Off The Grid

The Neo-Luddite

The man's eyes open, unfocused and bleary; his body shivering in the early morning darkness. Briefly, he wrestles with the decision of whether to stay in bed, or shuffle to the closet for an extra blanket. His dog stirs as he moves him out of the way in order to swing his legs out from under the covers and shuffle over to the stove to stoke the fire.

He peeks outside. An inch of snow is caked against the window pane and whiteness covers the terrain surrounding his meager cabin. The air is bone-chilling. He climbs back into his bed, pulls the covers tightly under his chin and tries to psyche himself into imagining the warmth of the sun on his skin. It isn't working.

In the distance, he hears the sound of a train whistle, and bristles. The stifling pressure of progress encroaches on his personal space. Like a grizzly, he needs space. Space to hunt, to explore, to test his strength, courage and personal resilience.

As a Neo-Luddite, he believes that the industrial revolution, and specifically technology and its industrialized uses, is having a profoundly negative social, ethical and psychological impact on humanity. And he is determined to stop it.

So he lives off the grid. A modern-day Thoreau. With an edge.

The Grid

Occasionally, new terms of art creep into our modern vocabulary. I remember years ago when the movie The Net came out. There was this sense that Big Brother was near. I've read George Orwell's novel 1984 . I suppose that movie does bear some similarity, but Orwell's book, written right after World War II was really about the perils of dictator-led fascism. At that time, people were not savvy to the influence of propaganda, and were easily led to follow Naziism. One could theorize that lamb mentality is just as pervasive today, but I'm hopeful that is not the case.

So what is "The Grid"? It carries many meanings, both denotative: electrical grid, grid planning for cities, an information organizing scheme. And the connotative: the system, the "man", social media, the information age, society, etc. For example, Unabomber Ted Kaczynsky (a Neo-Luddite) was against the grid. There was an episode of The Outer Limits (a more modern Twilight Zone) called "The Grid". The Grid also represents a graphic design system, and the next generation of online "cloud" technology.

By definition, if you're reading this, you're on The Grid: the Internet, social media, technology, the electronic front line.

So, is that bad?

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

"To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment." ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

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Henry David Thoreau
Henry David Thoreau
Replica of Thoreau's cabin at Walden Pond
Replica of Thoreau's cabin at Walden Pond

Transcendentalism

In 1845, Henry David Thoreau embarked on a project to live frugally on land owned by his friend and mentor, Ralph Waldo Emerson (author of Self Reliance , and other works), to practice their philosophical movement called Transcendentalism , which espoused that society and its institutions - notably political and religious - corrupted individuality. The result of that two year project was his book Walden , or Life in the Woods .

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"I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived." ~ Henry David Thoreau

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I use Thoreau's work as a point of reference because it is still commonly known today, but by no means is it the only work. Threads of transcendentalism exist in different facets today, though its origins were as an offshoot of New England Congregationalists (more commonly known as Unitarians) as an intellectual and perceived authority over matters in the early 1800s (the Congregationalists had separated from the puritanical orthodox Calvinists, to provide some context). Today, we tend to group together major religious and philosophical movements into sweeping, broad categories, but truly each had their unique social motivations.

In any event, the point is that this was a very formative time in the evolution of American thought, and the sense of rugged individualism that continued through the 19th century. There was this vast, broad land and the desire to conquer it through manifest destiny. Though certainly not intertwined, it provides some context to an understanding of the "against the grid" mentality that is thoroughly embedded into western culture. Not only do we have this attraction to institutions and group mentality, we also have a revulsion to them, because they detract from individuality.

Unplugged

Today, it's hard to imagine living without even a fraction of the technology and industrialization we find ourselves plugged into. We love it. We hate it. It's our distraction, and our connection.

We consider someone not on Facebook as being off the grid, but really they are not. They're just less psychologically co-dependent on it than the rest of us. I consider social media neither good nor bad; it's just an extension of our modern desire to push the outer edges of technological possibilities. After all, is it positive or negative we put a man on the moon? Is it good or bad that we have a Large Hadron Collider at CERN near Lake Geneva, which which scientists hope to search for the Higgs boson particle, thus developing an understanding how mass is acquired. Do we need to know this, or should we just sit in our caves and hunt bison with a big rock and human ingenuity?

It's an interesting postulation about us as a human race. We are all the things we accuse ourselves of being, both positive and negative.

Regardless of your feelings about it, we clearly are continually pushing forward in technological advancements. Whenever there's a new Act of God, whether a hurricane, an earthquake or tsunami, we're reminded of our fragility, and our need to individually find our strength and grounding. Our own reliance on ourselves as ruggedly capable thinking, discerning, intelligent souls.

