On Friday Mariner’s household lost its connection to the outside world – that is, internet and landline service. We tried several times to reboot the router, pulled out old cheap indoor antennae to no avail and finally called our telephone company. They will have a service person out Monday at the earliest. All we have is our flip cell phones.

It is silent in the house, especially in the evening. No television, no facetime, no internet, no news, no 1970s game shows, no documentaries, no British mysteries, no noise at all. This reinforces mariner’s opinion that an outside antenna is required to bring the rest of the world to rural Iowa – to say nothing about poor internet access generally.

In its place, there is NPR, an overloaded In-Box to clean out, our collection of TV shows on DVD, hundreds of musical CDs, some meaningful subject presentations and of course books and magazines. We shall survive but what is significant is the silence. A good example is dinnertime. Usually we watch a news program or eat around a facetime call. These past nights all mariner and his wife had was to talk to one another! Not that that is bad; it was nice. But silence sat at the dinner table, too.

The daytime is not affected much; mariner and his wife have many distractions that don’t involve watching television. Email maintenance is an early morning or very late evening chore so while email is missed, silence and isolation aren’t part of the experience.

Mariner thinks about the millions of internet users who have incorporated social media as the primary social interaction in their lives. How isolated they would feel in our circumstance. Obviously, telecommunications, satellites, internet and innumerable electronic devices have become an integral part of the human experience; just as obvious is the human dependency. We must do a better job managing electronic influences that take advantage of our dependency.

Another thought that crossed mariner’s mind is how very large social awareness is today. One can delve into any country, any subject, any political event, any culture and anyone around the world who is willing to share time online. One has at hand an unending encyclopedia covering every subject in great detail, even immediate news headlines around the world.

Before World War I, and especially before automobiles, a person’s reality was very small. If a person wasn’t present, there was no awareness. Reality stopped at hands-on. Imagine living a lifestyle, city or rural, that consisted totally of first-hand awareness, the same day after day, year after year. Was that easier and more manageable or is full awareness a tool that improves our mental comfort and eases our sense of security?

Ancient Mariner

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