As you may already know, I grew up in sunny Sri Lanka, a tropical paradise in the Indian Ocean. Power cuts and power failures were a fairly common thing over there.
During the early 1990’s, I lived with my parents in this place we had rented out. It had a really large balcony – something like an American ‘deck’ and my parents would often spend their evenings together, sitting there, chatting in the dark.
When we used to have power failures, I would join them out there (I’d otherwise be watching TV or reading in my room). It used to be nice being out with them in the open air.
I started to notice that other families in the neighbourhood would also come together when the power went out. You could hear them chatting and laughing together. Some would open their front doors to let the cool air in. Some would light candles and you could see them flickering away. The house opposite our’s had a piano and you could hear them play it some nights. It was nice to listen to.
All around us, people were spending time together and enjoying it. And it was all thanks to the power going off.
When the power came back on, all of that ended. It’s like everyone went back to doing what they had been doing before. The ‘impromptu family times’ ended as abruptly as they had started. The talking and the laughter was replaced by silence once more.
And this was way before smart-phones, tablets and lap-tops were around.
Thinking back to those family gatherings in the darkness made me wonder whether we are really advancing as a species. In some ways, it seems at though our technological advancements and affluence is taking us further away from each other, which is sad. I’m not blaming technology or lamenting the glorious fact that I have access to it. I am grateful for it all. Yet I know that all the fancy gadgets and gizmos won’t help humanity if we become cut off and disconnected from each other – if we’re no longer connecting in real and meaningful ways.
I put my hand up and admit that I am guilty of constantly checking my phone and not being ‘present’ or fully engaging in my conversations at times. I want to change and I am working on it.
I am happy though that we got rid of our TV, just before Dakota was born. I used to be a TV addict, often sitting up into the early hours of the morning, flicking through channels aimlessly. That said, I can now truthfully say that I don’t miss it at all.
We have started going to bed early as a family. We do our best to spend the last part of the day together, in the same room. When we have lights out, Dakota tends to fall asleep and Shani and I get to have our chats, which we enjoy so much. It reminds me of the long conversations my parents enjoyed up there on that balcony, all those years ago. It feels like I’ve come full circle. It feels like I’ve come ‘home’.