And that's a beautiful thing.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

"Only a few in each generation will grasp and achieve the full reality of man's proper stature - and that the rest will betray it." ~ Ayn Rand

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Comments 25 comments

JayeWisdom profile image

JayeWisdom 4 years ago from Deep South, USA

Hi, gerg....Good to see you back again on HP with this fascinating article exploring the love-hate relationships we contemporary humans have with high technology. Voted Up+++

Jaye


Gerg profile image

Gerg 4 years ago from California Author

Thanks Jaye! I'm sure my statistical control group is a little slanted due to it being written in an online HP forum... ;-)


bravewarrior profile image

bravewarrior 4 years ago from Central Florida

Nice, Greg. By the way, where have you been?

I agree that technology has changed things and not necessarily for the good. I for one, am not active on Facebook. I don't have the time, nor the desire. I feel it is slowly eradicating human interaction. Others will argue the point, I know.

Also, with the emergence of the internet, although it offers more opportunity for the writer, it has diminished his worth. When I wrote copy for a living in the 80's, I earned $50/hour as a freelance writer. Today you are paid $2/per 500 word article, $3 if you're lucky. I don't know about the rest, but it takes me 1 1/2 hours to produce a quality 500 word article. Between the research and the think breaks, editing, that's how long it takes me. So, I've been reduced to earning $75 for a 500 word piece, to $2.

Additionally, today there's such a thing as self publishing. That means you pay an entitity $1,000+ to publish your works. How many .99 Amazon books do you need to sell in order to see a return on your investment? What happened to the publishing houses who actually paid authors handsomely for their works?

Technology is making life easier for many, in fact most. At the same time it is diminishing our worth as creative writers.


Gerg profile image

Gerg 4 years ago from California Author

Hi bravewarrior - I've been summering, I guess! Still warm here in sunny CA, but honestly, I'm more of a Hubpages tortoise than a hare ...

You make a valid point. I researched a number of writing jobs that paid nothing, so I saw them mostly going to people who perhaps lived in countries where that $2 meant something. I finally acquiesced to just writing for the sheer enjoyment of it - like drinking a good scotch...

This topic actually brings forth a lot of perspectives, so I'm actually very interested in seeing where the comment thread goes - perhaps I should have made it a forum topic instead.

I really appreciate your perspective, BW; thanks!

Greg


bravewarrior profile image

bravewarrior 4 years ago from Central Florida

You're in CA? Do you no longer live in the Phillipines, Greg? Or did you spend the summer stateside?

As far as the low pay, it's universal in the cyber market. It's worth getting your name out there and becoming a respected writer to your clients. I have two that send me new assignments each time I complete one. I've also, just today, been approached by two new prospective clients based on what they've read in my profile on Freelancer.com without having to place a bid on their project(s).

Unfortunately, this is the way of today's world. However, it pays better and sooner than HP; you just don't have the total freedom as to what you write.

It is, however, a stepping stone. If you don't take the first step, you can't expect to reach your dream!


Gerg profile image

Gerg 4 years ago from California Author

I'm not sure whether you're being snarky or serious (the perils of online writing...), I've never even been to the Phillipines!

I've thought of setting up a freelancer.com profile, but haven't. My time is just a bit too zapped with work and kids, I guess. I'm glad to hear you're landing some gigs though!


bravewarrior profile image

bravewarrior 4 years ago from Central Florida

I'm obviously suffering from oldtimer's disease! Oh - wait - nevermind. I'm thinking of another hubber I've not seen lately. He was born in the states but now lives in the Phillipines. Sorry! Did you enjoy the ficticious journey? ha ha.

Greg, give it a shot. I'm upfront in my profile. I let prospective employers know I only have a few hours thru the week and weekends in which to deliver, that I work full time. It can't hurt!

I've been with HP for a year now and still haven't made my proverbial $50 in order to warrant a paycheck. In two months, I've made $117 thru freelancer.com and get paid right away. The only advice I will offer, and I learned this the hard way, is freelancer takes a fee of $5 or 10%, whichever is greater each time you accept an assignment. On top of that, they charge $1 to transfer payment to PayPal or $2 to transfer to checking. What I've done with my clients, once they offer me more work is to work outside freelancer.com. They deposit directly to PayPal and it costs nothing for me to transfer to checking.


Gerg profile image

Gerg 4 years ago from California Author

I'll check it out ... as soon as finish hunting bunnies and chopping wood! ;-0


Jackwms profile image

Jackwms 4 years ago

I have friends who live off the grid, but, at my age, I want some conveniences. I don't want or need much, but do want to be somewhat comfortable in these last few years. I've had dreams of living like these friends, without conveniences and without having to depend on the public system for food and conveniences, but it's just too much trouble.

Anyway, good hub Greg. Something to think about.


Nellieanna profile image

Nellieanna 4 years ago from TEXAS

Oh, Greg - this opens a case of cans of worms, doesn't it? Your treatment of it is one of the best food-for-thought hubs I've read in quite awhile! Thinking of serious opposition to progress, which aims at eliminating whatever current new progressive inventions or practices are destroying the purity of primitive earth and mankind is an exercise in futility, really. Where does one draw the line?

