Unplugged: The Lessons of Irene

(We were lucky we only suffered major tree damage, as in one of the giants didn’t fall on the house–or people. But I feared that occurrence all night.)

Into our third day, neighborhood buzz saws drown out cicadas, those characteristic insects of hot, lazy summer days, as we all pray for normal. Yes, it’s been 4+ days of no television, no cable, no internet, no phone, no e-mail (probably goes without saying). These are almost all the ways I’ve become accustomed to communicating, and in one not-so-brief period (Hurricane Irene,) we lost them all.

And the loss of those is weighing on me–big time.

So, in a state of high anxiety, I drag Husband to Starbucks for the juice I’ve learned to crave–the internet connection. Funny thing is: Fifty other folks had the same idea. That fact reminded me of the time I was in a plane over Chicago’s O’Hare Airport, when the pilot said: “Folks, the tower’s directed us to circle for about 30 minutes until we find a clear patch in the fog. Rest assured that when we do, we’ll go for it.”

I thought, “Is he nuts?“ Obviously, none of them in the cockpit had considered the reality every plane in the air would be gunning for that same clear spot.

What’s the association?

The folks at Starbucks reminded me of that time. They were all looking for their clear space in the fog–access to the internet. They all sat about, intent on their work, staking out their little piece of wifi. Oh, they were properly accoutered with coffee cups. After all, it would be pretty gauche to just go in and use the juice.

I ordered a tall mild (a Starbucks oxymoron in that it‘s small and strong), claimed my spot, booted up, and went on-line. When the familiar Microsoft jingle greeted me, I gotta say: I felt the thrill an addict allegedly does when the drug first courses through her veins.

The internet would make things right. I’d go to familiar haunts– the major cable networks, the local newspaper, my websites, checking in with each. It took me away from the bleak reality back home.

There, my neighborhood’s a war zone with giant trees uprooted, their limbs akimbo. They lie like fallen soldiers, leaves withering in the sun, faint reminders of former glory. Everywhere people work to remove wreckage, like ants who rebuild the mound after a predator’s sacking.

But when darkness comes, a new and unnatural silence descends, and it’s then I remember: Life wasn‘t always this way. I once lived in a time when occasional solitude was good. As a child, I read the bookcase filled with the classics, the literary tomes my parents bought for our edification. We had the imaginary world of outdoors, too, that provided a backdrop for fantasy.

Endless chatter didn’t conflict. We heard the silence.

Without computers or cell phones to distract, we settled into the quiet where we could hear our own thoughts. Kids today don’t have that luxury. They live in a world of continual din, and because of that, I fear for their psyches.

Yes, a world of connectedness is just another illusion for it pretends to bring us together while it really isolates. What’s the main relationship lost? That connection with our inner selves. Consider, too: People who seek a higher plane of self-understanding take themselves away from the noise of the world (Tibetan monks, Transcendentalists)

If one loses electricity, cable, TV, the internet, today, she’ll feel that undeniable sense of malaise, an unnatural, other-worldly condition where she feels out of the loop…alone…vulnerable.

What’s it really? Her former self, struggling to regain footing.

Today’s tech world is yet another addiction and if you want to really understand its hold over you, try a disconnect whereby you commit to doing without. It’s here you’ll discover:

Just like those in detox and recovery plans, you’ll suffer before you feel good.

About admin

A lifetime teacher and realtor who's now a published writer, Colleen Kelly Mellor is a humorist first, ever aware of the thread that connects us all. Her works have appeared in the WSJ, Providence Journal, and CNN and NY Times-acclaimed medical blog, kevinMD.com, to name a few. All material on this blog is exclusive property of the author and cannot be reproduced without this author's express written consent.
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