Recently, I came into possession of a piece of technology that most people would consider to be antiquated: a manual typewriter. Typewriters have generally fallen out of use since the rise of the personal computer, and most of these machines have ended up in attics, basements, pawnshops, antique stores, or the landfill. At one time, though, they were ubiquitous—the standard for efficient communication for home, school, church, and office.
But the computer changed everything. What was once efficient and modern is now out of date and slow. Everything that we write can now be corrected, reordered, and quickly sent all around the world in seconds. There is much to appreciate about technology, and I am deeply grateful for the technological tools that we have to keep us connected as a community during these pandemic days.
But I have recently begun to wonder if there’s something that I’m losing in the midst of the glow of all the screens that I find myself staring at all day, every day. The increasing number of Zoom calls and screen time that we have all undertaken is necessary, but it doesn’t come without a cost. Connection with the world of nature, with family and friends, with the simple pleasures of hearing the birds chirp and the ground crunch beneath one’s feet, can be pushed aside all too easily. I have begun to feel within myself a sense of disconnection and disorientation. So I made a decision: I bought an old typewriter, and I’ve committed to sitting down for at least some block of time each day in front of it to write. Without the glow of a screen, the distractions of the internet or email or Facebook or the latest election polls. It’s my small way of resisting in the midst of a culture that wants to keep me addicted to the latest and greatest, that wants to sell me something new, that wants to distract me from thinking too deeply about the state of the world and the need for justice and peace to reign.
Jesus knew how important it was to keep himself grounded, to not allow the noise and the busyness and the tyranny of the urgent to throw him out of balance. He made time to resist by retreating to the mountaintop, the lakeshore, the desert, to pray and renew his inner life. That is our call as well. How will you resist?
One of my favorite writers is the Kentucky farmer and poet Wendell Berry, and I often return to his poem, “Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front” when I’m feeling that sense of disconnection. It’s lengthy, but I think worth sharing in full. I hope that you’ll be blessed by these words of hope.
Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more
of everything ready-made. Be afraid
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery
anymore. Your mind will be punched in a card
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know.
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord.
Love the world. Work for nothing.
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it.
Denounce the government and embrace
the flag. Hope to live in that free
republic for which it stands.
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers.
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.
Say that the leaves are harvested
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion — put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come.
Expect the end of the world. Laugh.
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts.
So long as women do not go cheap
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep
of a woman near to giving birth?
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head
in her lap. Swear allegiance
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos
can predict the motions of your mind,
lose it. Leave it as a sign
to mark the false trail, the way
you didn’t go. Be like the fox
who makes more tracks than necessary,
some in the wrong direction.