There's probably no moment since mankind came forth that's been devoid of inventions and efforts to alter the unspoiled earth - - unspoiled if one doesn't view the earthquakes and volcanic action as spoiling the way it was before that.

I'm sure my parents experienced what had to feel like close to completely off the grid when they camped across the untouched wilderness of southwest Texas in the 20s in tents to drill water wells; - - but, heck, they had a Model T drilling rig and tents are modern inventions.

Change is the cornerstone and building block of life - whether life of the stuff of the universe and our little corner of it or of our own blood flow and neuron activity, not to mention reproductivity. A static condition just isn't what life IS, is it?


JayeWisdom profile image

JayeWisdom 4 years ago from Deep South, USA

You asked: "Is it good or bad that we have a Large Hadron Collider at CERN near Lake Geneva, which which scientists hope to search for the Higgs boson particle, thus developing an understanding how mass is acquired. Do we need to know this....?"

I'm not assured it has a practical application for scientists to learn how mass is acquired, but their method of doing so is outrageously expensive, and this country cannot afford it at this time in our history.

One of the biggest drains on the U.S. budget is for NASA's Mars exploration program. It's been costing millions and millions for about 14 years. Now, they have a mobile camera zooming around on the planet for the purpose of solving a "geological puzzle." I don't think solving that little puzzle for no good purpose justifies continuing to pour U.S. tax dollars into a program photographing a hostile planet that cannot sustain life when the U.S. budget needs to be balanced. Budget cuts for necessary programs should not be necessary in order to fund NASA's playthings.

If the U.S. didn't have catastrophic debt...unacceptably high unemployment because all the jobs are being "off-shored" so big corporations won't have to pay decent wages and benefits ...homeless people in every city and town...infighting among politicians about keeping Social Security and Medicare for a population that is aging rapidly (all those Baby Boomers coming right behind those of us who are a few years older), failing infrastructure all over the U.S. (I could go on, but I'm probably boring you.)

I'm not against cutting-edge technology if it has practical applications that can be used either by or to help most people. I do think the leaders of this country (and those of other countries at the "world power" level) should establish priorities and fund only those projects which create the most common good. (That would probably eliminate the Large Hadron Collider--perhaps it could be melted down for scrap? It would definitely end the Mars photo-taking expedition.)

At any rate, I would not want to give up everything (particularly running hot and cold water or air conditioning) to go and live in a hut and observe nature "off the grid." I'm too old and worn out to rough it at this stage of my life. If I were much younger and healthier, perhaps....I have a lot of respect for anyone who has the determination and strength to do it.

As it is, I do without a lot of things most people have and take for granted so that I can afford to pay for other things I consider a higher priority. That, in the final analysis, is what I think everyone must do on a personal basis--prioritize what he or she considers most important and let the rest go. Life can be simplified, and I think that's a good thing. Just don't take away my computer and broadband ISP!

Jaye

P.S. Sorry I climbed up on my soapbox, but I do sometimes get passionate about issues. Any connection--even remote--may bring out the urge to pontificate. I didn't mean to highjack your excellent hub.


Gerg profile image

Gerg 4 years ago from California Author

Jackwms, Nellieanna, Jayewisdom: It is a provocative topic, isn't it? That's why I wrote it - it brings out a host of thoughts about what we do, what we fund, where we're headed, where we've been.

Thank you all for taking the time to pontificate - it's great, and what HP comments are for! I appreciate your intelligence and wisdom...

G


Jackwms profile image

Jackwms 4 years ago

Greg, my previous comment was fairly brief, as is this one. But, I just wanted to say that I agree with every word in Jayewisdom's post. That really says it all.


Gerg profile image

Gerg 4 years ago from California Author

Yes, although I should mention CERN is in Switzerland! I have more of a broader-based perspective on infrastructure and exploration of alternative methods of stimulating the economy, which is why I continue to say I'm "decline-to-state", and not Democrat or Republican. Even FDR with all the programs to shore up the country after the Depression invested in infrastructure. There is a perspective-stretching element to space exploration and science that transcends today's more temporal needs, so I don't consider that a waste. Certainly, it demands some discernment when it comes to government spending, but it's not as though dollar A (space) can simply be put into Pot B (homeless) and that'll fix our social woes. I'm a high-level bureaucrat - I know these problems are far more complex than a quick-fix argument. But I do understand the perspective about what's truly important, and agree that perspective has to be factored into high-level decision making. I also understand that we're ultimately responsible for ourselves, so too much focus on what the government should be doing detracts from our individual input, and feel more energy should be put toward the latter than our current sociological bent.


Nellieanna profile image

Nellieanna 4 years ago from TEXAS

And it continues to be interesting and valuable, including the comments!


