This week, with plenty of warning, our whole suburb had the electricity cut for the entire day. For weeks now, during our daily dog walk, I have been noticing the new wooden electrical poles laying next to the very slanted and wonky ones on the semi-main road in my suburb. I absolutely love cranes and big building equipment, so I was looking forward to this day of work taking place just near my house. I was just a bit excited!
As I knew the power was going to be cut, I made sure that I had not planned anything on that day that needed me to use electricity. I made sure we had had our warm showers the night before, that mobile phones were charged, that my car was on the other side of the remote control garage door and that the fridge was stocked with food/meals that did not need to be heated up. Luckily it was a cool day so none of our food in the fridge (or us without fans and air conditioners) perished.
This one day made me reflect on a lot. I realised that we do not appreciate just how much we need and use electricity when it is in rich supply. How much we actually take it for granted. For example, when I go to turn on a lamp or light, work on my computer, use the Internet (yes, I still have ADSL), fill a bath with hot water, heat food up in the microwave, cook a meal on the stove or in the oven, speak on my phone, sit in a cool air-conditioned room, turn a fan on, notice my daughter on her iPad, watch TV or just look at the digital clock on the cooker… do I actually appreciate the ease and gift electricity offers all of us and supports us with in our daily lives? And then I ask – how much do we use electricity for what we need it for and how much do we completely misuse it and overuse it excessively to check-out in life? Lots came up to notice and I also got to appreciate (apart from how lovingly organised I am) how my family and I now live together in the world today, just from having the electricity cut for one day.
On this day my daughter and I had a lovely day and in a sense, it wasn’t too difficult for us because for a while now our family watches TV rarely, we are on computers to do purposeful work and my daughter has a 15 minute iPad limit for games each day. So the difficulty of not having the technology as a distraction or gap filler was not there for us as such and this was amazing in itself to appreciate. We as a family are quite comfortable now to hang out, chat, do little projects together and interact without the distraction or noise of technology in the background.
However, after talking to a few people, including kids, it was interesting to feel how much we as a society have come to rely on the distraction of technology. And a part of me already knew this as I once informally surveyed groups of 5-6 year old children, asking how many of them had either TV, iPad, x-box etc in their bedrooms, and more than 60% of them put their hands up. So I knew there was a reliance on technology and that it is often used as a babysitting tool. But then, when there is a reliance on something, what happens when it is taken away? We are of course left to feel how much we rely on it.
So how did people cope and what did they do on our no electricity day?
Some people needed to take their kids out of the house completely to do an outdoor activity while others who stayed home felt the loss of the distraction and false safety that their gadgets provided. One pre-teen in particular shared that they felt a loss, almost like a friend or family member had gone and there was also an anxious feeling, not being able to access the uncharged phone. This sharing was quite a huge one and an indictment of our society and of where our young are at today and what part we, all of us as adults, have played in this ‘reliant on technology’ era that our young are growing up in.
So what exactly did my daughter and I do on this day and more importantly, what magic did I get to witness simply because there was no technology around?
First we took our dogs for a walk together, practising our new training methods, which are working a treat. Our walk went around quite a bit of our suburb so I got to witness the activity in the ‘hood’. I got to walk past the amazing work the electrical people were doing and see the fabulous cranes and other gadgets they used. It really is amazing to see and appreciate the teamwork that takes place on such a vast project from the men who keep the pedestrians safe, the ones who guide the traffic, to the groups of people communicating and working together to take down and replace these huge wooden poles, making sure all the wires are dealt with correctly and everyone is safe.
When we came home we had a bite to eat together and chatted for a bit. We got ready for the day. Then we did a little project together. We painted a little wooden dove mobile that my daughter got for Christmas. We designed detailed patterns and she directed me to how she would like it to look – what colours and designs to use. I got to work side by side with my daughter while I listened to her humming along beautifully. I got to listen to her cute stories and appreciate her lovely way of communicating. I love the detail in her words and it is so great to feel a child comfortable and fully expressing themselves. There were moments with a feeling of pure stillness, even though we were working and moving… many magical moments to appreciate. Then we chilled for a while, we had lunch, I had a little nap while she cleaned out her bedroom drawers and rearranged a few things. So all in all, a fabulous day that she said was only a little bit hard without electricity and technology.
How much are we really missing out on because of our overuse and excessiveness in technology? How many moments with our children do we let slip through our fingertips and most importantly, what kind of future adults are we creating when some kids can already say they feel anxious without their phone or don’t know what to do if they can’t access their games?
By Johanna Smith, Bachelor of Education (Major Special Needs, Minor Psychology), Certificate of Early Childhood Education, Complementary Health – Esoteric Practitioner, Student of Counselling Diploma