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Man has been trying to improve himself by his own power since the beginning. The results speak for themselves.
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Saturday, November 26, 2011

On Power Outages and Bioethics

It's been almost a month since we lost power for nearly a week after that intense October snowstorm. My wife pointed out that nature is awesome and man's amazing technological prowess is so fragile in comparison. She really kept her chin up.

I wish I had her outlook on things. I was annoyed at several things. I actually was coming home with one of my kids that afternoon and couldn't get closer than a mile or two from home before I had to give up and park the car on a side street. My wife came in the other car, which has all wheel drive, to pick us up. We got a ticket for leaving the car parked on a street during a snowfall. (We're going to fight it.) I was also annoyed at the power company for its fragile system, so easily and so massively taken down. I was annoyed on that Monday, Halloween, because the trains weren't running and I lost out on a whole day of work. I'm working freelance now, so I didn't get paid.

The power company said it would be several days before power was restored, so I went out and bought a modest generator. So not only did I not get paid, I spent like $700 to keep my house and my family from freezing. The darn generator could not be hooked up to our furnace, though, so we bought a couple of space heaters that use so much wattage that the generator couldn't run more than two (and then not at their full power), along with the refrigerator. Our water is also on a well, which has an electric pump, which also could not be connected to the generator. (We'll get an electrician when the budget allows to set up a circuit to run the furnace and the water for the next time.) Luckily, I had the kids fill the bathtub ahead of the storm and I filled a half dozen empty milk jugs so we could at least flush the toilets. Cooking was interesting.

I was annoyed at all of that. But we made do. After a few days, it was beginning to get old. I replenished the tub with snow (and leaves and grass mixed in) and we refilled the jugs at my in-laws' house. Several times.

Well. It finally dawned on me. As much as we need electricity -- we humans are probably too dependent upon it, actually -- it's not by "power" that we live. Not that kind of power. We live by divine power.

And there's the bioethical connection. At least sort of. This blog, and my approach to bioethics is founded on the fact (disputed by some, but a fact nonetheless) that man is God's image. Bioethics, in order to be authentically ordered to man's true good, has to account for this fact. And the fact that man's true good is not bodily, but spiritual. As my kids began picking up on my annoyance and got annoyed themselves, I realized I couldn't persist like that. And so, finally, I was annoyed at being annoyed and losing sight.

We live by God's power. Not by electricity. Not by electro-dependent technology. We do not define ourselves. We make electricity, and nature can take it away in a heartbeat. There is a movement called trans- and post-humanism that envisions man remaking himself technologically, things like man-machine hybrids (sort of like Darth Vader and the Borg). Geesh. What would happen to such creatures when the power goes out? You want power? You want to live for ever? Then draw close to Power Itself, Life Itself. No technology of man's, now or ever in the future, will enable a person to do that.

The funny thing is, despite not having electricity for nearly a week, our electric bill for the month including that week was higher than last month. How is that possible, when we were off the grid for so long? That's a question for the power company to answer.

Well, things are back to normal for a few weeks now.

Back to forgetting, some of us, where the real power comes from.