Taking Our Temperature
October 11th, 2010

According to the brief description following his byline, Thomas Moore (not the poet or the saint), “has been a monk, a musician, a professor, a psychotherapist, an author, and a lecturer.”  My initial response to that mini-bio is to think, “Wow, someone couldn’t make up his mind, could he?”  But that is tacky and judgmental and wholly irrelevant in this case because in this article he makes some very interesting points.

How many new electronic gadgets have you purchased in the past five years?  How many pieces of artwork have you acquired during that same time?  I realize the second question feels like a non sequitur to the first.  But Moore poses this question because he believes that the latter in some way counterbalances the first; like a cultural carbon offset.  He likens technological additions to our lives to coolness – with every Kindle, iPad, or Droid we become cooler.  The problem with this, he asserts, is that we should also add things to our lives that make us warmer.  The things that Moore proposes make us warmer?  Non-technological things: artwork, music, books, and the like.    

There’s something appealing about this idea to me; the idea that as things in life make us cooler (metaphorically speaking, of course) that we should take steps to make ourselves warmer.  We should not be allowed to evolve into mechanized versions of ourselves, engaging with the world and with each other only through objects with on/off switches.  Moore writes, ”There’s nothing wrong with cool… But if cool gets in the way of warm, we individuals and the culture at large lose important values: connection, empathy, nostalgia, a strong sense of home and civility.” 

This was where I really got on board.  Connection, empathy, nostalgia, home, and civility are words that resonate with me.  If those words are a part of my life then I’m probably doing something right.  Right?  At the end of a day, or even moreso at the end of a life, these are the components of our lives that matter the most.  These are the barometers of a life well lived.

The other aspect of Moore’s cooler/warmer premise that I like is that as he explains it our coolness and warmth are not mutually exclusive.  He does not ask us to eradicate our coolness; to recycle our iPhones or Tivos and return to the existence of a pre-Alexander Graham Bell time.  He allows us our gadgets, but merely asks that as we accumulate them we even ourselves with other additions to our lives that balance them out. 

I’m not a huge gadget junkie.  And I think I probably rank higher on the warm scale than the cool scale most days.  But Moore’s ideas ring true to me, and as I add new technological gear to my life I should work to make sure that the warmer things in my life are not subsumed by the cool.

5 Responses to “Taking Our Temperature”

  1. TheKitchenWitch Says:

    I really like this idea! I’d certainly never thought about it before. We’re heavier on the cool at our house, mainly because of the two dudes in the family. Going to have to think about adding some warm!

  2. Anne@lifeinpencil.com Says:

    Interesting idea. I think I sorta do this naturally…like when I’ve spent too much time in front of a computer or tv, I sort of CRAVE things like turning a book’s pages, or a great art exhibit. I’m the antithesis of a tech junkie. I wonder if my life should perhaps involve more cooling down? Nah.

  3. ayala Says:

    I love this. It rings true to me as well. I find a balance between both on most days! Other days it’s not so easy !

  4. BigLittleWolf Says:

    This is fascinating, Gale. And for a teen boy household, I realize we aren’t heavy on the gadget (cool) side. We certainly have our share, but we’ve never been about the latest and greatest as a matter of both budget and practicality (no sooner do you get the gadget than you need a newer one).

    This household would tip toward the “warm” side by a factor of about 20 to 1. Books & art everywhere, and musical instruments (belonging to the boys) as well.

    But I do like the idea that there is a balance of both – whatever that right balance might be for a person (or family). And our right balance might be exactly the one we have.

  5. rebecca @ altared spaces Says:

    I am totally on board with this idea. I don’t like “giving things up” but like the counterweight idea. I do believe that technology does something to us and the “cooler” image is one that rings true. Art does enliven me and warms me up. Thanks for bringing this to my attention.