Electricity! The Wonder of the Age!

Mike Flynn finds this charming bit of Paleofuture Gee Whizzery from 1919.

We chuckle, but the thing is electricity and the things we can make it do for us really is wonderful and amazing. Things like this make me look around the room and realize how new, clever, fragile and *wonderful* all these devices are. Imagine! Harnessing lightning so I can write something on this laptop–this amazing laptop–and with the push of a button be able to communicate with people from Ireland to New Zealand. The only thing that makes it humdrum is our dullness. The wonder is still there.

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  • And yet, at the risk of sounding negative and ungrateful for God’s gifts, I wonder if technology has not taken away more wonder than it has given. As C.S. Lewis writes in Surprised by Joy:

    “”I number it among my blessings that my father had no car, while yet most of my friends had, and sometimes took me for a drive. This meant that all these distant objects could be visited just enough to clothe them with memories and not impossible desires, while yet they remained ordinarily as inaccessible as the Moon. The deadly power of rushing about wherever I pleased had not been given me. I measure distances by the standard of man, man walking on his two feet, not by the standard of the internal combustion engine. I had not been allowed to deflower the very idea of distance; in return I possessed “infinite riches” in what would have been to motorists “a little room.” The truest and most horrible claim made for modern transport is that it “annihilates space.” It does. It annihilates one of the most glorious gifts we have been given. It is a vile inflation which lowers the value of distance, so that a modern boy travels a hundred miles with less sense of liberation and pilgrimage and adventure than his grandfather got from traveling ten. Of course if a man hates space and wants it to be annihilated, that is another matter. Why not creep into his coffin at once? There is little enough space there.”

    (Yes, I acknowledge the irony of me typing this on a computer from across the Atlantic ocean!)

    • Hezekiah Garrett

      There’s also the anticipation of waiting for a performance of some piece of complex music, and the satisfaction of performing some simple piece alone or with one’s friends and family. Video may have killed the radio star, but radio and phonograph killed something in the Human spirit.

      Usually, when I point this out, the objection is made that without these occurrences, I wouldn’t know Bob Dylan existed. And I am a huge Bob Dylan fan. But I can honestly say I would trade every song in his repetoire to be surrounded by people who can join in, with voice and instrument, on “Three Blind Mice” and “Camptown Races”. I get together with musicians regularly, but they are musicians. I wish the guy on the truck with me knew how to sing or play a harmonica. I wish the everyday people who surround me could put together music. But most can’t, and it wasn’t always so.

      • The lack of knowledge is a choice. Choose differently. Convince others to as well.

        • Hezekiah Garrett

          I play 6 instruments halfway well. I make instruments. I’ve been known to give away banjos and ukulele and the like. I teach struggling guitar beginners a chop or two when I get the chance. I’ve turned a couple of souls onto the music in their heart, which has been a huge gift from God for me and them.

          But the fresh water in my tanks can’t change the salinity of the ocean washing over my bow, man! My life is fine, I feel sorry for the millions of folks for whom music is something provided by professionals and corporations, instead of the expression of the longings of a human heart facing the darkness.

  • Ye Olde Statistician

    Came across this quote:
    “Civilizations fall because people bitch and complain when the electricity is off for fifteen minutes, and never give a thought to the fact that it has been on for their entire lives.” –Bill Whittle

  • Jmac

    “And yet, at the risk of sounding negative and ungrateful for God’s gifts, I wonder if technology has not taken away more wonder than it has given.”

    I guarantee you that’s just the public’s general ignorance about technology speaking. As an electrical engineering major, I spend a good chunk of my life staring at tiny pieces of silicon and going “cooooooooool…”