Brain Drain

May 24, 2009

Turn off the TV.

Put down the newspaper.

There is a world spinning past you.

I was talking to someone the other day who went on vacation, a camping trip to the mountains.  Granted, she was a small home-based business owner, but she was telling me how much trouble it was to disconnect.  She was tempted to check her emails and voicemail and do some work.

This is a common problem for us today.  We’re at the height of technology and science and gadgetry.  Seemingly each day, a must-have toy or software program comes out on the market to keep us “connected,” something to help us stay organized and efficient.  We’ve no sooner figured out how to use it than something better comes along, and we start the cycle again.

I’m a gadget guy.  I love James Bond and the high-tech spy movies.  I’m a total sucker.  I can easily spend hours and days working on the computer.  Every two years I like to completely reformat my hard drive and give myself a fresh start, and I love to do it.  I’m totally on board with iPod® and iPhone® and the entire on-demand thing.  My dvr is always running, grabbing up all those episodes of The Family Guy and Lost.

But I can tell when I’ve been too absorbed, and I’ll tell you exactly when that is.  It’s at the end of a Sunday during football season.  I’m a huge fan, and I can easily lay around all Saturday and Sunday flipping from game to game and pre and post game talk shows.  Maybe I’ll have had some beers.  But I’m pretty much a drooling mess.

I’ve seen a couple hundred ads for beer and cars and fantasy football and oil and more cars.  My emotions are drained from all the excitement of watching the Steelers win again (yes, the Steelers.  Bring it.)  There’s been no real mental or spiritual stimulation, so my brain is just kind of numb.

And in moments like that, I think about all the people who do that every day.  People who never unplug.  People who don’t realize that each ad, each commercial, each bit of information, is all going inside somewhere.  It doesn’t just go in and out.     It gets lodged somewhere, and until it’s processed properly, it builds up.

It’s like plaque.  Either in our veins or our mouth, if we’re not taking active steps to remove the harmful deposits, there will be a buildup until something happens.  Either a cavity or a coronary.

Information is the same way.  There’s a passage in the Bible that says “take every thought captive.”  That means that we really need to be very aware of the stimuli and influences that are fighting for our headspace.  There’s a saying in the computer world “GIGO – garbage in garbage out.”  Kind of in line with the “reap what you sow” principle.  If you want a harvest of goodness, put goodness into you.  Or at least weed the garden every once in a while.

The problem we face today is this constant, incredible speed at which we’re moving.  We find it extremely hard to unplug, to shut down.  There are lots of people who I’ve talked to who have the theory that they can “sleep when they die.”  We were not created to be 24/7.  We need sleep.  We need silence and reflection.  Or we’ll eventually end up depressed, angry, and cold.

The truth is that we are organic physical and spiritual beings that can only handle so much artificial substance before we begin to break down.  Whether that means eating right, exercising, or unplugging from our technology, we MUST give our bodies, minds, and spirits a break, a time to reboot.

If you are reading this and feel a deep down tension, like you just don’t have enough time or energy, or you feel scattered in your mind and spirit, I challenge you to unplug, at least for a little bit.  Go for a walk on the beach or in the mountains, and instead of thinking about the bills or time you’re wasting or the paper you need to write or the kids, look at the sky and trees and the natural beauty.

Do a 30 day fast from all unnecessary media (whoa, crazy, huh?)  Shut off the TV, pick up some books from the library, and really make an effort to stay quiet.  At the end of those 30 days, you’ll be amazed at how clean and peaceful you feel.

One of your necessary elements, crucial to your success as a fully functioning, fully alive human being, is peace.  (To see some others, sign up for my newsletter.)  The absence of conflict.  How can you have peace when you’re bombarded by thousands and thousands of messages all pulling you in separate directions?  How can you be at peace when you never stop to take a breath?

The point of this life is life.

In every way possible.

You were put here to LIVE, not just exist.

And unplugging is a good start.