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Time to break down the wall

technofile  by al fasoldt

Columns and commentaries in a life-long dance with technology
 

Simple gray rule


Time to break down the wall
 

By Al Fasoldt

Copyright © 1988, The Syracuse Newspapers

This may seem like a crazy time for me to ask you to put away your toys, but there is no better moment.

This is a day you can give something no one else can give. To do it, you have to put down your gadgets and your high-tech delights. You can go back to them another time.

Today is a day to give yourself. It's a day to share your time with the people who love you. They may not be able to tell you this. They are probably too kind. Let me tell you for them.

If you are a typical electronics hobbyist, you have a first love. Its name is video or audio or computers or ham radio or any of a dozen other hobbies.If you are an adult, it is married to you. If you are a teen-ager, it is your roommate, your constant companion.

Love is blind, and this affair of your electronic heart may have kept you from seeing what is happening around you. Gradually, almost imperceptibly, you have built a wall around yourself.

The wall spares you the interruptions of outsiders so you can spend more time with your first love. But the wall treats everyone the same. Everyone is closed out. Even the people who care about you are being turned away.

You've wanted privacy and time. You got just what you were looking for, and then some. You got the kind of privacy that lasts a long, long time.

I'm not guessing here. I'm not looking these things up in a book. I'm reading this out of pages in my heart.

I know you. You're a lot like me. I built my own wall a long time ago. I made mine tall and thick. It shut out my wife. It kept my son and my daughter away. It made my friends give up.

At first the wall was labeled "hi-fi.'' That sign lasted about 20 years. Then it was called "audio/video.'' Then "computers'' was tacked on, too. I thought I had a good excuse for my wall. I had a lot of writing to do, and I needed the seclusion.

There were many Saturdays when I closed the door to the home office I maintained in a corner of my house, put on a pair of headphones, turned on the stereo and started writing. A long time later—sometimes 14 hours after I had first sat down—I'd get up from my computer and realize I was hungry.

There were many Sundays when I woke up and turned on the small light near my desk at 3:30 a.m. in order to put in a few quiet hours at the hobby of computer programming. By 2 p.m. I was sometimes ready for breakfast.

And on weekdays I was often behind that door, on the other side of my wall, hidden away and inaccessible, for six or seven hours after work.

If I have learned my lesson, I've done it the hard way.

I know now that the walls we put up are not erected to keep workaholics going. They are barriers against interaction. We hide behind them to keep from communicating.

We find it easier to deal with the things that we play with than to commune with the people waiting just outside the wall. Our toys do whatever we want them to do. They are an easy substitute for living beings.

Gradually, these toys take over, and the companions who were waiting for us to change cannot stand it any longer.

I know that nothing will restore the thousands of hours I denied my son when he needed a companion. I realize that words won't supply my daughter with the dad she wanted when she was growing up.

No one needs to remind me that apologies won't bring my empty house to life, or heal the wounds in the hearts that have turned away.

But you may have a second chance. Today is the time for you to start knocking down that wall. You do it brick by brick. You begin by climbing outside your barrier.

And you leave your toys behind—at least for today.


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