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Excerpt from Welcome to the Machine

Living In Prison (p. 76)

From chapter "The Machine"

I may as well be living in prison. For all practical purposes I already am. I spend most of my waking hours staring at a computer, moving in perhaps a five-by-five-foot space. Sometimes I walk to my mom’s, and there I watch a baseball game. While there I generally confine myself to a similarly small space. Other times I get in a car, and I sit in a confined space while I drive to other buildings. I walk inside these buildings. I buy things. I come home. I sit in front of the computer. Later, I go to bed.

Sure, I walk outside in the forest, or I sit by the pond, or I watch the moon, but that’s not where I live. I live inside this box. I live inside the world of the computer.

This morning as I sat outside for just a few moments before heading back inside to work at the computer, I heard a sound in the forest. A single branch cracked under heavy weight. Then silence. Then one squirrel began to speak. It was neither scolding nor yelling in fright. It was clearly gossiping. Another squirrel responded.

I do not know what creature walked through the forest and broke that single branch. The squirrels do, however. They know far more about this place I call home than I do.

Naturally they do. They live here.

I came back inside to work on the computer, to live inside my box.

I am alone in my cell. This would still be true if I were married. It would be true if I had a family. It would be true if I lived in a commune. This is because I would still be cut off from the world.

I am not alone in my predicament. Most of us in the industrialized parts of the world already spend more of our meager lives surrounded by machines, interacting with machines, supported by machines, dependent on machines, serving machines, than we do in meaningful communication and relationship with wild creatures. How many machines are within ten feet of you? How many wild plants or animals are within one hundred yards of you? Do you make yourself available to them? Do you know who they are individually? Do you have a feel for how well they may know you?

Step outside. Listen. How many machines do you hear? How many wild plants or animals?