The first snowstorm of the year came yesterday, high howling winds, blowing snow, and a power outage. It was no big deal, Upaya stayed warm, and thanks to the gas stoves lunch was served on time. But something very different did happen. For the first time in my three months here, residents drifted into the living room. Draped themselves over chairs. And lazily, cozily, conversed in shared space.
Normally everyone would have been off rapping away, alone with our little white boxes. But no power means, no Internet.
As soon as the power came back on everyone scurried away like cockroaches, including me.
I am an addict. I check my email and my twitter feed numerous times a day. I don’t do facebook because, well, that would be like giving a quart of vodka to an alcoholic. I do it to the point of distraction, I do it til my eyes hurt, I do it til my back aches, I do it when the sun is casting a golden glow and the air is perfect and I’ve been indoors all day but…I do it, because I can’t bear to be with myself. I tell myself I don’t need it, and I’d be fine without it. But do I ever put that to the test? No. It takes me away from intimacy—with my environment, my community, myself.
Now PLEASE don’t rise up and give me a lecture. You do not need to defend this marvel or your own use of it. I am not a luddite, not a technophobe, not an Internet-hater. I am fully aware of the opportunities this medium affords me. I wouldn’t have been able to make my living without it. And it has been, is, and will continue to be one of my main creative outlets. Obviously, I am aware of the irony, that you wouldn’t be reading this otherwise. And this I do truly believe: this technology is absolutely central to getting our species out of the mess we have gotten ourselves into. It connects us in ways that were previously unimaginable. It is truly a miracle, and I am grateful for it every day.
But it is pure delusion to pretend that a medium this powerful does not have its dark side. Like any powerful tool – like, say, cars! – it is so useful, so convenient, and so prone to abuse. I hate myself for getting mindlessly sucked into the box for hours on end, to no real purpose but distraction. And anything that makes me hate myself, is something I need to address.
You’d think all this meditating and stuff would have cured my addiction, and it has taken me at least half way there – I see it. But where do I go from here?
On Nov. 19 I will be going offline for 3 weeks, for our Fall Practice Period. With the exception of sesshin (the last 7 days of the period), going offline is recommended but not mandatory. This will be the first time I have been completely offline, for more than a few days, in almost 20 years. I am thinking of it as a mental cleanse, a detox. I don’t think I’ll go mad or cease to exist, but you never know.
Also I am thinking: Unwired Wednesdays. Every Wednesday, totally offline – starting now. Do you have any strategies, for how to have a healthy relationship with this technology? Please share.