Over the past few weeks, there have been a lot of changes in the Harsh household — most notably that there is a new Harsh household. On March 28, Rachel and I were married, and so this morning (April 8, 2020), we are officially three days into “normal” life (i.e., going to work, etc.). We spent last week on our honeymoon in Eureka Springs, Arkansas, which by the way, is a pretty great place to visit even when the entire town is closed due to a worldwide pandemic. If you’re ever visiting, I recommend Bubba’s Barbecue, but that is beside the point.
During our honeymoon, Rachel and I did something that we have never done before — we went “off the grid.” Now, I understand, owning an iPhone means we were easily traceable. But, for an entire week, we only used our phones for GPS, to find hiking/climbing, and to order carryout for dinner. I deleted Facebook, Facebook Messenger, Voxer (Yes, I am old.), Marco Polo (Maybe not too old.), GroupMe, GoogleChat, Email, Google Calendar, Todoist, etc. For an entire week, my phone was completely free of every messaging app and task managing app — it was great. When Rachel and I got home, I had 58 text messages on my phone, 128 tasks waiting for me on Todoist, and over a dozen Facebook Messages that “needed” a response. Guess what? The world didn’t fall apart any more than usual, and my friends still talk to me. Quite frankly, I realized that very few things are as urgent as they seem. After going “off the grid,” two quotes have been on my mind this week — one from Dwight D. Eisenhower and the other, an extended quote from Neal Postman.
“What is important is seldom urgent, and what is urgent is seldom important.” — Dwight D. Eisenhower
“We were keeping our eye on 1984. When the year came, and the prophecy didn’t, thoughtful Americans sang softly in praise of themselves. The roots of liberal democracy had held. Wherever else the terror had happened, we, at least, had not been visited by Orwellian nightmares.
But we had forgotten that alongside Orwell’s dark vision, there was another – slightly older, slightly less well known, equally chilling: Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World. Contrary to common belief even among the educated, Huxley and Orwell did not prophesy the same thing. Orwell warns that we will be overcome by an externally imposed oppression. But in Huxley’s vision, no Big Brother is required to deprive people of their autonomy, maturity, and history. As he saw it, people will come to love their oppression, to adore the technologies that undo their capacities to think.
What Orwell feared were those who would ban books. What Huxley feared was that there would be no reason to ban a book, for there would be no one who wanted to read one. Orwell feared those who would deprive us of information. Huxley feared those who would give us so much that we would be reduced to passivity and egoism. Orwell feared that the truth would be concealed from us. Huxley feared the truth would be drowned in a sea of irrelevance. Orwell feared we would become a captive culture. Huxley feared we would become a trivial culture, preoccupied with some equivalent of the feelies, the orgy porgy, and the centrifugal bumblepuppy. As Huxley remarked in Brave New World Revisited, the civil libertarians and rationalists who are ever on the alert to oppose tyranny “failed to take into account man’s almost infinite appetite for distractions.” In 1984, Orwell added, people are controlled by inflicting pain. In Brave New World, they are controlled by inflicting pleasure. In short, Orwell feared that what we fear will ruin us. Huxley feared that what we desire will ruin us.” — Neal Postman
I am not a conspiracy theorist, nor do I think that technology is a terrible thing. Nearly every church in America has used technology in a positive way to stay connected during this season of social distancing. However, I can’t help but agree with both Eisenhower and Postman — urgent is seldom important, and perhaps what we desire will ruin us.
Do you agree or disagree? I would love to hear from you!
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