Sunday, January 10, 2010

The digital cloud versus the rain forest.

As the virtual world and our daily routines become more connected, I start to wonder if I could handle the idea of disconnection. Even briefly, it makes me nervous. There's a stretch of dead zone that I cross on my way to work each day. I get a sense of relief after I'm safely through it. Besides, who knows what could happen in those vulnerable five minutes or so?

There was a time when I was completely off the communication map. As part of a month with my aunt and uncle in Ecuador, we spent three days in the rain forest along the Amazon River Basin. Just getting there involved a treacherous mountain road descent, a makeshift wire-hanger car engine fix, a couple of crater jumps, and a barely-fordable river. (FYI, Honda Accords were not built for that sort of terrain punishment). When we arrived, I noticed the cabins were on some pretty high stilts (evidently for good reason beyond standard flood protection). The showers were supplied from rainwater collected off the roof. I almost tripped over something that looked like a caterpillar, that is if a caterpillar were a small dog. General rule, everything in the rain forest is super-sized and will probably catch you off guard. Or just stalk you, either way, at some point you will freak out. I once woke up to find a large, furry tarantula starring at me – eye level. Sending it on it's way required a rolled up magazine along with some herding skills.

The night was another story. Darkness was all-encompassing. The forest came alive. Echoing wildlife sounds, things crashing into the cabin walls, and what seemed like a massive nature explosion. It was almost deafening at times. You would finally relax and then, "BANG!" "What the hell was that?" and "It did NOT get in here did it?"… "I don't know, I can't see anything."

Alright, back to the society connection of this post. The next morning, we paddled hollowed-out tree canoes over to a tribal community living in the heart of the rain forest. Smiling children anxiously greeted us as we came to shore. They were excited to show us their museum and classroom. The buildings were grass huts and everything they needed to survive was raised on-site. There was an undeniable feeling of happiness throughout the tribe. Also, a shared pride in what they created. It made you think, maybe simple is better? They had no use for a virtual world, but had a strong social community. Could the "digital cloud" be clouding our real world and experiential connections? I probably won't be disconnecting anytime soon to find out.

[All kidding aside, I am forever grateful to my grandparents who were brave enough to take my cousin and I on this crazy Ecuadorian adventure.] 

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