No time? If you are feeling the pressure of what feels like increasing amounts of work and less time to do it in, you are not alone. Technology, like the computers we’re both using right now to communicate, has brought many blessings, but a sort of tyranny has come with it. Just keeping up with email can mean countless hours alone, staring at the flickering screen.
How long has it been since you just went outside, lay down in the grass, and watched the clouds?
Does that idea feel somehow shocking, distasteful, dangerous, wrong, lazy, subversive; the slippery slope to slackerdom? Do your nerves twitch at the thought of the many things that you should be getting done? How wasteful – doing nothing!
But it’s not nothing; such down-time is how the imagination recharges. And the more creativity and life energy we have, the more brilliantly productive we can be – not to mention more happy.
I’ve finally come to the conclusion that there will always be too much work to get done in the time allotted for it, so constantly rushing to keep up is an exercise in futility; a stress-inducing mistake. I think of my dad: when he worked, he worked hard. And then – here’s the kicker – he’d stop working. He did not get caught in that trap that many of us do, of sort of working all the time. All of the time. ALL the time. Lemme just take a moment to check my email. Again.
In the interest of sanity, we might ask ourselves, when do I allow myself to simply not participate? To rest, play, connect via real bodies, eat a long meal and talk together, do hands-on projects, or just walk around? And then to re-engage with work in a way that seems inviting since our energy is renewed?
I like to take one day per week to simply not engage electronically; to “just say no” to that particularly addictive mind drug. No internet, no email, no DVDs, no TV, no voicemail. I’m not Orthodox Jewish; I still do things like use my car to get in the groceries. I’ll do house chores, make something, play music, take a little hike, or read a book. It feels so freeing. When is the last time you spent an entire day wallowing in a novel?
There’s a little movement afoot to support this sort of thing, the National Day of Unplugging. I see this as part of a living ecopsychological meme, the return of a regular day of rest. The Sabbath was a very good idea whose time has come again, as our need is great. Such activities (or non-activities!) can contribute a great deal to our collective mental health, soul spaciousness, and subversive delight. Just say no to constantly being wired.
This year, the Day of Unplugging runs from sundown Friday, March 23 to sundown, Saturday March 24. You might want to join in too.
If you want to keep your pals to yourself at a meal instead of watching them play with the latest iPhone app or take calls from other people who couldn’t be bothered to haul their actual breathing carcasses down there to join you, the Cell Phone Stack may be of interest. Here’s how Kempt, a men’s style / fashion / grooming site, describes this “solution for peace”:
It works like this: as you arrive, each person places their phone facedown in the center of the table. (If you’re feeling theatrical, you can go for a stack like this one, but it’s not required.) As the meal goes on, you’ll hear various texts and emails arriving… and you’ll do absolutely nothing. You’ll face temptation—maybe even a few involuntary reaches toward the middle of the table—but you’ll be bound by the single, all-important rule of the phone stack.
Whoever picks up their phone is footing the bill.
It’s a brilliant piece of social engineering, masquerading as a bar game. It takes the phone out of the pocket—where you can sneak a glance and hope nobody notices—and places it in the center of attention at all times. Suddenly, picking up your phone is the big deal you always secretly knew it was. And more importantly, it comes with consequences.
After posting this brilliant social intervention, the writer got a bunch of objections, which he answered in a subsequent post. This one’s my favorite:
Texting Is Totally Different from Answering a Phone Call.
This was the most common and most mystifying response. On some level, it’s true—texting is not nearly as rude as talking on the phone—but that doesn’t mean it isn’t rude. Anytime you’re giving a pocket-sized gadget precedence over a human being, something has gone wrong.
I also liked this one:
My Job Requires Me to Be On Call 24 Hours a Day.
No, it doesn’t; you just like to say that.
Please begin to take some of each day’s 24 hours back for yourself. Do it often, if only for 10 minutes at a time. It’s a start. I hope I’ll get to join you watching pictures form in the clouds. Or hanging out at night and looking at the stars. Or wandering around the neighborhood like in a Ray Bradbury story, petting all of the cats and dogs. Or searching for edible weeds. Or loafing high in some tree’s branches all day, listening to birdsong. I’ll bring my book, and we can talk.