Twenty years ago I was a junior in high school. Pearl Jam was huge, flannel was in, and around that time, in a great act of rebellion, I started parting my hair down the middle and I got my ear pierced.
In 1993, my first car was an old Buick Skylark and I had to travel sixty miles to have a technician replace the in-dash audio cassette player with a CD player. The visor in my car had a sleeve that held the ten CDs I would listen to over and over again. Digital music was inconceivable.
In 1993, a cell phone was a status symbol owned by people who were either rich, important, or both. An “app” was something you ate, not something you downloaded.
In 1993, personal computing technology was still in its infancy. My family had a desktop computer with a dot matrix printer. The computer ran MS-DOS. It was essentially a massive, really expensive word processor.
We had one game for the computer—a golf game contained on seven floppy disks. This is how it worked: you would hit a shot, and then you’d have to wait several minutes for the program to redraw the scene for your next shot. And then you would do it all over again. The game couldn’t be saved, so if you wanted to complete a round, it took longer than an actual trip to the golf course.
I sat for hours in front of that golf game, but I mostly just stared out of our home’s front window, waiting for the program to redraw the next scene.
No Facebook to check while I waited.
No texts to return.
No Amazon to shop.
No library of iTunes music to browse.
In 1993, there was a huge magnolia tree in our front yard. I would look at that magnolia tree while the computer worked. That was twenty years ago: me and a magnolia tree.
Now, twenty years later, there are a million different ways to abandon myself. I know myself better than I did as an awkward teen, but in some fundamental way, I think I also know myself far less. Because I spend so little time with myself and so much time with my technology.
Free Therapy Courtesy of Louis C.K.
When a comedian gets completely serious and his words still go viral, we would all do well to listen in. Louis C.K. is hilarious and exceedingly crass, but in September, during an interview on the Conan O’Brien Show, he got really honest about why he hates cell phones:
“You need to build an ability to just be yourself and not be doing something…that’s what the phones are taking away, the ability to just sit there…because underneath everything in your life there’s that thing, that empty, that forever empty…sometimes when things clear away and you’re in your car…it starts to visit upon you, just this sadness, life is tremendously sad just by being in it…I started to get that sad feeling and I was reaching for the phone and I said, ‘You know what, don’t, just be sad, just stand in the way of it and let it hit you like a truck’…I just cried…I cried so much…and it was beautiful…sadness is poetic, you’re lucky to live sad moments…and then I had happy feelings…because when you let yourself feel sad, your body has antibodies, it has happiness that comes rushing in to meet the sadness, so I was grateful to feel sad and then I met it with true, profound happiness…because we don’t want to feel that first little bit of sadness…you never feel completely sad or completely happy, you just feel kind of satisfied with your products and then you die…”
Free therapy courtesy of Louis C.K.
So I’m disconnecting.
For seven days.
And not just from the blog. From all of it. For a week, I’m going to live like it’s 1993. I’ve made hard copies of my ten favorite CDs and that’s all I’m going to listen to. The cell phone is staying at home. I’m turning off my WiFi—my Macbook is about to become a really hi-tech word processor.
No emails. No texting. No Google—I’ll just have to sit in the mystery of my questions for a while.
I decided to undertake this little experiment while I was on a walk this autumn. I’d left my cell phone at home and during a fifteen minute walk, I reached into my pocket for it five times.
Five times. Once every three minutes.
And that’s a problem.
What do I expect to discover in the midst of this experiment? I don’t really know. But that’s kind of the point.
I do know our current next door neighbors have a magnolia tree, and I can see it from our front window. I do know I’m going to spend some time looking at it. No distractions, except the world happening around it, and the world happening inside of me.
If you are reading this, and you’d like to try this experiment with me, you’re invited! Over the next two weeks, take a few hours or a day or a few days—whatever feels right to you—and disconnect. Spend some time reminiscing about twenty years ago, and then live like it’s 1993. On January 1, my blog post will describe my own experience, and I’d like it to be a place where anyone can share their own experience with the experiment. If you write about it on your blog, send me the link and I will share it in the post. Or just come on over to the website that day and share your experience in the comments.
Let’s go back in time, and let’s meet ourselves there.
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Preview of Upcoming Posts:
- December 27: “The Top Ten UnTangled Posts of 2013”
- January 1: “When I Partied Like It Was 1993”
- January 8: “A New Year’s Resolution That Will Solve 90% of Your Relationship Problems”
- January 15: “Words from a Father to His Daughter (From the Makeup Aisle)”
- January 22: “The Key to a Man’s Heart (And Why He Gets Road Rage)”
- January 29: “Why Egalitarianism is Emasculating (And Why That’s a Good Thing)”
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Disclaimer: My writings represent a combination of my own personal opinions and my professional experiences, but they do not reflect professional advice. Interaction with me via the blog does not constitute a professional therapeutic relationship. For professional and customized advice, you should seek the services of a counselor who can dedicate the hours necessary to become more intimately familiar with your specific situation. I do not assume liability for any portion or content of material on the blog and accept no liability for damage or injury resulting from your decision to interact with the website.