It’s a good idea to look out the window every now and then.
Our power was out here yesterday. It was only a few hours, but it felt like ten years to me. “The best day in my life was the night the power went out,” said Jenny Silva. “If I hadn’t gone outside to find out what was going on, I never would have met my husband.”
Jenny’s story is indicative of an unintended consequence, in this case, love born out of a temporary emergency. More, it’s a cautionary tale about a world where venturing out of one’s inner sanctum is not only rare, it’s practically discouraged.
Which leads me to wonder: Has all of this been purposely created by design? Are we in the middle of a master plan endorsed by those in charge? Was it determined, for the greater good, that it was better to keep everyone inside, safe at home, to avoid overtaxing the nation’s crumbling infrastructure and diminished numbers of first responders?
Did media companies expand television offerings, so that hundreds of free channel options would keep the masses entertained? And once those options became tiresome, on demand viewing options created the ultimate “my choice” situation.
Over the last two decades, there has been a growing trend of isolation. First, personal computers allowed us to instantly communicate via keyboards instead of by wire. The Internet permitted downloading of information to local printers, rather than pulling books down from shelves at the local library.
As more of us became plugged in, fewer ventured out. Higher gas prices stopped us from venturing too far. Working from home offices became a necessity for most, meaning far fewer water cooler discussions.
In the country and suburbs, larger homes are designed to make us comfortable in our own sanctuaries. Home schooling has expanded significantly. In urban areas, 300 square-foot apartments and green, master planned communities don’t encourage road trips.
Even when we do venture out, our eyes are peering into our smart phones. With heads down, we won’t be seeing the reality outside, empty buildings, pot holes, poor air quality and more and more homeless people.
And when we must leave our house it’s mostly to visit a kiosk: an ATM instead of interacting with a bank teller, self-service stations to avoid postal clerks and attendants, drive through windows for convenience but also to avoid sitting next to another family inside.
Is it any wonder that anti-depression medications are rampant? That children are growing up stir-crazy? That anger builds up and then bursts out when we become anonymous? Our opinions are largely formed from the dumping grounds of the places we visit today: Opinion blogs, talk shows, reality programming and Twitter trends. Our “circles” are online virtual meeting spots: Facebook, Google+, Pinterest and the like.
Maybe when the power goes out for good we’ll meet each other. This year I want to do a lot of routine things differently.