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A Tribute to Ned Ludd
    by Philip Gulley

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    I was talking with a friend about computers and the information superhighway. Like most computer evangelicals, my friend won't be happy until everyone has one. I don't own a computer and told him I have no intention of buying one. The only highway I want to travel is a dogwood-laden road deep in Posey County.

Home Town Tales
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    "You're a Luddite," he told me.

    "What's a Luddite?" I asked him.

    "If you had a computer, you could look it up," he said.

    I went home and looked it up in my Webster's dictionary. There it was, sandwiched between "Lucullan" and "ludicrous." "Luddite: one of a group of early 19th century English workmen destroying laborsaving machinery as a protest; one who is opposed to technological change." The Luddites were named for Ned Ludd, a textile worker who correctly perceived a weaving machine to be a threat to his livelihood. So in 1811 he took sledgehammer in hand and beat the machine to pieces. Ned Ludd is my hero.

    My brother Glenn recendy bought a computer. He called me on the phone, wanting my e-mail address.

    "What's an e-mail address, and why do you want it?" I asked him.

    "So we can talk on our computers," he said.

    "I don't have a computer," I told him. "I have a phone. Why can't we talk on that?"

    My mailman, Charlie, says he's holding on to his job by a thread, a modern-day Ned Ludd.

    "It's the computers," he tells me. "Everyone's sending e-mail. Nobody's writing letters anymore."

    He doesn't like fax machines, either. I bought a fax machine a few months back, and haven't been able to look Charlie in the eye since.

Can people save their e-mail in a shoe box?
    In my kitchen sits an antique cupboard. On the bottom shelf is a shoe box filled with letters. There's one from my Grandma Norma, now absent from this world. Scratchy, old-woman writing, congratulating me for graduating from high school in 1979. It overflows with praise, as if I'd graduated number one from Harvard. She sent me twenty dollars, too. Can't remember what I spent it on. But I bet it didn't bring me the joy that Grandma's letter brings me every time I open the shoe box and see it there. If our house ever caught on fire, I'd grab my wife, my kids, and my shoe box, in that order.

    Can people save their e-mail in a shoe box? Will they pass it down to their children, like I'll pass Grandma's letter down to my sons?

    "This was from your great-grandmother Norma. Didn't she have beautiful writing? They called it the Palmet method. They used to teach that in school."

    Today's kids learn the keyboard; twenty years from now we'll be reminiscing over the dot matrix and laser printer. It won't be the same.

    Friends, here's a little encouragement. Go buy the finest pen and paper you can afford. If you have to go a day or two with an empty wallet, it'll be worth it. Set aside a quiet hour one evening after the kids are in bed, and write someone a letter. Tell her how much you love her, how proud she makes you, how her friendship means more to you than anything in the world. I'll make you a promise. When she dies and her children are sorting through her belongings, they'll come across that letter tucked away in a shoe box. The paper will be creased from its many readings. The children will tell you that when their mother was discouraged, she went to the shoe box, read that letter, and brushed away a tear.

    Ned Ludd was right. These new ways aren't always the best ways, and before we embrace them, we'd better be sure we know what it is we're giving up.

From the book Home Town Tales: Recollections of Peace, Love, and Joy by Philip Gulley. (c) 1999 by Multnomah Pub., used by permission. Also available on audio cassette!

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About the Author...
Philip Gulley is a Quaker pastor who ministers in Indianapolis. He is married and has two preschool sons. In addition to pastoring and writing, Gulley enjoys spending Sunday afternoons in his hometown.

Title: "A Tribute to Ned Ludd"
Author: Philip Gulley
Publication Date: December 30, 1999



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From the book Home Town Tales: Recollections of Peace, Love, and Joy, by Philip Gulley. © 1999 by Multnomah Pub., Used by permission.
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