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Shirley Dickard: Reality too similar to fiction

Other Voices
Shirley DicKard

In Thomas Elias’ April 7 column about mankind’s response to curb the coronavirus pandemic (“First steps toward reality?”), he likens it to science fiction and warns us to consider where modern civilization may be headed.

Elias states, “Increasingly people communicate by computer, smartphone and smartwatch rather than in person. Isolation grows ever more common; ‘social distancing’ is officially mandated as a key anti-virus tactic.”

It gave me goose bumps, for Elias aptly described the future world of my recently published novel, “Heart Wood — Four Women, for the Earth, for the Future.” This novel is an exploration of our drift into a virtual world. Heart Wood has been called a cautionary tale that spans the lives of three family women in the Sierra Nevada: past, present, and future. Who’d have envisioned the 1890s switchboard operator who listened in on people’s personal conversations evolving into the 2000s smart phone with GPS, then at a future time, a chip permanently corded around necks, and eventually inserted into the body for convenience?

When COVID-19 hit us for real in mid-March, I felt a vague uneasiness that we’re being accelerated into a world of virtual relationships — a future world where people are more comfortable connecting virtually via their “Nib,” a tiny bio-electric implant inserted at birth behind a baby’s ear. In this future world where everything one could possibly need is provided by one’s Nib, people have lost the desire to touch, make eye contact, or communicate with other humans.

Consider today’s response to COVID-19 as we learn how to carry on virtually: we hold Zoom meetings and cocktail hours, solitary students learn at kitchen tables on computers, we order groceries online and quickly pick up curbside or have them delivered, we take virtual tours of famous gardens and museums, and ever-present Alexa is ready to assist us with whatever we need.

My hope for when the pandemic has run its course is that we will continue the new practices that make the world healthier (i.e., less driving with fossil fuels allows our air and water to clear up; more solitary time for just thinking and observing), and that we return to the real world of touching, for there’s a subtle essence and warmth in physical closeness that nourishes and uplifts us. That’s one of the many themes in “Heart Wood.” For information on Heart Wood, please visit http://www.shirleydickard.com.

Shirley DicKard is the author of “Heart Wood – Four Women, for the Earth, for the Future.” She is also the senior editor of The Camptonville Courier. She lives in Camptonville.


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