Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Blessed solitude in an internet world

I have spent a fair bit of my life just driving. That’s inevitable if you grow up or live in country Australia. I am not talking short commuter style trips of less than two hours, but long trips stretching into multiple hours.

I can no longer drive the nine or twelve hours that I used to without blinking, sometimes a drive or two a week. I think the most extreme was more than twenty six such drives in a thirteen week period. Still, while I have slowed down a little, I am still happy to get into a car for a seven hour drive.

I do take more breaks, now. When young, my daughters were greatly influenced by the NSW Government’s Stop, Revive, Survive campaign. This has to be one of the most successful and indeed sensible road safely campaigns. Drive for two hours and then take a break. My daughters insisted, and I got into the habit. Now it has become an integral part of my driving pattern.

On these long drives, I often listen to the radio  assuming, of course, that I can. There are large parts of country Australia where you cannot actually get the radio. Still, sometimes when there is radio reception, I just switch the radio off to listen to my thoughts. There is a sort of relief of tension. Even casual listening requires a degree of concentration.    

I was reminded of this by an interesting if short book review in The Economist of Michael Harris’s The End of Absence: Reclaiming What We’ve Lost in a World of Constant Connection. There is nothing especially profound there, simply a reminder that the constant need to stay connected, to keep in touch, has the same crowding out effect as the radio on those long car trips. Solitude, the time to think and process, is lost.

You can see the addictive effect of constant connection in the withdrawal feelings we get if, for any reason, our internet connections go down. I find myself feeling lost, facing time that I had not expected. There is also that feeling that says I may be missing something. What if something happens?

All this is silly, I know. I grew up in the pre-internet world. If something bad happens, I will find out. No connection? Do some reading, thinking or go for a walk. I wouldl be better for that rather than adding to my computer induced stoop. Yet its remarkably hard to break the addiction.  

No comments: