In 2009 the average American took 13 days of vacation while his British counterpart had 26. In Canada, 68.8 percent of males and 36.3 percent of females work more than 40 hours per week; in the U.S. that’s 85.8 percent of males and 66.5 percent of females (this is work for pay, add on to that housework, and the time left for family or leisure is pitifully minute.)
The unceasing flow of information via cell phones, IM, Facebook, Twitter, fax, TV, cable, and radio is “and a massive pollution problem in the making. The landfills of our minds are brimming beyond capacity.” Articles come embedded with links leading to other articles with further links. We have more information than we have time for, or know what to do with. Instapaper has developed a widget that saves pages and articles you want to read, but haven’t gotten around to, so your to-do list can go on and on.
Information Environmentalists want to place limits on all this noise, creating quiet zones in much the same way that green environmentalists protect green sanctuaries, lakes and streams, and forests. The Sabbath Manifesto site offers an “unplugging app” via iTunes and a cell-phone sleeping bag.
Mary Reynolds Thompson and her husband spend one week a year “unplugged,” disconnecting from technology and connecting with each other. Professor Danna L. Walker assigns her students a media fast for 24 hours, recording their reactions (the 2007 experiment was memorialized in “The Longest Day.”)
But the man-made technology break does not measure up to a G-d made one. The gap between them is much like the difference between fasting on Yom Kippur versus joining Weight Watchers. One is about “I,” the other about “Thou.” Judith Shulevitz recounts the Shabbat truculence of her tweens, parted from their GameBoys and similar electronic devices, tracing it to the family’s “half” observance of Shabbat: once you pick and choose which observances to keep and which to discard, it’s hard to justify why these? Why not those?
This is not to say that I can’t work myself up the ladder of Shabbat observance – no, not at all. Just that I accept that I’m on a journey; en route, I do not say, “I have arrived.” I keep trekking forward toward my destination, understanding that the wayside inn is not the goal.
For a related “unplugged” post, see Becoming the People of the Pixel?