Silence and Technology

Silence and Technology

Our neighbor is running a leaf blower as I begin writing this. The noise is distracting— or might I say, my annoyance of it distracts me! It reminds me of an incident earlier this last week when a patient pointed out the ongoing barking of a neighborhood dog, a sound I hadn’t noticed until then. Then we were both disturbed by it for the rest of his hour.

At a time I am working to have less noise of one kind or another in my life, I find myself particularly activated by leaf blowers, barking dogs —and the grinding sound of heavy equipment over the hill. That ongoing drone over this last year is almost unbearable. The meadow and forestland is being converted to vineyard despite the impact increased water usage is having on nearby families’ water supplies. I try to not let my annoyance escalate to hatred, and yet it is so easy to demonize those who are the source of these sounds and these actions.

It is so much more complicated than this, I am learning.

I love the pounding of rain on the roof; the cry of the redtail, even the clicking of my clock. High winds, though, disturb me. We have lost too many drought-weakened trees these last years, and each storm threatens to down another two or three. Our world is too noisy, too dry, too polluted, too overbuilt. Perhaps my annoyances are healthy warnings about these impingements on Nature, of which we— and I— are a part.

Perhaps demonizing the other is a kind of psychological defense which prevents me from facing the real pain of the situation: I am a part of this. Overbuilding is severely impacting our environment, and yet, my husband and I also built our home and our road to our home on this hillside. We are part of this overbuilding.

The leaf-blower has stopped and the sun comes out a little between storms. How to take responsibility for the damage we all are doing to our earth through our use of tools that supposedly make life easier? On our insistence—our feelings of entitlement— to take more than our earth can give?

In 1949 Carl Jung wrote in a letter to the students of Federal Polytechnic Institute in Zurich in response to their questions about the impact of technology on the human psyche. He said that historically the repetition of physical work, and the resultant monotony, offered a kind of semi-conscious condition that can also be ecstatic and bring meaning of life. While technological tasks are often rhythmic and monotonous, they seldom are experienced as meaningful, often setting man apart from his instinctive self. Jung suggested that man find balance, working half a day on these tasks and half a day on his own land where he can literally see the fruits of his labor. (p. 152-153, the Nature Writings of C. G. Jung, edited by Meredith Sabini).

A simple statement and yet, profound. Nature speaks when we enter into collaboration with her in growing a garden, walking her trails, learning her soils. We have created technologies and now we need to learn to live in balance with those technologies and with Nature, including the nature of our own psyches. It does not help to demonize the other, only keeps us from taking real, creative action.

(Still, for me, silence helps!)