7:39 am
Thu June 19, 2014

Our Electric World ... commentary from Joan Carris

We live in an amazing world.  As we’re waking up in the morning we can IM someone.  We can Skype, poke, e-mail, text, twitter, and tweet…all day long.  All day.  Wow.  Back in our log cabin days, who would have believed this?  Today we can post our brilliant, witty comments online—for the entire world to see—on every topic in the world—whether we know anything about it or not.  It’s positively electric!

Our electric world would astound Benjamin Franklin, may he rest in peace.  This was not what he had in mind back there in the mid 1700’s when he was trying to harness the thing called electricity.  And no, he did not run around with a kite in an electrical storm.  He was way too smart for that, but many of his contemporaries were electrocuted by their own experiments.

Franklin was only one of several scientists fascinated with electricity—including William Gilbert, Robert Boyle, Luigi Galvani, and Michael Faraday—but I’m blaming Franklin for popularizing electricity as a tool for the masses.  Around 1750, he conceived the idea of a lightning rod that would attract electricity and carry it safely to the ground, instead of striking a building and setting it on fire… something that happened often in his day.  He tested this concept on his own house, and soon everyone wanted a lightning rod.  That’s how it is with electrical gadgets.

Like electricity itself, Franklin was never still for long.  He did enjoy fresh-air baths in the nude, but as far as I know, that was the only time he just sat around.  Franklin’s lightning rod led to hundreds of electrical experiments—electric light from an arc lamp, then constant electric light in the mid-1800’s, and later, Thomas Edison’s incandescent bulb.

After that it was Katy Bar The Door.

Now, all but the very poor own dozens of electrical appliances …and we love them.  Teenagers sleep with their cell phones.  You can find kids hiding under the covers at one in the morning, texting their friends.  Posting selfies on their Facebook pages.  Looking at videos on YouTube. 

Statistics say that most young people spend at least 4 to 8 hours a day with electronic media, which of course includes television, the world’s greatest time sink.  By the time American children enter kindergarten, they have spent more hours in front of TV than are needed to earn a bachelor’s degree.

I’m resigned to most electronic media, but I get really crabby about TV.  I think Rudyard Kipling’s Rikki-Tikki-Tavi had the right idea.  The motto of that beloved mongoose was, “Run and find out.”

Yes!  “Let’s be up and doing,” as my parents said, long ago.  Isn’t it interesting how often parents are right?

©  Joan Carris  March 21, 2014