A wren sat on the top bar of the gate, eyeing the activity in the field beyond. Only when I drew alongside the gate did it feel it time to hop to the safety of the adjacent hedgerow, disappearing into the safety of the briars. Its life seemed very solitary when compared with the companionable ways of the swallows swooping for flies.
In the field, a tractor of a size that would once have been that of a lorry made a steady progress up and down the field. A machine attached to the rear lifted the large round bales that lay in the field wrapping each in black plastic before setting it down to await collection.
The driver of the tractor seemed a solitary figure, perhaps a contractor, working in the lingering heat of the summer evening sun. Farming life at this time of year was once a matter of voices and laughter in the fields as neighbours gathered for haymaking and then gathering for the harvest. Now it seems as solitary as any other season, neighbours replaced by contractors, work now being done by machinery that does as much in an hour as was possible in a day or more.
Technology has created new and unimagined possibilities, it has also created patterns of life very different from those of former times.
Perhaps it began with the wireless and then the television, the gradual erosion of social connections. Conversation and companionship replaced by discarnate voices with which Interaction was not possible. Perhaps it goes back much further, industrialisation changing patterns of production; human participation being progressively replaced by mechanisation. The camaraderie of workplaces diminishing as staff numbers reduced.
Computer technology, whilst connecting people around the world and creating previously impossible ties, has widened the gaps between one person and the next. Supposedly “social” media present us with ersatz friendships whilst simultaneously further isolating us from flesh and blood interactions. No matter how far the online experience advances, no matter how real the virtual becomes, it is still the realm of the digital, not the physical.
On a summer’s evening, when the voices of children would once have filled the air, when bicycles would have passed and the shouts of those playing games of football or cricket would have been filled with energy, there is instead silence.
Distant from the tractor, only the cry of birds is audible. Free from human science they have retained the capacity for true togetherness.