Monday, July 14, 2014

Unplugged for a Week: I Lived to Tell the Tale!

Unplug (verb) 1. To disconnect by removing a plug               --Random House Dictionary

Last week I found one of the few remaining places on earth (or at least in New England) that does not have cell phone service. That’s right: no smartphone access.  If you fire up your device within the confines of this signal free zone, you get zero bars, or, in the case of my handheld digital lifeline, a fiery red dot on the screen, indicating complete cutoff from the information superhighway.  For seven days and nights I lived and worked in a cocoon devoid of any electronic stimulation.  


No text messages in or out. No internet to surf. No TV to entertain. No video games to play. No cell phone ringing. Nothing high tech to soothe my digital addiction, my daily need and craving for technology in all its shapes and forms. For 168 hours, I was completely off the grid, unplugged for the longest time in a very long time.

It was tough. But I lived to tell the tale.

Without any screens to gaze upon, it was confusing and disorienting at first. For news from the outside world I read something called a “newspaper”, a broadsheet covered with black ink, words and photos, magically printed on a physical page.  For entertainment, I and my friends were forced to live within a strange place called “the real world”.  With unfamiliar sounds…like wind blowing through the trees. Thunder crackling in the distance. Raindrops pattering on the roof of our outdoor wooden cabins.  Crickets chirping at dusk.  Hot bugs buzzing away in the sultry embrace of a steamy summer afternoon.

I found it hard to adjust, kept reaching for my phone but was always met with a blank display.  “Searching for service” it said, but alas, service was not to be found. 

So at night we had to look up into a star filled jet black sky. There was nothing else to watch. One evening we saw a “super moon”, a bright orange circle that seemed to swallow up the heavens. For music we had to sing using our own voices, no recordings to help us along.  The food was even foreign, and included a strange concoction called a “S’More”, marshmallows melted over a campfire and then smooshed between two graham crackers and a piece of chocolate.

We played cards at a picnic table and swatted at annoying creatures called “mosquitoes”, dove into an ice cold lake and came up laughing, sat in a circle on dew covered grass and talked face to face about life and God. We fell asleep to the hooting of an owl as moonlight bathed the camp in an eerie glow and then awoke to the singing of birds and the squeak of screen doors being opened at dawn. 

By week’s end I didn’t much miss all my devices, being unplugged after getting so used to being plugged in.  Now back in “civilization”, I’m fully recharged and “teching” away again.  Funny how easy it is to fall back into familiar patterns of living.  Could I imagine a life technology free?  No. I like all my machines.  I enjoy their convenience, the power they give us humans to connect, communicate, seek knowledge, and reach out. 

Yet my high tech Sabbath did remind me that I need more balance in how and when I plug myself in.  I need regular, scheduled time away from screens. I need to confess that sometimes I turn them on just to distract myself.  I need to remember that my five senses—sight, hearing, taste, touch, and smell—must plug into Creation every single day.  I need to thank God for the miracle of technology and the miracle of real life.

And that cell free zone I found?  It’s in Sharon, Connecticut, at the Silver Lake Conference Center, tucked away among rolling hills and cow filled pastures.   I’m already excited to go back there next summer.  But God willing, I won’t wait that long to unplug again.

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