Gerg profile image

Gerg 4 years ago from California Author

That's why HP is better than Facebook - not as many things going on, but deeper, more thoughtful people and comments on it! ;-)


Nellieanna profile image

Nellieanna 4 years ago from TEXAS

I agree wholeheartedly. I became a FB member when it was just an infant struggling for members; and I'm still on it. Have never been a big participant and find the 'advances' stifling, confusing and all the things I was so happy HP was NOT! I stay mostly because it's one place I can always see my kids & their kids and their kids up north and hear about their activities. Isn't that pitiful? :-)


Gerg profile image

Gerg 4 years ago from California Author

Not at all - that's the redeeming value of FB. I look it like any new thing that looks shiny and interesting at first, until you see the good and bads that it brings. Once you understand them, we don't need to reject it outright, but just use it for its useful purpose. And sharing family photos is definitely one of them!


arb profile image

arb 4 years ago from oregon

Sometimes I read something intended as a simple question, something meant to invite a little speculation, perhaps to tease the brain to break the monotony of not thinking and tiring us. It is the simple questions, however that capture my imagination and refuse the standard quick response. Were Thoreau or Emerson ever really off the grid in their day or did they simply pretend to be? Is anyone ever completely off the grid or do they simply use it to create some facsimile and give pretention that they escape? Such contemplation has been stirred by my entanglement with the grid. Perhaps I will take a walk in the woods and rely on a more prehistoric grid. I wonder what grid the neanderthal tried to escape? Perhaps he thought fire or the wheel would be the ruin of us all. Perhaps he was right!


Gerg profile image

Gerg 4 years ago from California Author

You make very valid points, arb. And in fact, Thoreau's cabin was only a couple of miles from town, and he had supplies regularly - unlike the true survivalist who relies only on his cunning and hunting skills. Being completely off the grid is a definite challenge. I become more aware of it when I remember being able to clearly see the outline of the Milky Way galaxy in the sky at night - now I find myself pleasantly surprised when, far off in some remote Southwest desert, I see it again, like an old friend.

And that's exactly why I wrote this - as something to provoke thought. I enjoy technology too much to condemn it - I'm ON it, right now!

As always, arb, I enjoy your mind and thought processes.


Nellieanna profile image

Nellieanna 4 years ago from TEXAS

My reference to its being pitiful was the underlying fact that my kids prefer to 'talk' and relate to everyone (including each other) on FB more than in more personal ways to make and keep contact. I make sure to sign m contact with them as "Granny Annie" or I'd be just another Facebook 'Friend'! ;-)

It's alarming, as well, the KINDS of things they divulge on there! Stuff that kids used to only put in locked diaries hidden from anyone's prying eyes, they post right out there for all the world to see (even parents and great-grandmas)!


JayeWisdom profile image

JayeWisdom 4 years ago from Deep South, USA

You made a valid point, gerb, in reminding me that the CERN collider is not owned (nor was it developed) by the U.S. government, nor do any American tax dollars fund it. It's the achievement of the European Organization for Nuclear Research, though the U.S. has a small "observer" role on the CERN council.

An American lab did build the former highest-energy particle accelerator, but its development was the result of collaboration between scientists from the U.S. and around the world. That collider was shut down last year.

Blame it on my creative mind, gerg, but I've never taken a strong enough interest in physics to pay more than cursory attention to details about these projects. I'm sure it's important in the overall scheme of things--especially to those who want to replicate "the Big Bang." I'm just glad American taxpayers aren't picking up the tab.

JAYE


Gerg profile image

Gerg 4 years ago from California Author

Nellieanna - I agree, and from the positive side, FB allows me to have a sense of what my kids are up to with their friends that I otherwise wouldn't have known!

Jaye - your points are well-taken regardless of the location of CERN. The funny thing is that I wasn't even aware of it until I read Dan Brown's Angels and Demons! As a system, we do have the responsibility to make intelligent decisions, just as we do as individuals.

Thank you both for your wise perspectives!

G


shiningirisheyes profile image

shiningirisheyes 4 years ago from Upstate, New York

Fantastic article Gerg.

And I guess I would be considered the percentage of the population who is somewhat less "psychologically co-dependent" although here I am on Hub Pages. I have never "twitted" nor am I on Facebook. My cell phone is for emergency use only and I have never sent a text message. Not to say I won't break down and join in someday.

I am also one of the many who would probably crumble without "the grid".

Great write my friend


Gerg profile image

Gerg 4 years ago from California Author

Thank you, shiningirisheyes! Of course, no one can read or comment on this without a little bit of "guilty as charged", but that's also part of what makes the concept interesting. You're right, it is an issue of being aware of that "dependency" on these things. I know I could certainly do better - maybe another hike by the sea... ;-)

I appreciate your comment.

G

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