This morning, while waiting for the start of my Government class, one of my fellow students asked me a rather provocative and interesting question. I do not hide the fact that I am a Pagan, and entertain questions from people at the school when asked. But, before I get onto a tangent this early in the post, let me get back to the question.
How do you reconcile the fact that you practice a Nature-based religion with your career in Information Technology?
It really was an interesting moment for me. I do teach a class in the business application of Information Systems, and have taught several classes on Server technologies, Information Security, and Desktop Support. I hold three University degrees geared towards Information Systems. I have worked in the Information Technology fields for over twenty-seven years now. Is there nothing more iconic of a world out of touch with the “natural” world around us than a giant bank of computer machinery and whirling magnetic tape drives?
We sat and talked quite a bit about the differences between these two very different worlds. In the end, I was not able to provide an answer for my querent – other than to remark that I seek a balance between the two within my life. Which is true. I love my technology-based environment. I enjoy having information at my fingertips. I also love being out among the trees and listening to the wind whispering to me through the leaves. I love the feel of sun-warmed grass under my bare feet. Every few months, I take trips to places that I have read about or have already been to – so that I can experience and enjoy the Kami (or Spirits of the Land, if you do not prefer the Japanese descriptive). This is my way of trying to balance out my everyday experience with technology.
I use my technology every day. I am doing that right here and now by typing in this blog with you. Utilizing my internet connection, the WordPress platform, my iMac computer – I am putting my thoughts into words. I interact with my students through an online forum, when we do not meet face-to-face. I encourage the use of that platform for faster communications – rather than waiting for the two time frames that we meet face-to-face. As a student, both of my classes also have online classroom formats – both of which are utilized to a different degree by each instructor. My Subaru Forester utilizes a computer system to inform of the estimated gas mileage that I am getting, as well as displaying warning lights when there is a possible issue for the mechanic to see. When I meditate, I utilize the mp3 collection I have to provide me with a suitable selection of music or ambient sound to allow me to relax. My iPhone allows me to connect with family and friends through text messages and voice. And the examples can literally continue one and on.
I have heard it said for many different sources that technology has blunted mankind’s ability to embrace the Natural world around him (a generic qualifier here – I’m not excluding the ladies from this conversation). I have also seen from these sources that the only way to embrace the natural is to eschew the technological innovations that have made our living too comfortable. I live in Texas. While certainly nowhere near as hot as…say Phoenix, Arizona…its hot enough to be very difficult to deal with when the air conditioning systems are removed from the house or car. Not impossible, just very difficult. I am not sure I am ready to completely give that particular luxury up, though I certainly do not want to drag it along on a camping trip.
So how can I reconcile the two different worlds with one another? Again, I come back to the idea of balance. I do not think one has to eschew the innovations of technology to be a member of an earth-centered (or Nature-centered if you prefer) belief system. Yes, I agree that technology can be the cold, featureless, uninspiring aspect of Life that many SciFi/Fantasy writers and movies have portrayed it as – particularly if a balance is not sought by the individual. The natural is not that far outside one’s doorway. Yards, patio gardens, window-box planters…certainly not an ideal aspect of the Natural world, but it is certainly SOMETHING. I am not advocating this as a replacement for getting out into the Natural world around you. But its better than nothing. We all crave the Natural world around us. Look at places such as New York City, where many areas within a very large, very busy metro city are set aside for parks with dense tree cover. Its certainly not Glacier National Park in Montana or the Bighorn National Forest in Wyoming – but its something that is there for people to grasp a small feeling of the Natural – to let them forget their concrete world around them.
As I sit here, trying to contemplate an answer to that original question – I am not sure I have one. In fact, I do not see a real need to reconcile the two worlds. I would actively seek to keep one from intruding on the other though. There is no reason that I can see to plow under the forests that are just beyond the typically travelled roads. And while I like the idea of removing some buildings in a metro city area to plant more trees…I am not sure I can see a hardcore need for it. I do see areas where the world that encompasses technology needs to do a better job with the waste materials that are created from its various usages – I also see how the Natural world has adapted to combat some of those pollution issues on its own.
We humans are an adaptive lot. So is Nature. I see a lot of parallels between the Natural and the Technological worlds…there are certainly differences too. I do not think there is an area of reconciliation between the two on my part – just an acknowledgement that both can live side-by-side – physical, and within my own life. Two worlds, one me.