“Mulder, the Internet is not good for you.” – X-Files
The Boy, looking out over the Fruited Plain. Sadly, cell reception is great there.
As I’ve alluded to in the previous two posts (GOLDand SUDDEN WEALTH), The Mrs., The Boy, Pugsley, and our borderline idiot dogs (who try ever so hard) recently went on a vacation. We took off for the Fourth of July, which in Great Britain is known as Benjamin Franklin is a Jerk Day. Part of the idea was to have some fun experiences (which we did, and I’ll describe in future, meaningful posts) but when we finished I had some other observations, as well that I’ll share in the next few posts . . . anyway . . .
We went off to the mountains, because:
- that’s where the gold is, and
- that’s where the cold is.
Lower Northern Midwestia summers bounce between hellishly hot and molten iron, although this year the summer has been quite mild and pleasant. One other nice thing about the mountains is that they don’t have large populations – lots of solitude is possible. And there are reasons for the low population:
- It’s really, really cold in winter, like -40˚F. I know. I grew up there. People (outside of my family) don’t appear to cryogenic levels of cold where plastic turns as brittle as Shia LeBeouf’s temper.
- Since there’s not much atmosphere above you when you’re over 8,000 feet in altitude (that’s over 100 meters!), it doesn’t block the Sun’s incoming pain rays. I can walk around in Midwestia all day long without sunscreen. Up high? I burn like a California resort town during a drought in about 15 minutes.
- Economic activity (mainly) consists of tourism, which, because of the whole “bitter cold and five feet of snow on October 1 and no ski area” ambiance, only lasts four to six months out of the year, but mortgages are a 12 month out of the year affair. It’s a poor area, except for the really rich people that own cool summer chalets. They’re all Texans.
- Services are bleak. From our campground, the nearest gas station was 30 miles away (17 meters). There is no natural gas to any house or business. Propane is trucked from 30,000 miles away. Electrical service is beamed from the moon, since that’s closer than any power plant, and, most importantly for today’s post:
- There is no cable, no cell phone service, and only a tiny bit of Internet.
Honestly, that was part of the allure of the camping spot, and part of what we were paying for, that dwindling of focus and distraction . . . we’d had that before . . . in Alaska.
In Alaska, even though we had gotten media from “Outside” (Outside means “Not Alaska”) we just . . . didn’t care. It was too far away. Bush fighting with Democrats (this was 2004-6)? Who cares – not us. Sinkhole swallows Florida? Sounds rough – yawn. A not news story about some subject guaranteed to polarize and produce outrage? Unless it happened in Alaska we didn’t care. At all.
When we moved back down to The States, we started caring again: we got meshed back into The Matrix.
- We started worrying about issues that we couldn’t impact – but like attempting to teach a Kardashian to fetch, it just frustrates you since the Kardashian clearly cannot understand the basic concept.
- We started using Google® as our arbiter of facts. Around the year 2000, we stopped arguing about facts. In Alaska, we started again. When we moved back to the states? Stopped arguing. Google® is wonderful to find out when Richard Dawson hosted Family Feud®. What have we lost because we don’t argue about facts anymore? In my case, I stretched some mind muscles on this trip I hadn’t used in a while, and we thought about the facts not as discrete digital bits, but as part of the continuum of knowledge. When did that volcano pop up? How did the valley form? Why are the rocks near the stream bed at 8,400 feet in elevation rounded, while the rocks near the ridgeline at 11,000 feet angular? The arguments about facts we don’t know is in and of itself a valuable mental process, and teaches us how to think. (Imagine Kim even understanding that!) We don’t need to know how a Kardashian gets into yoga pants. We can, if we have a strong enough stomach, think it through. (shudder)
As a family we fight back against The Matrix. We have designated activities and times when we unplug. No cell phones when we go out to dinner. Gourmet Night (LINK). These things make us turn away from our distractions, (LINK) and focus on each other, and on the present moment. We have a secondary rule: we don’t allow The Boy and Pugsley begin to huddle in an autistic mind meld about computers. No computer discussions allowed.
And as we travelled? Eventually we hit dead zones with no communication. At our campsite? No communication whatsoever. No cell. No Internet.
No phone, no lights, no motor car,
Not a single luxury,
Like Robinson Crusoe,
It’s primitive as can be.
Okay, we had lights, and a car, and wine, and a dvd player that we watched Firefly® on, and they had something resembling a primitive WIFI made of smoke signals (it’s digital, right?) but it was really isolated. I confiscated devices gently encouraged The Boy and Pugsley to embrace unplugging from the Infosphere.
And it worked.
For over 90 hours (with one small break to visit the gas station) we avoided even radio. Even AM radio.
What did we do?
- We talked to each other.
- We panned for gold (next post).
- Played games. (This one is called Poor Choices and it was a LOT of fun – disclosure: when I start up an Amazon affiliate link I’ll get paid for it, but not as of this writing)
- Drove the High Country backroads.
- Fished. (no, didn’t catch any)
- Focused on now.
- Ate the precious, precious Pez® we brought with us.
We moved away from information saturation, from caring about each and every issue to a life where we were free . . . not to care.
Then, too quickly, we headed for home. Like a body returning to life, with each passing mile more information was available to us, first AM, then FM, then finally actual cell phone towers. Then personal email, finally work email. Then, we got home, and found that our DVR had dutifully watched TV for us in our absence.
So, driving to work this week I ditched news radio. I started by trying to listen to music, but at drive time all they want to do is talk about butts and farting. Not that I don’t enjoy having a butt, and, well, the very first joke was probably about a fart and not a no-load mutual fund, so we’re hardwired to find those funny. Today I drove in silence, just listening to my thoughts accompanied with the back beat of the tires on the road.
Listing to talk radio plays on your emotions – no matter what side of the political spectrum you’re on. That’s what the radio folks intend. And I had an idea while driving in silence. Maybe a life changing one. Maybe not. But as Kiyosaki (LINK) tweeted the other day, you control what goes in your mind.
And I do control what goes in my mind. (Which is why you should read this blog, since it is rated totally awesome for your mind!) I even can control the things that I say to myself – after all, would I want to be friends with a person who says as many meant things as my inner dialogue could?
And I can control that, too. But there’s no way that I can make the British love Benjamin Franklin, or teach Kim to fetch.