Clear the Decks This Summer
June 13, 2019
In 2005, I walked into the Apple Store on Michigan Avenue and bought the new iPod Photo. Above the click wheel there was a 2.5” screen, and you could load photos and text into it from your computer, just like music. The salesclerk showed me how he had put his favorite reading material onto his iPod Photo: the U.S. Constitution. “I’ll never be bored again,” he said.
That thrilling pronouncement now seems like a doomsday prediction. I haven’t been bored since the Bush administration. Most of us fill any pause in our day with a cascade of email, news, tweets, Instagram stories, Snapchats and texts. We can’t stop. Apart from our human desire to always know what is happening around us, many of us make our living creating and influencing that digital information stream.
But our brains and our spirits are tired, and our attention is fraying. Some neuroscientists tell us that the way we interact with devices is changing the way we think. As The Sketch Guy Carl Richards pointed out in the New York Times, if you work with your head, your brain needs rest just like a cook’s hands or a soccer player’s legs do. That means stepping away from the information flow, doing nothing, and letting your mind wander.
This summer, I plan to clear the decks mentally and recharge for the fall. I have a couple of challenges in mind.
First, the Digital Sabbath website poses this question: “Do you think you could go one day a week for three months without digital technology?” I’m not sure, but the three months of summer would be a good time to find out.
Second, go on vacation somewhere with spotty cell service. Take some books and some interesting people. I plan to spend some time outdoors where the only tweets come from birds and the only snaps come from twigs.
I am hoping for renewed focus and a rested brain in the fall. I’m also hoping for insight into how to balance the infinite universe my smartphone puts in the palm of my hand with the amazing world around me.
June 13, 2019