Ten Things I Think About Unplugging
1. I Think It's Time To Live Life In Analog
a. What do I mean by analog? Remember cassette tapes? That's analog technology. But I'm using the term broadly, to mean, the good ole days, when everything wasn't digital, when the world wasn't compressed into a rectangle that you hold in your hand, or plug in to your car, or wireless speaker.
I'm thinking of a slower time, when things seemed quieter.
b. I spent a good chunk of years in my twenties playing in a band. I remember, back in the band days, we recorded our first "demo" on some odd digital contraption called "Radar." It was like Pro-Tools, only not.
c. Then, we spent hours "dumping" our digital tracks on two-inch analog tape. We thought that was so cool. We wanted the ease and convenience and expediency of digital, but we longed for the saturation and authenticity of analog.
c. "Hear that tape hiss? Hear that goodness?" we'd say.
That's the two-inch tape. That's the music embedding itself into the tape, leaving its imprint on, the tape.
2. I Think I Can Speak For Us All: "Give me the tape hiss!"
a. What do I mean by tape hiss? Thanks for asking.
b. Tape-hiss-living means seeking those things that leave an imprint on our lives. Real things, that you can't download. Real things you can't necessarily buy at a big box store. Real things that take time to make, time to enjoy.
But tape-hiss-living requires intentionally unplugging from your digital so-called world. If you want a tape-hiss kind of existence, then you you're probably going to be intentional about stuff, and make rules. Not because you're a legalist, but because you recognize that in order to stay sane, we all need to create and participate in quiet spaces in our private lives, and work lives, and worship lives.
Rules like: no toys and no computers or digital devices at the table.
"But rules are dumb, Tim."
I know. And so are we. Becoming more and more dumb the more we stare down at our phone, or binge-watch. I've always hated rules too. That's why, when I make a rule in the house, I talk to the girls about it. I make it a point to discuss the impact screens have on our imagination.
c. We bought our table while living in England on the British version of Craigslist. It's Mango wood hand made in India! It's got actual grain that sketches through the surface and is absolutely beautiful.
We wanted that hunk of a table to be the center of the family gathering: food time. It's real wood. The dents and scratches create a wood memory. It records our life in Oxford. It's a tape-hiss kind of table.
d. If you want "tape hiss" in your life, I believe you have to lay some rules down. You have to get all '90's on your family and demand real wood furniture to be the center place of your discussions. (You see my point, right? I'm using hyperbole. You don't really have to go buy a mango wood table. It's just an illustration.:)
e. Again. Tape hiss is the "realness of life." There it is! You hear it?
3. I Think Unplugging Demands Radical Devotion
a. You must be devoted to getting off your couch and turning the TV off. That's step one. Stop trolling social media for people talking about the next new great show, ranting about how much they hate basically everything they don't agree with.
It's all digital noise, literally. You want tape hiss? Then shut off your TV for a year. See how that grabs you. If you subscribe to my newsletter you know that this is a year of wilderness for me. I'm stripping things away and focusing on things that matter.
One thing I switched up, I watercolor paint with my daughters every single night.
"But Tim, I don't paint." Excellent! Neither do I! Been afraid to my whole life. So, I got some good paints, good brushes, good paper, and I'm learning. I've missed maybe four days since the first of the year. The girls love it. We play classical music, light some incense, and laugh and compare paintings.
It's the best parenting move I've done yet, I think.
I don't watch television as it is. But this year, I'm not watching any programming. I stopped watching news channels and ordered a paper. It's tough, and I've had to sacrifice, but it's been so worth it. Ask my daughters.
Get some ideas, get devoted, and start doing things with real people, with your real hands. Make, create, mess up. It's quite liberating.
b. Get radical and don't look at your phone as soon as you roll out of bed. Let your first thirty minutes be making tea or coffee and reading something, like, I don't know, a real Bible, or devotional, or something inspiring. Perhaps usually something by King David or that murderous chap, Paul.
I guarantee that if you attempt this, it will begin to rewire your brain. It will change your rhythm. And you'll fight it at first. You'll think you need to check the weather, or just hold your phone like "my precious." But you don't. Just be alive. Walk outside. And breathe deep the real analog world.
c.Take a walk at lunch, and listen. What do you hear? Probably that's the sounds of God rolling into your ears.
d. Oh, and listen to music. Something quiet. Something that ministers to your frazzled spirit. I listen to Bach while I'm grabbing something to read. But most mornings, it's just me, my tea, my Moleskine and the quiet blue morning.
4. Here are the essential thing to know or do or remember when "UNPLUGGING"
a. Listen to Pearl Jam once a week
b. Remember: growing herbs is better than watching TV
c. St. Augustine
d. Long walks after dinner or in the morning or ...
e. Sitting in the grass, then rolling around in it
f. Remember that you're not that important ... it's liberating ...
g. Twitter isn't real
h. Hangle-burgers - This is how my daughters used to say "hamburgers." Grill them. Be outside, even in the cold. Be together.
i. Behind every Facebook interaction is a real person ... go find one to talk to and get off your phone
j. Playing loud music after dinner and dancing with your family to Taylor Swift (I may or may not have done this a couple, few times?)
k. Flyfishing is like baptism
l. Daffodils speak louder than your blog or news feed
m. This list was meant to be fun(ny). So don't take it too seriously. But maybe kind of seriously, especially the bit about Pearl Jam.
5. I Think Growing Something Helps Remedy Almost Everything
a. When I pray with my girls I don't pray about the Internet, or email, or my voicemails.
