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The Technological Sabbath

A few weeks back, the people over at Sabbath Manifesto used the beauty of social media to promote a rethought Sabbath, avoid your computer, TV, radio, and cell phone for a day (and I become the one millionth writer to fall for the hackneyed joke—damn the easy way).  In the CNN and NY Times article about the idea several people were quoted freaking out.  Swearing up and down they could not live without their cell phones for the day. (My favorite reason: “How will I make plans with my friends?” Some people just don’t grasp planning ahead do they?)  I, naturally, scoffed at those who said they couldn’t go without their cell phones for the day.  No way could it be that hard.  Who gets that big of a rush on the idea of being in touch with everything at any given moment?  I’m addicted to a lot of things (hi Dr. Pepper, you look nice today) but I could give it up for a day.

It soon dawned on me I should try it instead of just boldly proclaiming it.  On my day off I attempted my own Sabbath, no computer (meaning no Twitter, Facebook, audio editing, or e-mail), no cell phone, no car radio, and no TV (luckily it was Tuesday and Chuck had aired the night before).  And in what some would consider a modern, high-tech miracle, I came out alive.  And it was—and this is even more shocking—painless.  But I did notice a few unexpected side effects, and discovered a few things about myself.

(1) I need a watch. I do not own a watch; my primary timepiece is my cell phone.  Out of all the functions my cellphone offers—text messaging, phone calls, the internet—the one I missed the most was the time.  I just want to make this clear: I suffered withdraw from not knowing the time, not the communication.  I had nothing to do that day (except for an informational meeting in the evening) but not knowing if it was 1 or 1:45 really messed with my head. Granted, the world ran this way for a long ass time, not everyone could find out the time at any given moment.  I adjusted, but honestly, I really need watch.
(2) Volunteering isn’t a 24-year olds game. I attend a training/informational seminar for Detroit Reading Corp, and I swear I was the only person under 35 there.  This is usually the case in political campaigning as well (the staffers? Usually fresh college grads.  The volunteers? Usually mid-30’s and beyond).  So, is volunteering uncool?  You can tell me, I can take it.  I’m used to being a nerd.
(3) Holy crap did I miss Chuck. I’ve been re-watching the first two seasons of Chuck, that show is awesome.  And with all the stuff on my computer—my podcasts to edit, my podcasts to listen too, the amazingly just discovered music of Nataly Dawn and Jack Conte, Twitter, and Facebook—the thing I missed the most was THE TOTALLY LEGAL COPIES of Chuck’s second season (now on DVD and Blu-ray! IT IS TOTALLY LEGAL), I really wanted to watch an episode.  That show is like crack.
(4) Only two exceptions for the entire day. I know it seems kind of cheap.  But two exceptions came up when I deemed it necessary to break the Sabbath.  The first, in the morning, I heard my phone go off three-times in a row.  I assumed—especially since I did not use Twitter or Facebook to announce my intentions for the day—that someone really, really needed to reach me.  It was brother Sean, and he was having computer difficulties and needed my help submitting a paper for a class.  So, do I be a dick and hold fast to my self-imposed technology exile, or help Sean not fail a class?  Considering that one of the tenants from Sabbath Manifesto is “Give back,” and I wasn’t using my computer or phone as a boredom killer, I figured I could help Sean out and not feel bad.  The second exception?  I granted immunity for the cell phone rule to my friend, Danelle, in Georgia.  My rationalization?  Another tenant is “connect with loved ones” and the only way I can do any sort of fellowship with Danelle is (a) drop a couple hundred bucks on a plane ticket, or (b) answer the cellphone.  Guess which one is cheaper.  I didn’t carry my cellphone with me, but if I was around when she called, I’d pick up (she did, and I was, so I did).

I have to say, I felt a lot better at the end of the day.  I read, went for a walk, pseudo-volunteered (is training really volunteering?), and found silence.  The Sabbath Manifesto folks (a Jewish organization called “Reboot”—like the TV show—is behind the concept) had the right idea, and my technological Sabbath is gonna become a regular part of my week.  It’s amazing how much easier it is to find God with all the shit turned off.

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