Only Connect

All the Light We Cannot See


In a charming scene from the new novel by Anthony Doerr, All the Light We Cannot See, sibling orphans in prewar Germany build a rudimentary radio from scrap. For a time, they hear nothing but static. Just when they are sure that they must resign themselves to their paltry, hardscrabble lives, they pick up a signal. It is the cultured voice of a man speaking French, a scientist of some sort, who between his broadcasts of classical music, explains in terms a child could understand the workings of nature. How is coal formed? What is light? Brother and sister are stunned. They are captivated. Suddenly, they feel less alone.


Communication. Connection. Affirmation.


And yet that same boy, a mechanical prodigy, later becomes an expert for the Nazis in using triangulation to locate the radio transmitters of enemy troops and partisan saboteurs. Whom his German comrades kill.



Technology can help liberate us from the tyranny of loneliness. But it can also unleash and amplify the consequences of our worst impulses. Doerr quotes Joseph Goebbels, who said of the Nazis, “It would not have been possible for us to take power or to use it in the ways we have without the radio.”


So, I am not my blog. You are not your computer or smartphone. Only human beings can truly connect. That’s worth pondering from time to time.



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