A Confession

As we travel on our journey toward a simpler and more sustainable lifestyle, we continue to discover that many of the things culture has conditioned us to want or “need” are in fact unnecessary.  Often they complicate our lives and distract us from more important, more authentic things.

And yet I have no expectation of ever becoming a full-blown Luddite (in the worst sense of that word).  I remember feeling something like a sense of relief when I read that Wendell Berry uses a chainsaw.  And as much as I admire him, I do not intend to voluntarily give up my computer.

So let me now also confess (with some embarrassment)  my affinity to a gadget.  I really like my ipod.

I use it nearly every day.

Some mornings I enjoy listening to podcasts while doing my chores.  Being a philomath, I find it to be a good way to learn something while working.  That’s as close to multitasking as I intend to get these days, but I do find it enjoyable.

Some afternoons (unless I listened to a podcast in the morning) I listen to music.  I have over 8,000 songs on the ipod (8,668 to be precise).  I’ve been avidly collecting music for a long time, and now it’s easier than ever. Most of the music on the ipod came from my CD collection.  But I very rarely buy CDs or downloads any more.  These days I mostly add to the collection by checking out CDs or downloading songs from the library.

Things have certainly changed.  Back in the day, LPs were about $15, if I recall correctly.  So a large record collection had to be built up over time.  Over time I amassed a pretty large collection, often buying used albums from independent record stores.  Then, in the mid to late 80s, compact discs arrived.  Realizing that it was the end of the road for LPs, I began transferring my collection onto cassette tapes.  Once taped, I’d sell the records.  Eventually I ended up with a mountain of cassettes, only to have them become obsolete as well. When we had our big yard sale, the weekend before moving from Tampa to the farm, I sold my prized Nakamichi tape deck for $5, along with a huge box of cassettes which also went for $5.  In the CD world, they just had no value any more.  My stereo, once a valued possession, is in a corner of the basement collecting dust.  I haven’t played it in many years.  We’re trying to find someone to give it to.

No doubt my ipod is destined to be a dinosaur someday too.  But for now, I enjoy being able to carry around an encyclopedia, and the equivalent of 800 albums, in my pocket.

15 comments on “A Confession

  1. We just spent about one week in Deerfield, Michigan – visited Edison the inventor’s Menlo Park and Florida labs – learned that the money he made for the lab came from “invention” of the phonograph. Heard a recording of his voice made on the 50th anniversary, way back when.

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  2. DM says:

    Sounds like we are on a similar journey. I too have no desire to give up some of the perks of living in America, @ the same time I am also downsizing and trying to intentionally trying to slow down my life about 30%.

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    • Bill says:

      The internet has been a real game-changer and for all its flaws I think can be a great vehicle for good. But I try not to allow myself to become overly dependent upon technology.

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  3. El Guapo says:

    Well, as long as you’re using the technology and it’s not using you (nor being a “be all, end all”), I guess the movement will understand…

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    • Bill says:

      Yeah for me it’s not so much about legalism or obeying some set of rules as it is being aware of the fact that when I have buds plugged in my ears blasting out music, however much I may be enjoying the music it is drowning out the natural sounds around me.

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  4. I too have an enormous record collection. Forgive this impossible question: What are your three favorite recordings?

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    • Bill says:

      Brother I don’t think I could even name my three favorite genres. But to start the conversation I’ll mention three tunes I especially like: Strawberry Fields Forever, Sheena is a Punk Rocker by the Ramones and My Mistake by Marvin Gaye and Diana Ross.

      Your turn. 🙂

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      • I’m with on the Ramones, for sure.

        I thought about my three all day and into the night and here they are:
        “Dancing with the Moonlight Knight” by Genesis (1973); “So What,” by Miles Davis (1959); “Paradise,” by John Prine (1971). Would my three be the same two weeks from now? Unlikely.

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      • Bill says:

        When I first read your original comment I wondered if you were asking about songs or about albums. Thinking you might mean albums, “Kind of Blue” was on my short list. But then I decided to just go with individual tracks and I threw out the first three that popped into my head. I’m not familiar with the Genesis and Prine you list (he says, hanging head in shame), even though Prine’s “Sweet Revenge” record is a favorite of mine. I’ll need to do something about that. I was a college radio DJ for several years. For days before my first show I pondered what song I should play as my on-the-air debut. Eventually I chose “Jumping Jack Flash.” Great tune, but not what I’d pick if I had to do it again.

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  5. EllaDee says:

    Great post and topic, well said. What you say is true, there is much we utilise now that if removed would prove inessential. Life would go on. But I know people who can barely grasp, for example, extracting cash from an ATM. On the other hand there those who couldn’t make themselves a meal if they only had a couple of raw eggs to hand. Both would be disadvantaged outside their environments. I prefer to have a choice, and that includes the power off button.

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    • Bill says:

      Yes, exactly. And while I enjoy my gadget, I don’t lose sight of what really matters. As much as I enjoy podcasts, I have plenty of books so I could certainly live without them. And as much as I enjoy my music collection, if I didn’t have it I’d probably become a better guitar player.
      Raising our own food is light years more important to me that having an ipod or any other such gadget.
      But I do think of a scene from the movie The Book of Eli. Even in the post-apocalyptic world, he held onto his ipod. Being able to relax occasionally and listen to some Al Green made it easier to endure. I get that.

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    • shoreacres says:

      Here I am! Over here! Never taken cash from an ATM in my life. I’ve never paid a bill online, for that matter – well, except for those Amazon purchases and a little light Christmas shopping. So I’m not entirely a lost cause. 😉

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  6. shoreacres says:

    I can’t get over your iPod collection. That’s just amazing. I must say – I feel like pretty hot stuff tonight. I managed to figure out how to (1) transform some of my favorites from youtube videos to mp3s, then (2) burn them to a CD. This is big stuff for me. Now, I have a CD with all of my favorite road songs for my trip.

    Eventually, I’ll have the skills of a six-year-old.

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    • Bill says:

      I love your closing sentence and I definitely know what you mean. My fumbling attempts to use technology amuse my children. They’re grown now but they were just as amused when they were pre-teens.

      As for what you accomplished tonight–Bravo! I couldn’t do that. But of course I have learned to consult the Google, which is the repository to all knowledge it seems.

      I’m glad you’ll have good road music for your trip!

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