The original model.
Technology can be friend or foe, depending on how we use it. Commentator Tom Montgomery-Fate wonders how much longer he can resist the pull of a PDA like the Blackberry, in his desire to stay closer to nature.
GELLERMAN: Well, in case you missed it, October 11th was Michaelmas Day, the day English folklore warns us to stop eating blackberries until next year.
ItÂ’s said that when the angels threw Satan out of Heaven, the devil landed in a blackberry bush, and was so angry with the thorns that he spat on the brambles and cursed the blackberries.
Commentator Tom Montgomery-Fate picks up the story.
MONTGOMERY-FATE: On the last good "beach day" of the year, my family and I drove to Michigan to enjoy the lake. It was hot, and the cool blue pulse of the water was a lovely distraction. Amid the blazing heat I noticed a young man sitting near us on a towel in the sand working on a little hand-held computer. He was typing madly with his thumbs. But when I asked him what he was doing he was calm and friendly. Â“Just staying in touch with the office," he said, smiling. Â“I love my Blackberry.Â”
Â“Your Blackberry?" I asked.
I had, of course, heard of Blackberrys, but I had never seen one up close. Call me a Luddite if you want, but I was amazed that the beeping plastic brain in his palm was named after my favorite fruit. How is a sweet, sun-drenched berry related to a hard plastic tool?
I did some research: The Blackberry designers noticed that the little buttons looked like the tiny seeds of a strawberry. But they thought Â“strawÂ” sounded too slow to represent the speed and 24/7 ultra-convenience of the modern business world. Since it was black, they decided on "Blackberry." It was all a marketing strategy.
But I shouldn't be so cynical. These days I both need and fear this little device. I need a Blackberry because I can't keep up. Like most people, my life is complicated and I tend to get scattered and distracted. Last week I again couldn't find my car in the parking lot. A month ago I found my lost billfold in the cheese drawer of our refrigerator.
But I also fear getting a Blackberry. I worry that if I get one, I'll become so programmed and productive that I'll never do the slower Â“impracticalÂ” things. Like picking real blackberries with our kids. Which is one of my favorite things to do. Which is why I already miss summer. It all has to do with nostalgia, with remembering the continuity of my life with my children'sÂ—which I can't program into a computer.
Blackberries thrive in Michigan's sandy soil. I often picked them there with my parents forty years ago when we visited the lakeshore. Now my wife and I do the same with our kids. And little has changed. They still ripen in August, marking the end of summer and the unmeasured hours of childhood. The thorns still scratch and cut us as we reach into the thicket for the ripe black clusters. The purple juice still bleeds on to our hands and stains them with memory. I can taste it nowÂ—the aching sweet and sour of a ripe blackberry. Even as I sit here in my office grading papers and answering e-mail and wondering how the summer passed so quickly.
GELLERMAN: Tom Montgomery-Fate teaches teaches writing at College of DuPage in Glen Ellyn, Illinois. And heÂ’s the author of Â“Steady and Trembling: Art, Faith, and Family in an Uncertain World.Â”
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