At the moment it's hard for me to write about anything other than the ice storm aftermath here in Oregon, the subject of my last churchless blog post, "Being without power for a week shows what's important."
Well, it's now been nine days since our electricity went out. All of our neighbors are in the same power outage situation, along with 38,000 other Oregonians.
Last night my wife and I hosted a Zoom meeting of our monthly Salon discussion group. Our generator powers a Starlink satellite internet connection, which worked great all through the 100 minute meeting.
After the meeting I wrote on my HinesSight blog about three themes that dominated our conversation: How to prepare for no electricity, Independence versus reliance on society, Staying in touch with others.
It wasn't surprising that everyone wanted to talk about what's been the focus of their minds recently -- coping with no electricity.
One person only was without power for about a day. Others, about a week. My wife and I, along with neighbors who also are part of the discussion group, were the only ones still without electricity because we live in a rural area.
Usually talking about politics takes up about half of our conversation time. Sometimes even more. Last night, no more than five minutes, or about 5% of the Zoom meeting, focused on politics.
What this shows is something obvious that is nonetheless often overlooked.
What we pay attention to depends on what demands attention. This relates to the familiar hierarchy of needs. I'm not sure where politics and religion are on the hierarchy, but they seem to be near the top of the pyramid rather than close to the base.
Being without electricity for more than a short time when you're used to it -- which is the case with almost everyone in the United States and other wealthy nations -- shifts one's focus into the safety and physiological levels.
It is more difficult to cook, get water, flush the toilet, sleep comfortably. People reach out to neighbors in a different way than before, because they seek safety and a sense of belonging.
It isn't that I'm no longer interested in politics or in pondering the downside of religions. Those subjects just haven't been much on my mind the past nine days, because I've had to focus on playing my part in keeping our electricity-less home going.
(Yes, we have a generator, so we have 7,000 watts of electricity available. But that isn't enough for our heat pumps, hot water heater, most lights, oven, dishwasher, garbage disposal, and other things in our house that have been dormant since our power went off.)
So this experience, which is the longest time I've been without full electricity in my 72 years of living, has given me more of an insight into how lots of people in the world live all the time. Namely, struggling to find the necessities of life.
For them, a religion often provides a sense of comfort and meaning.
But if that religion takes up too much time and attention, that detracts from their ability to meet their safety and physiological needs. Same with politics. A little attention is fine; more than that is counter-productive.
Which raises a question. If what seems important to us is so dependent on our circumstances, can we ever be really confident that what we care so much about at any given time truly deserves all that attention?
I guess the answer is that in one sense it does, and in one sense it doesn't. Which isn't much of an answer, but it's the best I can come up with.