Monday, December 18, 2006

Powered Down

Within the span of a week, my cell phone battery broke, my computer's charger cord began acting up, I wrecked my car, and I lost my jacket and my watch. And I became an island. I could still use my computer and the internet, but my laptop lost its portability. So did my conversations. I had to borrow phones while at home to make arrangements for my car and to talk to Katy, who is three hours away. I rode the city bus to class for the first time, and I scrambled to find rides home from class and then to work. I couldn't keep up with time. I used to use my cell phone as a watch when my wrist was bare, but now that wasn't even an option. Many times, I was stranded for a few hours, waiting on someone to fulfill the items on their agenda before they got to mine.

It's amazing, and sad, the extent to which technology dictates my life, and the blessings I rarely think twice about. I rely on the cell phone rather than my brain to make plans, and I take for granted the convenience that owning my own car gives me. For my journalism classes, I often resort to the internet's fast-food format for information consumption rather than doing actual "shoe-leather" reporting. But with some of that gone, having to rely on other people, I faced a power outage in more than a literal sense. Without technology, I had little means to function in daily life.

John Mayer sings a song called "Something's Missing," in which he laments over the fact that he has everything he could want, but there's still a void in his life. In a live version of this song on his "Any Given Thursday" CD, he says, "How come everything I think I need always comes with batteries? What do you think it means?" Mired in this experience, I think I'm better prepared to answer this question.

Our reliance on batteries means that we live in a world that requires an increasing measure of technological savvy for our very survival. If communications networks were to be shut down indefinitely, most of us will lose all of our financial assets, which are tied up in electronic bank and stock databases. If we lose our telephones, we can no longer communicate. We've built sprawling cities that all but require us to have cars in order to function. Without them, there's just enough public transportation to get us where we're going, but not without a lot of walking and inconvenient downtime.

Being "powered down," stripped of all electronic amenities, has been trying, but it's helped me learn to appreciate things that electronics cannot provide: friendship and salvation. Friends took me to and from work. A friend provided me with a new cell phone for free. Friends are still offering to let me use their cars to take care of things. Many have expressed their regret that my life has become so "difficult." But through this time, God has been teaching me to put my faith in him rather than in things. If you can't remain faithful when wires get crossed, what will you do when real calamity comes?" he seems to be asking. He's helped me remember that true power comes from trusting in him for salvation and remaining thankful for what he has given me and what he's taken away. God is recharging my character.

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