Edward Abbey, a listless generation, and the romanticizing of bacon

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High technology has done us one great service: It has re-taught us the delight of performing simple and primordial tasks – chopping wood, building a fire, drawing water from a spring. – Edward Abbey

Think about it. In the last month, I’d wager that you’ve heard a conversation like this:

“I just bought a Kindle; I love it!”
“I could never buy one of those. I love books too much; it’s just not the same! I love the feel of a book; I love the smell.”

Why is that conversation happening? An e-reader is a much more efficient way to read. Bibliophiles should be falling over themselves to have their entire library in their purse, briefcase, or backpack. But, they aren’t.

Why?

Take a look at Instagram or Tumblr. Both of those platforms are packed to the gills with photos of cast iron skillets bearing some rustic-looking frontier-esque meal. They’re full of pictures of worn out books and french pressed coffee. Dirty old leather boots, and ramshackle barnwood furniture. 

Why?

The new way of making people think you’re cool is to talk about bacon. Bacon is EVERYWHERE. Bacon-scented, bacon-flavored everything is taking over the internet. Why in the world does bacon have a cult following?

Because the things that were supposed to impress us no longer do.

We’ve grown tired of shiny and new and fast and bright and big and white and clean. No one used to care about owning their grandfather’s shaving razor or their grandmother’s hand mirror.

We’re dying for things with character. We’re aching for experiences that weren’t churned out by a robot, shoved in a box, and sold to us. Old books are sexy, good leather shoes are sexy, bacon is sexy again because it’s simple. I believe, wholeheartedly, that Edward Abbey was onto something. The word up there that matters most is “delight.” High technology has taught us the delight of simplicity. 

The degree to which all this newness and novelty make us happy is a bell curve, and we’re shooting down the right side of that thing at breakneck speeds. 

Our reliance on Google and Apple and Twitter and Facebook, et al. ad nauseam and ad infinitum has taken us from a thirst for newer and better, to a thirst for meaningful things. A desire to own things that someone made because they were good at it, not because they knew it would break in a year and they could sell you the new model. A desire to experience things that not just anyone and everyone with $100 and a two-year contract has experienced.

The catharsis to be found in shopping at a farmer’s market, cooking yourself a meal, sitting down with a tangible paper-and-ink book, writing a letter on good paper with a good pen, or sitting around a fire with your friends isn’t a kitschy, ‘upper-middle-class white people’ trope. There’s real, intrinsic joy in the simplicity.

Relearn the delight.

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