Friday, May 11, 2012


After Surviving the Apocalypse in the Suburbs: The Thrivalist's Guide to Life Without Oil was published, I was accused of being a luddite. I will admit my ignorance. I didn't even know what that was and had to look it up ... and then, I had to laugh, outloud ... tears streaming, jaws aching, belly laugh. I'm married to an electrical engineer! I couldn't be further from a luddite if I dug a hole to live in.

It is true. There are things - many, many, many things - that I prefer to do by hand. There are power tools (in particular, sharp ones) that I don't enjoy wielding, and I would prefer to do it the slow way rather than the fuel-sucking way.

But contrary to criticism, I don't think that makes me a luddite. Rather, I believe it means that I make conscious, thoughtful choices, about things on which I am willing to expend what little fuel we have left. Drying clothes, splitting wood, kneading bread - those are things that I feel are better accomplished in different ways. Other people would choose other things, and that's fine. This is about me.

It's also a matter of practicality and the unfortunate fact of our modern lives - which is that we are just so busy. Deus Ex Machina enjoys splitting wood by hand, a little at a time over the course of the spring, summer and fall, rather than trying to find a free weekend when he can exhaust himself using a woodsplitter to split the (minimum) SIX cords of wood we'll need for the winter. Isn't it easier to just take an hour here and an hour there over the course of several months to split and stack what we need? Isn't that how our ancestors did it - a little at a time?

And that's how we approach a lot of the things we do - little increments. The fact of our lives is that we do live in this modern world, in the suburbs, which means there are certain aspects of our lives that are just like everyone else. Both Deus Ex Machina and I still have jobs we do for money, because we still need to earn some sort of income - that is, until we can take our house as far off the grid as we can get it ... and like splitting wood, that's being accomplished a little at a time.

Part of accomplishing our move off-grid entails a whittling down of stuff - in particular things that use a lot of fuel. So, we got rid of the television/DVD/VCR, and, instead, when someone in our house wants to watch a video or a television show, we do so on the computer ... and we have several of those, believe it or not. Making that transition saved a lot on the number of kilowatt hours we were using. All five of our laptop computers, combined, use less electricity than our television used.

For us, it's not a matter of jettisoning technology. It's never been about that. But it is about whittling down our consumption, and about clearing out some of the clutter, which makes my admitting that we just bought a new toy seem contradictory.

The toy is a little USB cassette tape player/recorder.

I was slow to convert to CDs. I had a cassette player, and it still worked. I thought, why replace it with a costly piece of equipment, and then, have to replace all of the cassettes so that I could still have the music I'd grown to love? It just seemed like a waste of what little money I had to spend on such things. And then, there was the fact that as cassettes were being phased out, they started being offered at ridiculously cheap prices. In the end, it was the cheap me who won out, and while I haven't been buying cassettes for a long time (Deus Ex Machina discouraged it ... although we never have had a CD player to equal the cassette player ... ;).

My new USB cassette player allows me to play cassettes over my computer, but it also allows me to record that music to digital format, which means I can put it on an iPod or whatever.

Perhaps, the luddite in me, prefers the mechanics of a cassette player, but I also appreciate having this music neatly stored on the computer, instead of having dozens upon dozens of dust-collecting cassette tapes lying around the house.

I'll spend a few weeks doing the conversion. We'll giveaway the cassette player (that still works, by the way), donate the cassettes, and clean out the corner where they all lived.

And, probably, I'll put a bookshelf there to hold the books that keep piling up around the house. And, no, a digital reader isn't something I've considered as an alterative to books.

1 comment:

  1. I can't see the sense in a digital reader either. I love the feel and smell of books, it imbues something in me that digital books cannot.

    I'd love to convert my old vinyl to digital, esp. those old Library of Congress Civilian Conservation Corps records they were never digitized for CD's.