A: In high school, we read George Orwell’s “Nineteen Eighty-Four” and Aldous Huxley’s “Brave New World.” Even then, I thought that Huxley’s vision of how we could become controlled and restricted would be the more likely scenario. Neil Postman spelled out the difference in his book “Amusing Ourselves to Death.”
“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. ... In short, Orwell feared that what we fear will ruin us. Huxley feared that our desire will ruin us.”
This passage gives me chills when I consider that Huxley imagined this future over 80 years ago. And Postman wrote his comparison years before the Internet. How interesting that over-engagement with technology has become the opiate of the masses. It is our favorite dope.
Can we do anything about the problem? Of course. Our role is to set an example with our own behavior. My phone is never on when I’m eating, sleeping, thinking, writing, meeting with friends or family, and so forth. Why would I give it dominion over real living?
We can also lay down the law regarding appropriate use in any setting where we have authority. Parents, are you hearing me? I don’t allow phones or tablets or laptops in any of my writing and self-help classes because I need each person to be fully present.
Technology has its place, but it shouldn’t be at the center of our lives. Not as long as there are woods to explore, people to love, and music yet to be heard.
Q: I’m very confused. I feel like a lost soul just floating aimlessly from one thing to the next. I know that you’re a spiritual person. Any words of comfort would be appreciated.
A: Dear one, I suggest this prayer by Thomas Merton.
“My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road, though I may know nothing about it. Therefore I will trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.”
Send your questions and comments to email@example.com.
Lauretta Hannon, a resident of Powder Springs, is the bestselling author of The Cracker Queen — A Memoir of a Jagged, Joyful Life and a keynote speaker. Southern Living has named her “the funniest woman in Georgia.” See more at thecrackerqueen.com.