Yesterday marked the first official National Day of Unplugging, promoted by Reboot. Not the catchiest title ever composed, but I dig what these guys are getting at.
Starting at sundown yesterday and ending at sundown today (coinciding with both the Hebrew Sabbath and the Vernal Equinox), all those who participated in the new holiday turned off their cell phones and closed their laptops. They shut down every gadget in their immediate environment and turned outward—to the fresh, vibrant world of budding trees and blue skies, to the rich texture of non-virtual human interaction. If only 10 people actually went through with it, that’s 10 less people to count among the damned, if only for a day.
Of course, March 20 isn’t the only day we have to enjoy the peace of a world un-Tweeted. Reboot is a non-profit network of tech-savvy Jews who share the belief that Sabbath should be a day to give these blinking, beeping, blank-stare-inducing doodads a rest. It doesn’t take a hardcore Luddite or an Orthodox hardhead to appreciate such a practice. Any person of sensitivity or perspective has probably noticed that these new devices—by simultaneously bombarding our minds with too much information and too little—is pushing some people to the edge of dementia. Wise ancestors are transformed into bumbling, paleolithic boobs while their impulsive kids turn to the tech-teet for nourishment. The answer is not within—it’s within your server.
If you are reading this now, you may know what I’m talking about, and your emoticon should not be smiling.
Dan Rollman, a Reboot member and the creator of the Sabbath Manifesto project, has this to say in an email to CNN:
“There’s clearly a social problem when we’re interacting more with digital interfaces than our fellow human beings. Rich, engaging conversations are harder to come by than they were a few years ago. Our attention spans are silently evaporating.”
I couldn’t agree more. There are only a few conversationalists left in the real world, but I can only reach them by email!
We are living out Sci-Fi scenarios that consistently elude traditional customs and archaic moral codes. The so-called “Ten Commandments” may be an essential pillar of our society, but they are scant on detail.
Does pushing the voting machine button for a warmonger President count as murder? Does buying a 50″ plasma-screen count as honoring your mother and father if you were raised by a TV set? Should you covet your neighbor’s wife if he emails you a picture of her naked? With so much ambiguity surrounding the possible interpretations, it’s no wonder our generation has tried so hard to ignore traditional religion.
Dan Rollman’s Sabbath Manifesto project takes one commandment very seriously: Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy.
Of course, most of us do not have man-servants, woman-servants, cattle, or hard-working children to put at ease on the Sabbath. But we do have laptops, cell phones, and various iDooDads that occupy enough attention to be confused with “the important things in life.” Hence the first of the Sabbath Manifesto’s Ten Principles:
1. Avoid technology.
2. Connect with loved ones.
3. Nurture your health.
4. Get outside.
5. Avoid commerce.
6. Light candles.
7. Drink wine.
8. Eat bread.
9. Find silence.
10. Give back.
Even a filthy, pig-eating Gentile-from-the-wrong-side-of-the-Hebrew-X-chromosome—like me, for instance—can do that much once a week.
You know what, tomorrow’s Sunday… Sounds like a Tech-free Sabbath for the Unchosen to me.
Just one day to breathe and think like an organism. One day to just log off—to put the technophilic compulsion into perspective. One day to remind us what every day will be like if the Machine actually breaks down, leaving us exposed like naked worms beneath a lifted stone.
I’ll send you an email on Monday to tell you all about it.
Bliman, Nicole. “Group urges unplugging to take back Sabbath.” CNN.com. March 19, 2010. Web. http://www.cnn.com/2010/LIVING/03/19/national.unplugging.day/index.html?hpt=C2
Considine, Austin. “And on the Sabbath, the iPhones Shall Rest.” The New York Times. March 17, 2010. Web. http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/18/fashion/18sabbath.html
The Sabbath Manifesto. www.sabbathmanifesto.org