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We live in amazing times, it's true. We can hurtle through space at the speed of sound, speak to anyone, anywhere, for less than a dime, and gawk at a stranger's photos on a device tethered only to our fingertips. These are fantastic things all, and it is natural that we should cheer our good fortune and wonder how Abe Lincoln read all those books without a torchiere lamp. What savage days our ancestors lived!

But as I muse about this in the soft glow of candlelight, shadows quivering on the wall, I have my doubts. Sure, I can cook oatmeal in sixty seconds and wash my socks without benefit of a stone, but have I really gotten the better end of history? A wafer of silicon may yet unlock the mysteries of the universe, but it is no substitute for the warmth of a pot-bellied stove.

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May 2006