office I work in is closed today. The computers can’t be turned on, the fax won’t work, phones cannot be heard ringing when someone tries to call in. The only light is from the front windows. There is no heat.
After our little snow and wind storm, the power will eventually go back on and I’ll catch up on the things I couldn’t do today. But also, will I have planned or prepared any better for the next time – or the next? Will my office, as well as my home, have a back-up generator? And yet, is that wise, in the long run? Our own home generator is powered by gas, which we try to use as sparingly as possible. Oh, how tempting to just let it run! But petroleum is not an inexhaustible resource, and the bottom of the barrel is within calculating distance.
I believe we, as a culture, have been looking only at our next step, rather than down the road. I believe we have the strength, courage, and innovation to re-direct our priorities. Waging war in distant lands over the last drops of oil in that barrel is not going to have served us well when the oil has finally been consumed. The current stalemating of creative research on the energy problem must come to an end.
We are creative people. We can do better. We MUST pay attention. This I believe.
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