I don’t do much state-of-the-art technology for myself. I bought my son a new set of wireless ear buds as an early Christmas present. He kindly bequeathed on me his old pair. He showed me how to store them in their charging case, and explained that the case itself would have to be plugged into the charger from time to time.
While watching him browse the latest models of wireless ear buds at the store (so many!), I reflected on how I had been meaning to get a Bluetooth speaker so that I could listen to Spotify at home without a headset. So we left the store with a Bluetooth speaker as well. My son rigged it up so that it connected to my phone, and explained that it would have to be plugged into the charger from time to time.
So now, the charger I keep on the kitchen counter has to rotate between my phone, the Petzl headlamp I use for my pre-dawn runs, my new little wireless earbud case, and this Bluetooth speaker. So far, so good.
I don’t really care about wireless ear buds. I’ve never found the wired ones irritating. However, it turns out they tuck pretty well under my hat for those cold weather runs. All of this has got me thinking about energy. My little family of 3 sustains its middle-class lifestyle by tapping into an enormous, elaborate, energy infrastructure that operates behind the scenes. It’s in the meeting of our devices and this infrastructure that our lifestyle is possible. So we plug in. We buy gas, we pay for electricity, we pay for natural gas, and in all these touches of buttons and flickings of switches, we get the first-world and probably delusionally false sense that we will always be able to get this energy any time we need it.
Have you ever stopped to think what would happen if this infrastructure stopped?
It’s just a thought experiment (at this point). Imagine: you can’t use your phone to call your kids and your spouse and find out where they are, if they are okay, and issue instructions on how to meet up. You can’t drive any farther than you already have gas in your tank, so you need to be prudent about your next steps. You can’t get heat, pay for the food at the store, or access any basic services at all. Presbyterian pastor David Williams imagines what would happen here in his tender and scary futuristic novel, When the English Fall. The question he grapples with is, would people of faith be able to preserve their Christian values in the mayhem and terror that would ensue? As I read it, I had to ask myself, how would I come out in such a scenario? Would my charity, my generosity, my hope, my kindness, my serenity hold up? Maybe. Equally possible not so much.
German philosopher Martin Heidegger coined a term for all this energy awaiting our plug-ins. He called it “standing reserve.” Standing reserve is the notion that the energy you need is standing ready for you to draw on it. The problem with the standing reserve model is that it is very easy for humans to turn themselves into standing reserve. One employee quits or is fired? No problem, there is a list of people who have submitted resumes for that position, a standing reserve. It’s a way of thinking about people that is primarily focused on plugging people into the energy infrastructure. I have been noticing it more and more.
Can I use this infrastructure as a metaphor? Call it to mind? Let it remind me of something much more important? It’s all about the way we interface with what we need to carry on. Jesus, sustain me. Source me. Shape my interface more and more to You. New Year’s resolution: every time I plug something into that silly cord on my counter, I will try to recall You to mind.
Claudia Hauer teaches at the college level, and loves watching young people turning into adults. She had an overwhelming conversion experience 5 years ago and is just learning to tell her faith story. She lives under the Rocky Mountains and loves to hike, run, and cook, and can usually be found with a book in her hands and a cup of coffee nearby.
Claudia – Food for thought, for sure. I smiled as I read about your son helping you with your new and improved gadgets. I, too, am thankful for children and grandchildren who are able to help me stay caught up – or semi-caught up. The line that resonated most with me was, “The question he grapples with is, would people of faith be able to preserve their Christian values in the mayhem and terror that would ensue?” When we’re placed in the heat, our true colors surface. I must ask myself, what are my true colors? And are they helpful or harmful when they surface? Thank you for writing and sharing this thoughtful piece. Blessings.
Claudia,,, I admit I didn’t know what “interface” meant when I opened your piece (I’ve heard the word but have always brushed past it with the assumption it’s for people who already know what it means and that is not me!), but am grateful that my first deep-ish dive into the definition is the metaphor you’ve provided.
PS–I will fess up preemptively and declare here and now that I’d be screwed if the infrastructure of reserve bottomed out. It’s terribly sad, but I think every part of me would flail before collapsing into utter hopelessness. I don’t even like running out of half-and-half. Teach me daily to “plug into You,” Jesus. How desperately I need You.
I love this prior comment about running out of half and half. I have Amazon delivering coffee and Splenda® to me so that I can survive my day-to-day. I remember when the boys had a day with low internet, many moons ago, and they weren’t able to use their wifi during OUR move to Colorado. We were all cross and snapping at each other; my rancher husband commented on how funny it was how we were just completely falling apart. I so get this article!
I believe I won’t be here when the anti-Christ rules, but I do think when the world as we know it (fully-interfaced) is gone there will certainly be mayhem and terror. I, too, am way too plugged in. I can remember when I had nothing “smart” in my world and functioned just fine; no more. There are some people in the world who can go no longer than the next meal without a fully functional interface; that is the foundation of the mayhem and terror that would ensue. I, as many, would like to believe I would turn to my faith and remain calm while putting Plan B into action. I’ve never been tested; I’m not sure. I do believe in the big plan, that God is fully in control, and His plan for me is perfect. I would hope my inner and outer self would be loudly reminding myself of this if mayhem and terror show up.
Thank you for sharing your metaphor. I found it thought provoking and, as a result, will strive to be more cognizant of the truth: Jesus is the source and resolution.