Thursday, September 22, 2022

Elemental Excavations



“No, it’s true!”

“Then how come you’re climbing down these steep rocks, like a mountain goat? ‘Twelve years in a wheelchair? Hardly able to walk five paces. Then decided to walk again’? I mean, really? You’re having me on,” the younger man scoffed.

Adam, at seventy years of age, fixed his eyes steadily into the young fellow. “It is the years of self-discipline, inculcated since childhood, that has helped. At boarding school, not wanting to be caned instills self-discipline. At conscription into the army, not wanting to be singled out, or to be responsible for the whole troop having to suffer, also establishes self-discipline. And so, bred into the bone, as it were, it was easier, six years ago, to make the decision to be mobile again.” 

The young man stopped talking. He leaned back on his huge and now silent yellow excavator. He puffed on his cigarette. His great bare belly protruded above the beltline of his grease-smeared jeans. Adam waited. The workman pulled out his palm-held very thin phone. He squinted at the little screen. Then, smoke curling up from between his gorilla-like fingers, he tapped with both blackened thumbs at the miniature keyboard. 

Adam waited. At last, feeling somewhat intrusive, Adam tried: “Our modern age, particularly in countries without real strife, allows for persons to become reliant on something else to interest them, to entertain them. Intrinsic reward is not much realized. Most of our interests come from external things. We are easily bored if something doesn’t make things interesting for us. It’d be better perpetually to practice making everything interesting, from within oneself, yes?

“Uh-huh,” the disinterested rejoined. And scrolled through something on his flat little machine.

“Yup,” Adam continued. “We seldom ask the five W’s of others anymore. The television has taught us to not have to question. And curiosity is all but gone. Except for our phones. We always seem to want to know exactly who is binging, or buzzing, or ringing us now.”

“Yup.” The young man’s energy perked up. “You know, this device has more computing power than the first one that landed man on the moon. Everything I want to know is in here. So… why should I learn anything if I can get it instantly? Corrects my spelling. Gives me pictures. Checks my email. Plays my music. Even does my banking. So… what’s your problem with it?”

“With it? Nothing. A great tool. But some of its operators are not as deft with it as you are at handling this giant machine. Not as sensitive at the controls. And while you are constantly having to assess the possible consequences of each maneuver, and the damage it might do if you’re not utterly careful, as isolated as you are in the cocoon of that iron cage atop it, the rest of us can only watch, and listen to your cantankerous noise. Those rocks you pluck out; they have not seen the light of day for perhaps millions of years. And now too they shall have a renewed life, as it were, gathering new dust, arranged according to our whim. Interesting, so to excavate old things to a new light. So too for our habits, our thoughts, our history, our feelings, and… Ha! But at least with it you are making progress. The earth moves.”

The chap looks up at Adam. “And while I must be careful, moment for moment, so too do you, old man. A slip. A fall. It could have serious consequences, not just for you. Your wife too.

Adam smiles. “Yes. I admit it. Consequences. Ha! Glad we dug into this little chat. Thanks.”