The approximate time was last evening, and we were sitting on the beach, preparing to eat a picnic dinner, or more accurately, I already was; my friend was fiddling with a phone app, trying to figure out exactly where Mahina would rise.
“Don't worry about it,” I said. “I'm always perfectly situated, just intuitively. Look!”
And I pointed to the pale white orb ascending, directly in front of us, through the blue-pink smear that sits upon the horizon at sunset, and as it rose, it turned soft gold, then deep orange, and finally, white-gold, casting a shimmering path upon the sea.
The moon was only part of the show, though admittedly the most dramatic. Above us, Jupiter was reigning brightly over the sky, and beyond that, at the end of the arc, was Venus, slipping lower as the moon climbed higher.
Returning home, I flipped on the circuit breakers and the moon-planet glow was replaced by the blinking green numbers of the clock on the stove. I certainly hadn't missed that, with its constant reminder of the passing of time, when I “powered down” yesterday, and I hadn't missed the hum and chug of the fridge, though I did miss its cooling effect, which is why it had been turned back on earlier, before the food inside could go bad.
I've lived without refrigeration, and it can be done without a sense of great deprivation, it just requires a different way of eating, which isn't easily adapted to one day off.
I did feel a sense of giddy joy when I unplugged in the office — the wi-fi, the computer, the back up hard drive — and that told me something; namely, I might be happier if I spend less time working, or at least, the kind of working that keeps me hooked to the Internet.
I've got a smart phone, which I can tether to my laptop, which has a good battery supply, and so I can use my computer and access the Internet without being directly plugged in, and briefly yesterday, I did. But using batteries, whether they're charged by the sun or KIUC, isn't really “getting off the grid” because those batteries are shipped in here from someplace else and toxic substances are generated when they're produced and recycled, or tossed in the landfill. The same goes for wind and hydro turbines, solar panels, liquid propane and backup generators.
They've all got impacts, so ain't nobody truly pure or off the grid, which I define as the military-industrial-corporate complex, in their consumption of electricity.
But tethering the phone to the laptop was a bit more cumbersome than simply flipping the lid and letting wi-fi kick in, which made me stop and think, and that's a good thing, because breaking habits — addictions — is all about bringing unconscious behavior into consciousness.
And make no mistake, energy is an addiction. On Saturday night, thinking about the next day's “power down event,” my mind went through the same litany of excuses it drags out whenever it's told it cannot have something it wants: no one will know if you keep on doing it, what does it really matter, you're not hurting anyone.
Or as Neil Young sang, “Seemed like the easy thing/To let it go for one more day.”
So no, I didn't kick the habit, but I did think about ways I can reduce my electrical use, and the morality of doing so, even if I can afford to pay my KIUC bill. Overall, it was a good exercise in mindfulness, which I always welcome, and my garden benefitted greatly from the attentions I lavished upon it, rather than a keyboard and screen.
But beyond that, choosing to unplug for a day, as opposed to having the electricity go off, gave me an unexpected sense of freedom, of power, of reclaiming my life in some small way. And I got to thinking, so how much has electricity — all technology, really — functioned primarily to enslave us, to enmesh us in an artificial, manmade world (at the expense of the natural world), even as we worship it and the convenience it provides?