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Dedicated to Henry Beston's literary classic and the
spirit of life on the Great Outer Beach of Cape Cod

Going techno - what would Henry think?

As I sit here at my computer pounding through HTML, JPG and text files, I can't help but feel that I'm a bit of a hypocrite.

The Outermost Web Site is in its 10th month of existence, showcasing Henry Beston's literary classic "The Outermost House" and trying to establish an understanding of the spirit of life on the Great Outer Beach of Cape Cod. Basically, we're reaching into the natural world, and here I am, utilizing many of the very technological advances that blantantly contradict that entire thought process.

All of this has me wondering what good old Henry himself would have thought if he had access to AOL, Pentium chips, e-mail and all the other goodies of the new electronic age.

Beston did much of his writing in an era that followed the Industrial Revolution in this country, and even the new toys of the first half of the 20th century often sent him running for cover.

Don by the Sea
By Don Wilding

Beston disliked many of the new conveniences of his time -- that was one one of the reasons he and his wife, Elizabeth Coatsworth, purchased Chimney Farm in Nobleboro, Maine in the early 1930s -- because he wasn't fond of the increased automobile traffic and clutter in the Boston suburb of Hingham, Mass., where the Bestons made their home after they married in 1929. Beston's writing often focused on how machinery and its like were taking over society, leaving the natural world behind.

Beston, a burned-out magazine editor, left New York and all its glitz behind in the early 1920s before deciding to spend that eventful year in Eastham on Cape Cod. He saw the direction society was heading back in the 1940s -- in the pages of "Northern Farm," he writes of how "the chromium millennium ahead of us, I gather, is going to be an age whose ideal is a fantastically unnatural human passivity."

Machines will do everything for man, Beston continues, and he finds that "appalling." Yet, on the same token, he is open to the thought of a modern convenience or two.

"No, I do not mean that we should take the hardest way," he continues. "Compromises are natural and right. But a human being protected from all normal and natural hardship simply is not alive."

Man, never a creature to have complete control of his senses, is becoming more and more dependent on technology. Someday soon, I'm told, we may have cars that do the driving for us. Banking is done more and more online, a thought that terrifies me. News programs, which cram information down our throats through all kinds of media outlets, tell us frequently that robots are now capable of doing household chores for us (at a lofty price).

Somehow, I doubt that this is what God had in mind for us all.

"Machinery is all right as a servant, but it is poison as a master," Beston told a Quincy, Mass. American Legion gathering in 1933.

Technology is taking over. Modern society needs to find a way to control it before it completely consumes us.

"What we must ask today is whether or not the mechanist strain has increased out of all bounds, and taken over an undue proportion of the way of life," Beston wrote in "Northern Farm." "It is well to use the wheel but it is fatal to be bound to it."

Now that this page is written, formatted and loaded, it's time to put the wheel aside. The dog is bugging me to take her for a walk. I think getting out of the apartment and taking an hour-long stroll through the woods will do us both an awful lot of good.

Filed May 21, 2000

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