Habits to Decompress from Modern Life

Author Robert J. Hutchinson

I’m on my annual retreat away from the stresses and strains of my modern life, spending time on a rural island in Puget Sound. The beach house we normally rent, on the peninsula, is being sold this year and so I decided to move to this island for my annual getaway. It’s a retreat for old hippies, writers and anyone else who finds the digital urban world corrosive to the soul. Like my favorite city of Victoria, British Columbia, this island is a portal back in time where things like small neighborhood grocery stores still exist and people hang out on coffee shop porches chatting, without a smart phone in their hands.

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On that note: Here is a wonderful article by the evangelical author Phil Yancey about the necessity of recapturing the discipline of regular, prolonged reading from paper books.

http://philipyancey.com/reading-wars

I am instinctively implementing many of the “habits” that Yancey says we need to adopt to battle the digital zombification that is currently engulfing us — such as a solid hour of uninterrupted reading daily from paper books. Yancey’s article got me thinking, tho: Given the many conveniences that smart phones have bestowed upon us — such as Google Maps and GPS — how could we re-engineer these “apps” so that they are not tied so much to smart phones and thereby not be so addictive? For example, I enjoy the “feed” from Twitter because it gives me access to news sources and points of view shut out entirely from the groupthink mainstream media. But is there a way to access Twitter without resorting to a smart phone? Of course there is! You just use the web. The same thing is true of email: you can easily check your email once a day on your laptop. You don’t need access to it on an hourly or minute-by-minute basis. The same thing is true of the health apps I use: My Polar heart rate monitor I use for running works with a Polar watch I use… so I don’t need my smart phone for that. Even if I want to log my workouts, I could do that on a daily or weekly basis without carrying a smart phone around. And using a cheap, old-fashioned flip phone — which I did until about 3 years ago — would free anyone from the pathetic tyranny of staring at a smart phone all day long.

So, yes, it’s very possible to selectively use modern digital technologies without becoming enslaved to them — as the Amish have been saying for centuries about many modern technologies. You just have to evaluate which technologies benefit your life overall… and which end up taking away more than they give. More and more of us are concluding that the “always on” digital world is taking more than is good for us… and are now actively “resisting” and cutting back. For me, that means (a) setting aside blocks of uninterrupted time for reading paper books and (b) limiting and perhaps eliminating entirely smart phone usage.

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Robert J. Hutchinson is an author and essayist. His most recent book is Searching for Jesus: New Discoveries in the Quest for Jesus of Nazareth (Thomas Nelson, 2015).