Friday, October 14, 2005

@braham lincoln

How did Abraham Lincoln ever get anyting done without a computer? I remember stories of how he read books by the light of a kerosene lamp, how he spent hours chopping wood for the fire, how he meticulously kept up correspondance through hand-written letters, how he campaigned from the Mississippi to the Atlantic from the back of a steam-powered locomotive... And somehow, in the midst of so many labor-intensive, time-consuming activities, he managed to become one of the most learned men on the frontier, rise to the ranks of President of the United States of America, fight to lead the country during a time when the States of America were decidedly not United, prepare great speeches, strategize decisive battles, raise a family, and discuss the nuances of his facial hair patterns with a little girl (or so the story goes). I simply cannot comprehend how all of this could be balanced by one man in one lifetime before the days of internet, facsimilie, mobile telephony, and all the "necessities" of 21st Century society.

For crying out loud -- I don't know how I managed to hold it all together in those dark days of the 20th Century -- just 10 years ago or so -- when I didn't have an e-mail account, an answering machine, or a PDA... Was my life that much simpler then? Could I have possibly managed a productive existence in those days? I'm amazed to think that I've lived on both sides of the border between "then" and "now" -- the 20th Century and the 21st Century, the before and after of the "Digital Revolution"... And I wonder how ol' Abe Lincoln would survive such a transition.

Truth be told, I've been struggling to manage without my personal computer for about a week now. A defective backlight on the monitor of my laptop has left us without our "lifeline" to the digital world for what could be weeks... And I'm embarrassed to admit that I'm having difficulties without this connection. The superfluous has become central. Paper has been replaced by monitor; handshakes by keystrokes. The freedom of the Digital Revolution has become the captivity of the Information Age. I find it scary how many parallels can be drawn to the progression of popular notions regarding the Industrial Revolution from Lincoln's 19th Century...

Oddly enough, I've enjoyed (or at least benefited from) the step back in time -- launching a Lincolnesque attempt at life, love, and labor -- at least in the short-term. I've been responding to e-mails with phone calls (now that's "old school"!) and sitting down for more face-to-face meetings. I've been catching up on some reading, even throwing back my literary tastes to reabsorb "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" (which I'm really enjoying). I've been playing more with my children and taking walks through the neighborhood. And I even took time yesterday evening to light an old kerosene lamp and read a book of Mother Goose's nursery rhymes to Elliot in the flickering darkness of our dining room. Somehow I'm making it work (although I must confess that the mobile telephone has never left my pocket and I've kept up regular trips to the office to check e-mail). Maybe an analog existence is not entirely impossible. Maybe the Information Age brings along its own set of distractions and meticulous tasks to slow down life and offer little net gain in available hours of the week. Maybe electronic communication actually is just an accessory to real life. Maybe I'm not so enslaved after all.

I could hardly wait to get into the office one of these days and electronicize my thoughts to share with the digital world in the form of my blog. Here's to you, @be...


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