4 November 2014

46 – Don’t Forget To Be Human

The idea for this essay was born several years ago.

I went off for a hike along the shore of a local beach on a lovely Sunday morning. Early Fall. The kind that reminds you nobody and nothing can age gracefully like Nature.

As I ambled over the rocks and through the trees I came upon another group of Sunday morning hikers. Like myself they were in their mid-to-late twenties, and seemingly content to amble along while taking in the sights.

But the similarities ended there. These Sunday morning hikers were decked out in expensive outdoor performance wear that appeared to have never seen the outdoors or been performed in. They each carried big cups of steaming, overpriced indulgence from Starbucks. And when they paused to take photographs with their mobile devices their conversation quickly morphed into an intense discussion and demonstration of their devices' features.

This made me angry. They were completely missing the point of being out there. I wondered why they didn’t just stay at Starbucks and google images of nature on their devices instead. When you own outdoor performance wear you’ve got to do at least some outdoor performing in them, I guess. I hustled past, leaving them to obsess over mobile apps and screen resolutions while Nature went on being beautiful all around them.

Sometimes not wanting to miss a thing can mean missing a whole lot more.

Technology and gadgets aren’t new things. Humans have been creating and using them long before they ever conceived of the iPhone or Roomba. In fact, those things are only possible because humans discovered fire, the wheel, and stone hand tools first.

Technology and the gadgets are good things that should be used. They’re designed to enhance our abilities to complete tasks. They represent the human desire for improvement and a better life. They’re meant to be helpful.

But technology and gadgets can also be very dangerous things. Many people worry that we’re not advanced enough to safely use the advanced technologies we’re creating. In developing artificial intelligence, for example, we may actually be summoning the demon. Others think the stuff we’re creating is so powerful it’s almost supernatural. When it comes to technology, humans are often like infants playing with power tools.

Technology and gadgets can encourage bad habits that don’t make us better. Many people become so absorbed in their gadgets that they become blind to the real world around them. And many people quickly abandon the thought of performing a basic task when there’s a machine to do it for them.

These are dangerous trends. This combination of technological narcissism and dependence can quickly render a person weak, unskilled and incapable. And that’s the exact opposite of what technology and gadgets should do.

I notice these tendencies on a daily basis. I use public transit to get around, and the buses on my route tend to be older models that aren’t equipped with electronically-automated doors. And every day somebody waves their hand at the door to open it once the driver reaches their stop. They’ll do this despite a sign above the door, beside a big green light that comes on, that reads ‘PUSH TO OPEN.’ And I often call out: “you gotta push the door! Old bus. Everything ain’t automatic!”

Sometimes I just can’t help myself.

And that’s the thing. Technology and gadgets don’t make us smarter and more skilled by default. Simply using them doesn’t automatically enhance or enrich our lives. Take the toys away and you’d often be left with some very unskilled and incompetent creatures.

Don’t believe me? Have you ever seen someone freaking out because the battery in their car key fob died and they don’t know how else to unlock their car doors? End of story.

For those trips where you just need five screens in the backseat.

And that’s not the technology’s fault. 

Gadgets don’t decide what we do with them. We do. 

It’s up to us to use technology and gadgets wisely. If we’re only using them as a substitute for our own skills then we’re doing it wrong. And that will probably lead to the technologies and gadgets unmaking us.

Now don’t get me wrong. I don’t despise technology and gadgets. I’m not a Luddite. I use them too.

I take pictures with my mobile whenever I see lovely-looking things during weekend sunrise trots. I use a circular saw, jigsaw and sander while I’m woodworking. And I use a notepad app on my mobile to write House Newf or novel ideas that come to me while I’m out and about. I’ve learned to use these machines to enhance and enrich those things I love doing in life.

But I’m not bound to my gadgets. I prefer watching the sunrise over the waves to tinkering with the photo app on my mobile. I only reach for a power tool when I can't do something by hand. And when it comes to writing, nothing can ever beat putting pencil to paper.

Simply put, sometimes the best tool for the job is you.

And that’s something too many of us are too quick to forget. We humans are great tools ourselves. We're equipped with an infinitely more potent series of apps than any we could ever download onto our mobiles. Three great ones that come to mind are: 1) a body that can perceive and move things, 2) a brain that can process information, and 3) an imagination that can conjure new things and ideas. 

These three gifts of humanness are among our greatest technologies. When used in tandem, they allow us to create things. And humans are always at their best when they’re creating.

Rely less on your gadgets and more on your own skills and wits. Use your body, mind and imagination to be the best human you can be. Keep your body fit and mobile to move things. Keep your mind uncluttered and sharp to think clearly on matters that matter. And let your imagination run wild.  

Manmade technologies and gadgets are great things. But the gifts of humanness will always be greater. Use the hell out of the gifts you’ve been equipped with. You owe it to The Power that has miraculously allowed you to exist in this universe.

Remember that you came before your gadgets and technology. Remember that your skill and wits made them possible. Remember that you’re a force of nature.

Don’t ever forget to be human.


  1. Wow. That was beautiful, Bob! Thank you for using and sharing your gifts of creativity and insight. God bless, my friend!

  2. Thank you, Dax. I was glad to write it, but even happier that you'd enjoyed it! Good fortune to you and your family!


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The House Newf is from a rugged and beautiful island on the eastern edge of Canada called Newfoundland. He was first identified by a potter with a naturalist's flair, and he does in fact live in a house under the watchful eye of a cat that seems bewildered by the universe at large. That house is in Halifax, Nova Scotia and that's where the House Newf writes fiction and essays on things that add value to his life that may add some value to yours. You can contact him at bobharding80@gmail.com, follow him on Twitter @theHouseNewf, on Instagram @thehousenewf, and like him on Facebook. The House Newf is a unique specimen. Every home should have one.