I thank God for the rain he sent to grow the grass, to strengthen the trees, to give us hyacinths.
b. My pixie-daughters get it, too. Since I'm at home all the time (I'm a writer), they constantly pull on me saying, "Daddy, come here. I want to show you something." They want to take me outside and show me how they climb the tree out back. They want to show me how they blow the dandelions.
c. When was the last time you blew a dandelion. Really? That's what I thought. Me too. Let's go for a hike!
d. One Easter I bought the girls some "planters." Whenever I bring home flowers they are all in.
But the pots of flowers demand attention. I have to water them, give them sun, and care for them.
e. In a digital world the only thing growing is our egos. We post. We tweet. We Insta. We snap. (Do you realize that these apps have transformed into verbs? How disgusting.)
We update our status. We post curated pictures of ourselves. We let people see what we want them to see. We want to look good and we want to move with the speed of gossip.
f. Well, I just watered my heather and orchid. They did not care about my last tweet.
6. I Think We Live In Sprints Too Much
a. I know a lot people who say to me, "I'm just in a crazy busy season right now." They're sprinting down the corridor of life, ignoring all the water stops, as if they are going to win something.
b. But life is not a sprint. It is a pilgrimage, and to be honest, it never really ends.
How can we relate seasons to our chaotic busy lives? Seasons are wonderful. They adhere to a beautiful cycle. They move in rhythm. They transition quite literally with the awe of heaven.
When was the last time you drove slowly down a winding road during autumn in the mountains and said to yourself, "Man, my crazy busy chaotic life is just like this, this wonder-dripping road on fire with autumn."
I've never said that either. But I have pulled over and nearly cried for the sheer wonder of it all.
I wish our lives did actually resemble seasons. I wish they ebbed and flowed like the magnificent thoughts of God rippling over eternity. I wish!
What if when we said, "Well, I'm just in a season right now" we really meant, "Man, I'm climbing the stairway to heaven at the moment, totally enraptured by God's provision and blessing in my life."
Wouldn't that be amazing? So, if you see me in Trader Joes, and I tell you, "I'm in a season right now," and wink, you'll know exactly what I mean. And then feel free to invite yourself to my next bonfire or hike.
7. I Think Spending More Time In Books Will Save Our Souls
a. Studies are emerging that show that our browsing culture is effecting our reading ability. Phillip Yancey even wrote about it.
The constant moving of the text translates into anxious readers who can't stare at a static page for any length of time.
b. Books are like analog tape. They demand our time and patience.
c. Books also possess a tape hiss quality as well.
When we do take the time, when we do rest our bodies in a cozy couch and hover over the pages, the very act embeds itself into our souls. The bookishness of the moment saturates itself into our whatness.
d. Unplugging is more than just removing a cord from the wall. It's about stopping time. It's about getting off the bullet train of progress and looking around at your surroundings.
Something happens when you do this: you realize you don't really need it--the phone, the computer, the social media, the blogs, the incessant bent of the inane news cycle.
Life actually does breeze on, and it's tasty, like honeysuckle wafting over yonder hill.
8. I Think Our Prayer Life Suffers From All The Noise
a. Just like we can't sit and read without our heads exploding, I think for many, prayer suffers from the same ailment.
Our minds can't shut down; we can't stop thinking about this or that stressful thing, or this or that deadline.
b. We cannot expect to just hop in and out of prayer as if we're flipping open our Mac Airs to chat with God on IM.
Prayer is not just words we speak or whisper, it is a spiritual posture.
c. I don't know. When Jesus got up early in the morning to pray, was he checking his Facebook feed?
"Tim, Facebook wasn't around then."
Right. But mountains sure were. And that's where he retreated to get alone with the Father. This truth has really hit home with me. I feel like my prayer life suffers the more plugged in I become.
So, again, I had to make real hard decisions in order to be intentional about my times of prayer. Though I do believe we can go through our day praying to God in our minds and spirits, I also believe our souls need time away, listening, fasting, calling out to God for his strength and guidance.
I've also noticed this lack of prayer posture in some churches.
Maybe we should ask ourselves what kind of culture we want to nurture in our gathering places. What does it say when you walk in and a person sees donuts, or screens, or coffee stations, or hears rocking music? To me, that says, "Welcome to the mall."
What if we switched it up and made our churches sanctuaries, and made prayer the culture rather than coffee and bagels? What if we offered the outside world something total Other when they visited our worship sanctuaries. Just a thought.
9. Hemingway Would Not Understand The Need for "Unplugging," For He Embodied It
a. There are some things which cannot be learned quickly, and time, which is all we have, must be paid heavily for their acquiring. They are the very simplest things and because it takes a man's life to know them the little new that each man gets from life is very costly and the only heritage he has to leave. -Ernest Hemingway
10. Maybe C.S. Lewis Was on to Something
a. In his book Jack, George Sayer says that most of Lewis’s life experiences were not literary, but “mystical experiences of the presence of God.”
Lewis’s spiritual life was nourished by not only daily scripture meditation, and, again, mystical experience, but also through his “habit of communing with nature.”
Lewis had a habit of walking the garden before breakfast in order to drink in “the beauty of the morning, thanking God for the weather, the roses, the song of the birds, and anything else he could find to enjoy.”
Good ole Jack. Now, go and do likewise, as shall I. :)
We're Going Old School
We're doing something radical here at The Edges. We want to send you a quarterly PRINTED journal/newsletter. It will contain exclusive interviews, articles, and other goodness. It will be made out of paper and mailed to your mail box. We'd love to send you one! Just fill out the form below.