2010-01-14 / Sam Bari

Internet surfing while eating a ham sandwich leads to epiphany

You can’t beat a system you can’t understand
By Sam Bari

At this stage of my life, sitting in front of the computer perusing the Internet before bedtime is about all the excitement I care to handle. I do this a few times a week, hoping to find inspiration for my next column. Lately, the exercise seems to take more effort. Inspiration isn’t as easy to come by as it once was.

To make a marginally exciting night complete, I scan the headlines while eating a ham sandwich. Some people might say: “How nice. He has comfort food before going to sleep.”

The idea of eating “comfort food” makes me feel as if I’m getting soft. Even if I am, I don’t want to expire with half a pot pie and an uneaten cookie sitting on my desk beside a cup of hot chocolate. Although I’m not sure of the exact definition of “comfort food,” I hope ham sandwiches don’t qualify. Ham sandwiches are, shall we say, manlier.

Eating one reminds me of my youth, when I played football. When my team won, I would go home and prepare a ham and tomato sandwich as a treat for performing well on the gridiron. That would be followed with an orange soda, but not just any orange soda. It had to be an “Orange Crush.”

My team wore orange jerseys, so we called ourselves the “Orange Crush.” This was long before the 1970s Denver Broncos gave their defense the same name.

The point is: I like to recall the days when I could run the length of a football field without having a coronary. Eating a ham sandwich with an Orange Crush helps me do that quite nicely, especially when I’m sitting in a comfy chair in front of a computer, mindlessly surfing the Internet.

I better get back to the real point of this column before my editor accuses me of adding fluff to make the word count.

So last week, smack in the middle of a perfectly good ham sandwich, I experienced a bit of an epiphany. I was reading about “cultural movements.” Not that culture actually goes anywhere, but it does change, and the literati call the changes “movements.”

During the early 1800s, the Industrial Revolution started in England and quickly spread throughout Europe and North America. The cultural movement that resulted from that era was Modernism, which enjoyed recognition from 1870 to the turn of the century.

Modernism introduced dramatic change. Philosophy, literature, art, architecture and music felt the impact of an unforeseen tide of revolutionary thought. Its societal influence affected every aspect of day-to-day existence, particularly in the western world.

According to the research, Modernists were the first to question the status quo. They did not exactly reject religion and authority. They rejected thinking that did not fit the direction of a modern, more progressive society. They felt that religion and government should keep up with the times.

Maybe my penchant for practicality stands in the way of wisdom, but I perceive the Industrial Revolution and modern thinking differently.

Without a doubt, during the last two centuries, the world has progressed technologically much faster than ever before. However, I do not always associate “progress” with “improvement.” When we were an agro-based society, we lived off the natural gifts of nature and worked to preserve the planet for all to enjoy in the future.

Invention completely changed that mindset. We abandoned agriculture for industry and the availability of convenience. As a society, our thinking changed from the goal of preservation to “life on this planet needs to get better, easier, faster.”

From the invention of the internal combustion engine and the ability to produce electricity, we began burning fossil fuels faster than they could ever be replenished.

Our dependency on manufactured power is nothing new. The results of that dependency, however, are frightening. Some children can’t do their arithmetic without a calculator. Many can only tell time by a digital watch.

When the power goes off and batteries can’t be recharged, we’ll be reduced to lives of squalor. A nation cannot run on generators.

Only a small percentage of our population knows how to live off the land. Most of us would have no idea how to live without electricity.

Our adversaries don’t have that problem. They do it every day. We have become imprisoned by our inventions.

That little epiphany took the joy out of my ham sandwich. Such is life in a system we can’t understand.

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