The Silencing of Machines

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When did you last unplug for a significant amount of time?

How did you feel?

Relief? Withdrawal symptoms from your electronic device addiction?

There is a funny thing that happens within me when the power goes out. It’s a mixture of feelings but the dominant one is excitement.

Yes, excitement, not disappointment (unless perhaps I’m on an important call online or it’s freezing outside), not fear… excitement.

Here’s what I do when the power goes out…

First, I wait a minute to see if the power will come back right away. If it doesn’t, then I slowly start to reach for the candles, lighter, and flashlight.

Once it seems apparent that it will be off for a while, I light up the candles and place them around.

THEN my excitement rises… What am I going to do with myself? I wonder.

No power means no internet and only limited use of the computer. What does that leave me? Books!

I love books. I love my books. Back in ‘the day’ (Am I that old already?) before we carried smart phones, computers, and tablets around and stayed connected constantly, I read a lot of books. I am curious and a bit of an info junkie, so with internet nowadays, like you maybe, I’m reading a lot of stuff online… constantly researching and learning.

It’s great! I love the internet for the good things it offers, but it means less focus on a couple of topics and a lot of scanning on a lot of topics. The quality and depth of what I read online is different from that of reading a book.

Back when books were more popular, I often had about three or four non-fiction books that I was reading at a time (and one novel and, rarely, two). Most of the time, I read each book to the end; none of this half-assed reading and saying to myself, “Oh, I’ll go back to that later, after I’ve looked up these 100 other things first.”

No, I had five books on the go and carried some of them with me in my backpack when I went out on foot.

Why am I telling you this?

Well, I guess that when the power goes out, I know my choices of reading at home go back to my books, but that’s not all.

It is the silencing of machines, the ambient glow of a candle, and a release in my brain from the many things I might be doing on my computer… It is these things that really get me feeling happy and excited. I feel like a kid thrown into the basement or locked outside and told to “Go find something to do,” and my imagination and creativity start their engines.

Ready, set…. create!

Do you know the feeling?

Just last week, I got to visit some friends in the United States (Oh, the land of the free and mostly bare-faced!).


Their new home is in a rural area with very poor cell phone service and they don’t have internet yet. Initially, I was disappointed that I wouldn’t get online to do the many tasks I had to get done, but that waned quickly. There were a lot of moments to spend in real life with my friends, some time in nature, and the quietness was stunning.

More captivating is that the quietness of my mind brought out feelings and thoughts I’d been ignoring. It showed me more of my inner-real self that was being stifled away by busy-ness.

Let's go, Brandon

I suppose that’s why I get excited when the power goes out. I have nothing to do on my addictive electronic devices and I’m brought back to more moments of silence. It reminds me of one of my favourite quotes, by Nietzche – I consciously ponder the last part of it (emphasis added) whenever I forget to turn inward, when I’m frazzled, or fazed by something external:

For happiness, how little suffices for happiness! … The least thing precisely, the gentlest thing, the lightest thing, a lizard’s rustling, a breath, a whisper, an eye glance – little maketh up the best happiness. Be still..

— Friedrich Nietzche


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