Costs and Connections

There are those rare moments in life when you sense that you are connected; you feel whole and in touch with everything around you. This perception can also reach to other places and other times. All of your senses seem so much more alive, and your mind can be preeminently present. For me recently, I had the great fortune to experience one of those moments. It came at the great cost of a transistor radio (yes, they still exist), a glass of scotch, and a view of a mountain.

While listening to the Celtic music broadcast on the local public radio station, I enjoyed a taste or two of the “water of life” distilled on Scotland’s North Sea coast as Little North Mountain loomed in the distance, its bluish-green covering of trees set against the grey sky. The radio was one of those small, handheld AM/FM models with a single speaker, powered by a 9-volt battery. It is remarkable that these simple elements could combine to take me, at least for awhile, back to the lands of my ancestors and to bring me in touch with life.   The music might range from the joy of dance to the lament of those lost, yet it all strikes a chord. The combination of melodic harmonious tones – the hallmark of the sound of my people – has a literal effect as the hair on the back of my neck stands when I hear those sounds. Memories of time I have spent in those lands replay in the mind. One thinks back on the spirit in the air of people past, of battles fought, of lives lived. There is wonder about the deeds of people whose remembrance is now lost to time. Were they there at Culloden Moor? What was it like to live there in the time before the countryside was cleared of people by the landlords and the industrial revolution? It was not so long ago that they lived closer to nature, according to the seasons or tides, and directly depended on the earth for survival.

But times change. The late-19th and all of the 20th centuries quickly began transforming mankind into something that now is so different. We have commoditized the individual, replaceable so as to fill a place in an organization, to be a part of the machine or to service the system that makes the machine possible. We do this so that we can produce more things and more services for more people, cheaper. Because, we are told, our lives are only complete if we have the latest device, the largest screen, the most opportunities for entertainment and distraction. Add to that the large house we need to fit all of those things. To afford the house you need the job as a cog in the machine or a functionary of the system, so that the circle may be unbroken. How else can we be happy and be fulfilled?

I don’t know. I am not against using advances to cure the sick and make life healthier. But instead of screens and channels and devices that lead to idle stagnation, and consumerist sensations that leave one empty from the purchasing hangover and further in debt, I am beginning to think that I’m okay with the transistor radio, the glass of scotch, the trees and mountains around me, and listening to the music of my ancestors. Those things do not cost so much. But the price of our system of distractions seems too much to pay.

The Steward of Keeferton