Monday, May 6, 2013

Producers and Consumers

I try to refrain from hopping aboard the technology bandwagon most of the time, because I don't want to try to keep up with the Joneses.  I truly believe most good things can be done with our own hands and minds...rather than the gadgets, gizmos, and whatnots we put into our hands and in front of our eyes.

So, when I take a moment here to wax adulatory about my should know the you-know-what is about to get real.

I have not always loved my Kindle.  In fact, when I received it as a Christmas gift a few years ago, I regarded it quite tepidly.  I love books.  I love touching them, smelling them, pawing them, collecting them, organizing them...and a Kindle sort deprived me of that pleasure.  But, even I couldn't ignore the incredible amount of space the books took up, and the clutter they could trigger.  I mean, I was just running out of room to store them all, and many of them remained in the boxes they'd been packed in a few years before.

And so, I began my Kindle ownership in a state of half-heartedness.  And I might have continued on so until I received from a friend the entire electronic set of Harry Potter books.  And then I found Project Gutenberg's veritable collection of e-books...and I finally had all of Shakespeare's plays - IN ONE PLACE. 

And when I discovered I could rearrange, reorganize and restructure my Kindle title categories...that's it.  I was gone.

The latest great thing is Kindle's Lending Library, at which I can "check out" e-books (one per month).  Much like an electronic library.

But the thing I really love about my Kindle is the ability to download free samples of books.  Say I'm browsing non-fiction books about food (of which there are thousands), and I'm overwhelmed by the amount of choices, because after all, it's so easy to get published these days - and I want legitimately good non-fiction that will present new information and get me to think and maybe even change my lifestyle.  Instead of shelling out the money to download a new book and hoping I made a wise investment, I can download a free sample of the book I'm considering buying.  Enough of the book is now available to me to determine whether I want to buy it or not.

With food writer Michael Pollan, honestly, I know I'll probably buy whatever he writes.  But, I still downloaded a free sample of his latest book "Cooked" anyway.  And naturally, as I expected, I was provoked (in a thoughtful, introspective way, not a non-violent way) at least three times - JUST in those few pages accessible to me.

1.  The Cooking Paradox - that Americans spend less time in the kitchen, preparing their own meals...but they spend MORE time watching cooking shows or live demos in which someone else is cooking food.

2.  The industrialization of the world and particularly our country, has led to a dangerous kind of specialization.  We've all become pushed into these "little jobs" (aka careers), so we pay for other tasks to be done for us (taxes, carwashes, oil changes, and our meals).  This specialization and subsequent parceling out of skills to others actually takes away our knowledge and power.  We begin to depend on others, because we've stopped doing things for ourselves.

3.  We have, over time, morphed more into a nation/world of consumers, and less of a world of producers.  We consume pre-made or quickly made foods or we sit in front of a screen and consume YouTube videos, Facebook statuses, etc.  We fritter away time like it's pennies.  But what we do produce?  What do we make? What do we actually give back to people?  In conjunction with how much we take (from humans or machines or a combination of both)?

Yeah, pretty provocative stuff.  But that's Michael Pollan for you.  And it's a double-edged sword - even he admits that.  We consume this technology, and it allows us to do great things (for me: maintain this blog, read Pollan's book now, etc.).

However, the technology consumes us too, and is taking away our ability/desire to be producers.  So, do me a favor...try to reverse this trend, if even for just one day.  See if you can consume/take/spend less and produce/make/create more.

Right on.


  1. Wow, you have to love Pollan. I love those points, and now must read this book!

  2. Agreed. Man, if I ever could meet that guy...I'd love to hang with him for the day.