News and Tribune


March 25, 2013

CUMMINS: The search for what matters


Man and woman got by on the essentials until man’s wife went on-sale shopping. When man advanced from the cave to a three-car garage attached to a four-bathroom house, he filled it with assorted useless accessories. While he crammed his property to overflow, his mind became preoccupied with material objects, which drained his spiritual dimension. Where to put this latest thing puzzled him, until he put it out on his lawn, which attracted neighbors he hadn’t seen in years. Yard sales are a means of transferring stuff around in a vicious recycling process. There were situations when his wife purchased a thrice pre-owned vase for 50 cents, which helped preserve the family nest egg. Sharp entrepreneurs observed this stuff all over yards on Saturdays and built rental storage units, which quickly filled with stuff you forgot you had. When your storage unit overflowed, you called a junk dealer driving a junky truck, and he disposed of the things you argued with your wife about, as she reminded you, “We might need this someday.” 

Imagine stuffing your family and belongings in a covered wagon, traveling three months to go west young man. Years later, a covered-wagon descendent built Silicon Valley, and that’s why today quality time with your family is when each member is logged on to something other than you. As material objects — machines, devices and gadgets — made from a conglomeration of particles squeezed the inside of your house, you gasped for air. 

In the 1950s, an early artificial-intelligence expert invented a “useless” machine. It was a box with a lid, and when you turned it on, the lid opened, a lever popped out and turned it off. That was it. This machine was the forerunner to the turn on to other complicated gadgets, which are simple to the younger generation, who were born with a pointer and clicker in their hand. When machines and electronic devices went digital and wireless, robots eliminated hard and soft labor. Without a job, you lived on yard sales.

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