There is something delicious about the initial quiet that follows the loud boom signaling a power outage. With the humidifier, furnace, and fridge silenced, I feel a spaciousness within, as though the low hum is an auditory weight I carry without realizing its burden. Like noticing your shoulders are scrunched up to your ears then dropping them suddenly eases your tension. Is there a cost to our nervous systems to have constant, subtle auditory stimuli?
But then I started to feel the impact of no power. As I stood in my cold kitchen, I was struck my complete dependence on electricity. Without it, I could not do anything for myself. I could not warm my house, make tea, cook, or work. I don’t know how to do anything without electricity. Who does?
How is it progress to make ourselves completely dependent on something that we cannot function without? Moreover, how is it progress if the thing we’re dependent on comes from the destruction of ecosystems, communities, cultures, other species as well as threatens our own species through disease clusters and with extinction? In fact, to be ignorant about how we get electricity, which many of us are, doesn’t seem like progress. Unless this is what we mean by progress-to have what we rely on without having to know how it came to us.
This type of progress seems precarious and dangerous: to exchange our self-reliance for ease and comfort; to trade our life (time, energy, skills) to pay for this thing we cannot live without yet have no control over; to be in agreement with industries that perpetuate injustice, inequity, and extinction for this thing we cannot function without.
To be clear, I’m not (necessarily) against electricity. How could I share this otherwise? Indeed, we’ve organized our society such that we’re all reliant on these electricity-based formats as the primary ways to have conversation, conduct our work and transactions.
I’m advocating for us to examine what we mean by progress. We bend our will toward progress that makes our lives easier, more comfortable, efficient. As though easier means better, as though easier does not come at a cost to ourselves and others.
With the hum of my appliances muted, there was wide open imaginal space and I wrote by candlelight. What if, once we realize progress means the sacrifice of some for the benefit of others, we go back to the drawing boards. What if we refuse progress if it is built on hierarchical paradigms, extraction, slavery, destruction. What if progress was equitably accessible.
Nearly 45,000 homes lost power yesterday, and some are still without. On any given night there are nearly 2000 unhoused people sleeping outside in Kansas City. What if the warming stations they seek refuge in lose power? Further, we know that 59% of the US population is one paycheck away from homelessness. How is it progress to have a society of people who only know how to labor for money but not know how to directly meet their own basic needs for shelter, food, water, safety? How is it progress to have a society unaware that their way of life threatens the shelter, food, water, and safety of others?
What if progress was about resourcing ourselves and each other in life-enhancing ways for all beings; deepening our self-reliance, creating communal and shared reliance, honoring our oneness.
Curiously, once the electricity kicked in these thoughts receded under the hum.