Recently I found myself truly enjoying my most recent acquisition. It’s a scooter (the kickable kind like when we were kids) that I bought while visiting my 5 year-old nephew so I could go everywhere with him… well, trail behind him while panting madly and looking like I would keel over any minute. During the time out on the scooter with Tristan I received 50 e-mails, 4 phone messages, 2 texts and this is all while I’m in Geneva with a 6 hour time difference.
What I find myself missing is the silence and the time outs that were an inherent part of my earlier life; my life before cell phones, e-mails, texts, twitters, and the general oppressive and compulsive nature of technology. After I came back, I found myself not answering my cell phone, not returning messages, not turning on my computer and generally craving being outdoors and unplugged. And an interesting thing happened. People were uncomfortable with that. Even my newly acquired financial adviser who is just beginning to get to know me, and is probably around 70 commented to me that I don’t really respond to my phone.
So what have I noticed? I’m sleeping better. I’m losing more weight. I’m calmer. I’m actually enjoying life. And best of all, I don’t feel the least bit guilty. When did we sign up for around the clock availability? What happened to our acceptance of the unavailability of people? When someone didn’t answer the phone, we were perfectly content to call back. If we left a message, we didn’t expect an immediate response. If we sent a letter, we didn’t expect an answer right away. We allowed for time to pass, and in that time people were living their lives.
Now we expect instant answers, instant results, instant gratification, instant connection. Even in relationships, I see people meet for the first time and think that they should be committed within a few weeks. Come on people! Where is our sense of relaxation? Why do we need 24 hour news, twitter updates, texts while we’re driving? Why can’t we just unplug?
What I have found in my own life is that when I choose not to listen, to unplug my life, then my life becomes my own, not something I’m sharing with hundreds of other people. My time becomes something that flows in the direction I wish (i.e. I’m the director of my own life) instead of flowing in the direction of greatest demand. My grandfather used to tell me that you have to take as much time for yourself, as you give to others, which probably explains the many hours he spent out on the river fishing. It allows reflection, processing, organizing and prioritizing. It allows an objectivity to flow from your intuitive self which is oppressed and even blocked by the pressure and demands of technology.
And let’s think about the constant bombardment of our bodies and brains by electrical devices. When I’m chatting with people about poor sleeping habits, I can’t tell you how many of them have so many electrical devices in their bedrooms, that their dreams must be filled with a constant hum just from the electrical fields. Even James Thurber made fun of his grandmother who believed that electricity could actually leak out of electrical sockets and affect you while sleeping.
We began with firelight, then candlelight, then gas light, then electric light and now we have power grids, gigantic power lines and poles, underground cables and even transatlantic cables. Our bodies are surrounded by a power that we invite into our lives and only you can decide how often you subject yourself to not just the stress of electricity, but the stress of constant communication. We have to unplug, to truly connect with our inner selves, to listen without distraction to what our bodies and minds have to tell us, the wisdom they wish to share with us. So many people are completely disconnected from their inner selves because they are so connected outside of themselves.
Some time ago, I had been harping on my mother about getting a cell phone so that if she had an emergency while driving, she could call someone. Now my mother really has very limited familiarity with anything that arrived on the scene after the 70′s. So one day she arrived to pick me up for a lunch we were having, and she was happy to tell me that she had discovered that she had actually had a cell phone for quite a while, and now was carrying it with her in the car. I asked her what model it was and she pointed over her shoulder into the back seat on which rested her cordless phone from the house. I think she really should just remain unplugged…