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“Small voice” would be muffled in world transformed by technology

On a recent farm visit, as is sometimes the case in this business, I was directed to meet someone far from the beaten path, off a paved county road and onto a winding dirt road, deep into the woods, near the edge of a pond and the beginning of a field.

Over the years, I’ve learned that farmers give the best and most memorable directions when instructing you where to meet them. You may think you’ve reached the ends of the earth, but if they tell you that’s where they’ll be, then you can count on them being there. It may take a little while, but eventually the silence of the countryside is broken by the sound of a rumbling diesel engine headed your way.

On this recent journey into the woods, I was running a bit early, so I strolled out to the pond and took a seat under a large oak tree. I searched my pockets frantically for my BlackBerry before remembering I had left it in the car. So I decided just to sit there, listening to sounds that I hadn’t heard in so long that they seemed foreign to me — of birds singing, of an occasional fish jumping from the water, and of the wind rustling as it pushed through the trees and brush.

On cue, the farmer arrived and we discussed the subject at hand. But later, while driving home, I thought about that brief moment by the pond, and how in the course of a day, week or month, there are all too few such moments.

Technology, for better or worse, has created a world in which — at our choosing, of course — we can always be “connected.” First, there was e-mail, which meant that even from the comfort of our homes, we could communicate with the workplace. Then, the advent of cell phones strengthened the concept that we were never far away from work, friends or family. Now we have Twitter, Facebook, blogging and countless other technologies that are being developed and introduced on a seemingly daily basis.

But are there times when it’s all simply too much? This is by no means a call for a form of Luddism, whereby any and all technological advances are opposed simply because they might bring cultural and socioeconomic change. All of the aforementioned technological wonders represent progress, of one sort or another, in how we communicate and how we acquire information. But the key, as with anything, is moderation.

As an organization with a proud history of providing timely agricultural information, Farm Press is actively involved in all forms of new media and social networking. We have expanded into the digital world with our Southeast Farm Press Web site, Southeast Farm Press Daily e-newsletters, and Farm Press on Facebook and Twitter. The content on all of these products is designed to help farmers meet the increasing challenges of producing and marketing crops.

This technology serves an important purpose, because it offers instant access to crop-specific production information and the latest in legislative and marketing news.

But again, as users of this technology, the key is moderation — knowing when to use it, and knowing when to walk away from it or turn it off. As commonsensical as this may sound, keep in mind that we live in a country where states and municipalities are being forced to pass laws against texting and driving at the same time. And social media have convinced some that their every utterance or thought, no matter how mundane, is worthy of being recorded for all to see. Obviously, not enough people know yet when to turn it off.

That day at the pond made me think back to another time, many years ago, when I was a young boy in church. My Sunday school teacher at the time was a stern taskmaster, but for good reason — she was charged with teaching the Gospel to a rambunctious group of adolescent boys. Anyway, whenever the class would become too loud and talkative, she would teach us the same lesson, from the Book of Kings, which tells of when God spoke to Elijah on Mount Horeb. He could have done so in the wind, through an earthquake, or by fire. But he didn’t. He spoke with a “still, small voice.” In exasperation, my frazzled Sunday school teacher would ask, “If you don’t be quiet, how will you ever hear the ‘still, small voice’?”

In the midst of all our new technology — the cell phones, the PDA’s, the e-mail, Twitter, Facebook, blogging and others that have yet to be invented but are surely on the way — would we even hear a still, small voice if it spoke to us today?


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