Once again, I sit here, staring at a blank sheet of (electronic) paper and can't think of one "quick take," much less seven. Where is that bottle of Bushmill's Black Label when you need it most?
I wonder if sometime soon pens are going to become obsolete. On Sunday, I put my favorite Cross pen, a Contour model with the broad, blue, refill before heading out to do some shopping. I expected to use it to sign charge slips. By the time I got home, it had never seen the light of day; it remained unused after stops at three stores. No store we visited used paper charge card slips, all are now using electronic machines of varying quality to record purchases on credit cards.
My wonder is that any trace of true human interaction, minus some machine of some sort in the middle. It's as if the machine, and supposedly directly related efficiencies gained, had become more important than direct human involvement. Sometimes, technology is nice, but there are indeed times I wonder if we wouldn't be better off without it.
Speaking of technology, Hurricane Sandy, as tragic as it was, had gone a long way to show just what happens when we are overly reliant on technology. New York City has come to a stop it seems, with no one able to move about very well, and thousands upon thousands without power. The question arises how those people, whose situation probably won't improve for many days, will be able to do such simple things as cook food? I remember a time when some of my relatives didn't have electricity and used, literally, wood-burning stoves for all their cooking and baking needs. They were pretty good cooks too. Now, that option is gone and people suffer for it. The general assumption that the lights will always go on is hardly one that can be relied upon.
I also notice that victims of Hurricane Sandy are furious that their city and state governments aren't doing more to feed them. I read of one man who said he had taken it for granted that after the storm, the government would be there to distribute food for him and his family. At the risk of seeming mean spirited, didn't that man know the storm was coming? Could he not have taken steps on his own, in advance, to ensure he had several days worth of food and water on hand so that he wouldn't need to rely on someone else who might not be there? Couldn't he have banded together with his neighbors to stockpile some emergency supplies, and maybe back up generators, in order to be even more assured of getting through a week or more of difficult conditions?
I worry that no one seems able to even consider the possibility of not relying on someone else in times of emergency. I worry that this tendency to assume that, if we are in some sort of trouble, or experience a time of personal hardship, it's up to someone else to sort it all out, will not serve us well in the coming years. Not well at all.
I note that this past week Jacques Barzun passed away. It occurred to me that there are very few, if any, people who stand ready to take his place as a serious intellectual critic of society. Those who are credited with being the thought leaders of our time really aren't, they are mostly ideologues promoting one or the other set of political opinions. I quote from a column on the Crisis Magazine website discussing Fr. Bernard Lonergan:
While I’m generally skeptical in the face of apocalyptic fears, there can be no doubt that we find ourselves grappling with the loss of a pre-modern world where we oriented our institutions and selves in keeping with objective cosmological, ontological, and communal orders. Lacking thick accounts of who we are, what we’re for, what we should do, and for what we hope, we are unmoored and adrift, all the while celebrating this very absence of structure as evidence of our freedom and autonomy. Further, the correlation between the unmoored or disencumbered self of contemporary life and some of the current crises seems fairly strong—the rejection of traditional notions of marriage, for example. This cultural malaise results from the absence of robust understandings of human nature, personhood, normative relations, and integral human flourishing. And the same could be said for many of the other issues under deliberation as we enter the voting booths in a few days.
Five down, two to go.
I guess I should say something about the just passed Halloween. This is a much bigger day than when I was growing up and I have a hard time understanding why the change. When I was trick or treat age, which, by the way, was generally regarded as something for kids from the ages of 4 or 5 to about 10, we dressed up in costumes, went around the neighborhood on the night, and that was it. Adults didn't participate, as they were not, and did not want to be, kids.
I'm really, really tempted to push the envelope some day, and only do six quick takes. Alas, courage fails me once again. Jennifer would be upset.