Monday, March 23, 2009

Questioning the Unquestionable

From an essay by Wendell Berry

Why I Am Not Going To Buy A Computer

“What would a computer cost me? More money, for one thing, than I can afford, and more than I wish to pay to people whom I do not admire. But the cost would not be just monetary. It is well understood that technological innovation always requires the discarding of the “old model” —the “old model” in this case being not just our old Royal standard typewriter but my wife, my critic, my closest reader, my fellow worker. Thus (and I think this is typical of present-day technological innovation) what would be superseded would be not only something, but somebody.”

Of course, I am retyping this excerpt from The Sun magazine on my computer! And I want you to know that I really like my computer. I do. And at the same time I see a bit of wisdom in the above quote.

More specifically, I recognize a longing in myself—a longing to not be discarded, and not to discard people in my life. This is a tough one because this has been going on for some time, and most people I know actively throw away old things and relationships. And I do wonder if the activity of discarding old things does create a model in consciousness that makes it easier to discard people.

Even though it has been imagined in science fiction, one thing we cannot discard (and still remain alive) is the body. So I see the practice of yoga asana, when practiced through healthy times and modified for times of illness as a way to maintain a valuable, long-term relationship with one’s own body. And this consistency creates a different model in consciousness that might help people to honor each other as well.

I also resonate with a notion of letting go of old thought patterns that no longer serve. So I do not want to cling to everything in my life, fearful of change. Yet, relationships are so cheap! I don’t think this is right. At the smallest inconvenience—“Bu-bye!” Are we not worth more than last month’s cell phone that now must be replaced by the new sleeker model?

Rather than giving up technological innovation, perhaps what is called for is a greater awareness of who we are. That way we can develop helpful relationships with one another, rather than dumping the old one to get a new one. Technological innovation is relatively recent, so perhaps we haven’t yet evolved an ability to discern our humanity in the jungle of toys.

I am hopeful that we can.


RB said...

I work as a writer for an internet news site and spend WAY too much time online. But I think, as you say, there are two sides. Computers can provide opportunities for better connection and self-awareness. But after my anusara immersion, because I'd been writing with a pen so much, I went back to writing physically everyday. As with the yoga practice, there is nothing quite like physical creation.

David Rice said...

That you use your computer to write enriches us all. Thank you, Brooks.

Anonymous said...

Discarding in itself is not inherently bad -- even in relationships, as there may be times when a relationship is harmful. However, we tend to "move on" too much, it seems. We look for what's "better" -- or will serve us more. We look for others to change rather than examining our true selves and our reactions.

Commitment is such a vital component in human relationships at every level, including the commitment of a yoga studio to its teachers. When one looks to foster prosperity in one's life, being in a position of giving leaves one's hand open to receive as well. Creativity can solve many things that seem to derail prosperity.

Namaste, Brooks. Your writing and yoga classes are beautiful. Thank you for sharing your light with us.

YogaforCynics said...

I had very mixed feelings about Berry's article, as one could say the same thing about any technological innovation, going back to the invention of writing itself (or even the invention of spoken language--how much expression by touching and subtle gestures was lost when we began using words?)...ultimately, it all comes down to how you use it. Certainly, my computer has cut into my sense of independence--as have a number of other things--how far I've come since the days when I'd set out indefinitely with nothing that couldn't fit into a backpack. Now, I take far more than that on a weekend trip...including, of course, the laptop...which seems increasingly central to most of my of the first things I do in the morning is turn it on, and one of the last is to turn it off...hmmmm, I may have to turn this comment into a blogpost of my own, as I seem to go on and on and haven't even touched on your very astute points about yoga, the body, and self-awareness. Anyway, thanks for the inspiration....

Akin Nu An said...

I fully agree that we should learn to understand each other; it seems the only language of today is oil, power and personal possessions.

There is no understanding as a species anymore.

I really like your blog by the way; I will be keeping track of it in future.

Keep up the good work!