The nature of technology

Published 10:28 pm Friday, March 11, 2011

The Great Dismal Swamp is one of Suffolk’s greatest natural resources. Its 112,000 acres of forested wetlands are a home to a richly diverse array of plants and animals, and Suffolk is blessed to contain a portion of such a vast area that is so appealing to those who love the outdoors.

Visitors to the swamp in Suffolk come to look for birds and butterflies. They come hoping to catch a glimpse of bears and deer and foxes and all kinds of other wildlife that make their homes inside the National Wildlife Refuge. They come to learn about the history behind the swamp, or to hike its trails or study the flowers that grow there or for any number of other reasons that have something to do with getting outside and enjoying a wonder of God’s creation.

One activity that is growing in popularity at the swamp is bicycling on the trails where it’s permitted. It’s a hobby that can be rewarding physically and intellectually, and it can help ease one’s spirit. For two men who set out on their bikes inside the swamp on Wednesday, however, the experience was likely anything but spiritually relaxing. The men got lost and had to be rescued inside the swamp by Suffolk’s Department of Fire and Rescue.

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Folks have been getting lost in the Dismal Swamp for hundreds, perhaps thousands, of years. What’s different today is GPS tracking, helicopters and a slew of modern advances that make finding them easier than ever. But those modern search aids wouldn’t have made the slightest difference without one in particular, which has become a staple of our existence today — the cell phone.

Without a cell phone, the two men never would have been able to let emergency workers know they were lost. Instead of being lost for an hour and then found — slightly embarrassed, perhaps, but alive — the bikers easily could have been lost for days before making a bad decision that ended up getting them seriously hurt or even killed.

Sometimes technology can seem impersonal and overwhelming in its constant state of advancement. Sometimes, however, it’s nice to be reminded that all of this technology is intended to be in the service of mankind, not vice-versa. And it’s pleasing to know that technology turned this potentially tragic situation into a relatively minor inconvenience and a great story for two men to share among friends.