February 27, 2013

On the Seventh Day, Thou Shall Rest.

It seems that Sundays are no longer sacred.

When I was a kid I would lay on the floor in the living room reading the comics on Sunday mornings. My Dad was in an armchair in the corner reading a section of the New York Times, occasionally dozing off.

The day was spacious—maybe we went to church in the morning—but we had few other obligations.

On Sunday I didn’t invite my friends over, we didn’t go far from home and there wasn’t much interrupting the moments—no texts or e-mails—and few phone calls. In the colder weather there was a fire in the fireplace and slow-cooked meals.

I long for those Sundays.

While I’m no longer a kid, and my daily obligations have grown, on Sundays I can really observe how much the world has shifted since I was a kid. It seems that Sundays are no longer sacred.

My kids’ sports teams—basketball, soccer—you name it, they all schedule games on Sundays (and Saturdays). The phone rings. People knock on the door, even solicitors. The tide in my inbox slows, but it doesn’t stop. And by the time Sunday evening rolls around, you’d think it was already Monday.

The Sunday delivery of the New York Times is like my lifeline to the past.

I can judge the quality of any given Sunday by how many sections I’m able to review, and how many pages are shuffled before the paper ends up in a pile on the coffee table.

Some days, the paper sits in the darned plastic bag it’s delivered in all day, still mocking me on Monday morning. On others, it ends up spread all around the dining table with each member of the family still in their pajamas.

Somewhere between the paper in the plastic bag and the big random spread of sections lies the litmus test of the quality of my day.

Tiffany Schlain, creator of the film Connected: An Autoblogography about Love, Death and Technology, and her family, completely unplug from all technology for one day a week for what they call “technology Shabbats.”

As she explains it, “Every Friday, we all unplug from all our technologies and don’t turn them on again until Saturday evening. Unplugging for a day makes time slow down and makes me feel very present with my family. I not only appreciate this quality time with my family, but it has also made me appreciate technology in a whole new way. By Saturday night we can’t wait to plug back in and act on every single thought we have.”

Schlain is one of the artists who felt a need to fight back against our increasingly fast-paced way of living. In search of a modern way to observe a weekly day of rest, the artists created created The Sabbath Manifesto, “a creative project designed to slow down lives in an increasingly hectic world.”

It was developed in the same spirit as the slow food movement with the underlying notion that we are increasingly missing out on the important moments, even days, of our lives as we pass the time buried in our ever-present technology.

If this is at all familiar to you, you can challenge yourself to join the upcoming National Day of Unplugging, March 1- 2, 2013.

There, you take the pledge not just to unplug, but to voice what it is you will do when you are unplugged. (Ironically, you can share photos of what you are doing on their website, Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.)

The idea of taking one day off from work, technology and responsibilities is an ancient idea whose time feels more relevant than ever these days.

What might fill your time if you lifted your head out of your iPhone or Blackberry, stopped checking your Facebook or Twitter incessantly and took off your earphones?

Might unplugging get you to breathe a little deeper, look someone in the eye a little longer, get some sunshine on your face or say hello to a neighbor?

I challenge you to challenge yourself, whether you take the pledge online or just make the commitment to yourself for a day—or maybe longer.

Who knows what magic might ensue?



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Assistant Ed: Stephanie V./Ed: Kate Bartolotta

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