I found myself in a conversation with some friends the other day regarding the financial state of America, and more specifically, the financial state of the person who lives here.

Did you know that now, more than at any other time in our nation's history, we have more stuff? (This statement came to me via my pastor)

Did you also know that now, more than any other time in our history, we actually OWN less off it?

Thirty years ago, no one knew about the internet, save for a handful of people who envisioned a way to connect all people. Look at us now.

Seventy years ago, central heating systems were almost unheard of. Look at us now.

So what’s my fascination with these things today?

Seventy years ago, the family gathered around the fire in the “family” room (if they were blessed enough to have such a room), not merely to visit with one another, but to stay warm. The visiting and getting to know each other happened as a matter of course.

Today, every room in our middle class houses are heated, if we are fortunate enough to have a roof over our heads. The family rarely gathers around a fire anymore, because the whole house is warm, we can go anywhere within it, and we most often do. Now, we stay warm as a matter of course, but we don’t talk with our families nearly as much as generations earlier did. So…was central heating an improvement?

The television set had the inherent capability to restore that family visiting, when it was first introduced. The family would gather round the black and white, and watch the few television shows that were produced, together. Today, television sets are in several rooms of the house if you are blessed enough financially to be able to provide such abundance. What does that mean?

It means that not every one likes to watch the same show, and television production companies have obliged us with almost uncountable choices. Again, something good has happened, and again, the family has dispersed, each into his own room, seeing what he wants to see, and forgetting that his family is in the other room. Television has improved our way of life, or has it?

Then along came the internet. Now, we have even more choices. Now, we can hide in an office ‘til the early morning hours, coming out only for a soft drink and snack, probably saying nothing to our spouse or family as we sidle through the “family room” with the television blaring on our way to get something for ME.

There have been many other improvements and technologies introduced in the twentieth century, which was considered by many to be a golden century. Yet as we look at the family, at our neighbors, at our nation, can we really say that we have improved our way of life?

I will be the first to admit that I am impressed by all the gadgets we have, and love playing with them. But I am curiously struck by this question; if the electricity disappeared tomorrow, would be better off, or worse off?

I am of the opinion that we would be better off, WAY better off; we would be closer to each other, and we are community driven by our very nature. All of these “improvements” had the capacity to improve that community, but instead, one by one, we have misused these technologies to the point where we have become distanced even within the family community, you know the one, “nothing’s more important than family”; except heat, television, and the internet.

There is no doubt; we have come a long way since the turn of the twentieth century. The question is, which way have we come, backwards or forwards? Have we progressed, or regressed? Is mankind getting smarter, or dumber?

The biggest question I have is, if we want to say we are getting smarter, why are we so consistent with shooting ourselves in the foot? Why, when we are driven to community, do we do everything to avoid that community? Are we smarter, or dumber.

I’d love to hear your opinion on this matter, so fire away.

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