News and Tribune

May 19, 2014

CUMMINS: Searching for the simple life

Local columnist

— In my continuing search for the simple life, I made a wrong turn. In life, one must choose which road to take. Yogi Berra said that when you come to a fork in the road, “take it.” He was a Yankee catcher who tried keeping his life simple. When his team lost a game, he explained, “We made too many wrong mistakes.” He also said, “You can observe a lot by just watching.” And his observations led him to believe the future “ain’t what it used to be.”

It ain’t, which bothers me. When I was young the future looked bright. That was before the government decided what was best for us. When elected officials realized it was good to become close friends with the finance moguls, they let big bankers call the shots. Wouldn’t you know, the money supply began to gravitate to those who already had it. And now, you either have it or you don’t.

 Since the future ain’t here yet and the past is past, you can only live in the present, one day at a time. Last Saturday, two of my brilliant sons came into my home to help upgrade my life. It was a new box that would provide 35 additional sports channels for me and about 60 more movie channels for my wonderful wife, who deserves it. But she didn’t deserve the anguish involved while my sons tried hooking it up. Everything worked except the remote would not adjust the sound or turn the TV on or off. To the store for the latest remote, which had 63 buttons to push — I counted them. It’s the same model NASA will use to land on Mars.

 “Your TV is too old,” my eldest son said when it didn’t work. “No, I’m too old,” I said, “but I intend to live life permanently turned on, and it will be even better with the sound turned way down.”

Technology is where it all began, an entangled life and tech the master. Take email. Stamps are outrageously expensive. Email is free, so devote waking hours to answering them, and it saves trees. Toilet paper will eventually be replaced by a sanitary remote and a taser-type hand-held will zap germs and filth. Paper is important to me, or else my articles would be on a website, if I had one.  

The first social media gadget was a hand-cranked telephone that was much quicker than the paper postcard.  Think how slow life was back then. We had a phone and it was the neighborly thing to do to deliver messages to those without one. A 10-year-old boy walked down the road to announce, “Your daughter just had a baby boy, and they’re doing fine.” And they were fine and we were, too, back then. Forget back then; my future is in tech’s hands. I must believe it will coordinate my box with my TV, but I must remember not to get boxed in. It’s not that simple to get out.

Corporations are also facing another complex problem. Should they monitor their employees’ on-the-job social media activities? Somebody should monitor it, because that’s about all I see people do. I can’t get a word in edgewise to my loved ones. Can’t even tell them I love them unless it’s through one of the many ways to socialize, squinting at keys. I prefer word of mouth with the sound turned up.

Another thing is this “cloud” thing. It’s not the heavenly clouds where I’m hoping to go. When you break through those clouds with angels fluttering about, the streets are paved with gold. As I understand it, the data cloud stores everything about your life, which is a record of how busy-busy you are. The heavenly cloud stores what’s left of your soul, therefore we should protect it before tech zaps it.

 In addition to the material, there’s also the spiritual. Any idea where I can store my real treasures? How many boxes are stacked in your closets, garage, basement, attic, rental-storage unit and under your bed? How much of your digital life is stored in the humongous, dark data cloud? Imagine a second Noah flood, drowned by data bits. Other than things to dump, fix or buy, what is stored in your head? Does it runneth over like mine?

Poets understand more than politicians and the jittery public does. It will hurt the economy, but Robert Browning said, “Less is more.”

— Contact Terry Cummins at