Friday, April 30, 2010

Balance in a Wired World

For two days this week, Internet service to my home was disrupted. A rogue cable somewhere baffled technicians and repairmen for 48 hours until they were able to locate and fix it. But what this unplugged state from the wired world revealed to me about myself is a lesson I am determined to heed for the rest of my life.

It wasn't as if I wasn't on the Web during these two days. Sitting in front of a computer at work, there's always time for checking email from friends, catching up with news, posting a subversive thought or two on Twitter.

It's when I returned home that I realized with a shock that I had become used to repeating what I did at work: Head straight for the laptop, start checking email, catch up with the news, post more stuff on Twitter.

The first night of disconnection made me restless, edgy. My wife asked me to calm down but I couldn't. I was angry at my ISP and began mentally composing the tough words I would use against them. I would post my thoughts on Yelp and other sites. I would let the world know to what darkness my ISP had thrown me into.

It was only when I was feeling so utterly lost that I realized I had a become a prisoner of my deadening habit. The truth was, there was nothing important waiting for me on the Web. Nothing.

I stepped out of the house. A full moon had risen over the brooding hills, surrounded by diaphanous clouds. It had rained in the day and the evening was cool. A night bird called from the dark interior of a tree. Deep silence. Only the leaves stirred in the small wind.

How could I have become so mechanical, so data-driven, when the real world lay about me, richer and more magnificent in every way? Without even being aware of it, I had traded the real for the artificial.

My wife and I took a walk around the block, our path lit by magical moonlight. It was like returning to earth after being away in a cold and distant planet.

Wordsworth wrote:

The world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers;
Little we see in Nature that is ours;
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!
This Sea that bares her bosom to the moon,
The winds that will be howling at all hours,
And are up-gathered now like sleeping flowers,
For this, for everything, we are out of tune ...

So this is the promise I have made to myself. No more Web after work. Family, book, laughter, nature, food, music, conversation. Real people and real stuff for the replenishment of the real soul.

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