By David De Jong
Spent the entire last week, at home, sick with influenza. Fever, congestion, severe headaches, coughing, aching, and any other symptom you care to imagine. That was one fun party. Not! To increase the stakes, my lovely wife was about two-thousand miles away visiting her ailing mother in a nursing home. So, while the house is completely quiet; except for the north winds battering the windows and the cat scratching at the porch door because he’s lonely and desperately misses his favorite human (my wife): I get this idea (yes fever was involved) in my head that I just cannot shake. Whenever this happens it constantly weighs on me, relentlessly, until I do it. The last time it occurred it created not only a blessing for me but I believe several others as well.
The idea is nothing crazy original, crude, devastating or too abnormal, but here goes. I have been considering, what I am calling, a Digital Sabbatical. The only problem is, it cannot be pure. Pure in the sense it being absolute. I have a couple projects I am working on that require working on the laptop, going on-line, e-mail, etc. at home, I also have to use a PC at work. I do not constantly sit in front of a computer monitor but I use it sporadically obtaining documentation, creating reports, and so on.
The PC/internet is not so much a corrupting problem in my life as many have or continue to struggle with, but I feel there might, well – I know, there are some better uses of my time. I start working on something, do a quick “fact” check and I’m in a proverbial labyrinth of rabbit holes that have nothing to do with what I originally came to check on. The sun has set, the chickens have roosted and soon the late evening news is heard in the background. Where did all that time go?
I do a “lot” of writing on the laptop – but that seems to have taken a downward spiral here as of late, especially since I became ill with the flu. Some days encompass multiple hours – better part of a day, some days just a few minutes. The writing is a hobby that is: 90% devoted to poetry and the other 10% just miscellaneous; some recipe/food creations and an occasional essay – if you can call it that. Much of it ends up here – on the blog. Much of it lies buried in a file that no other eyes shall ever witness or a crumpled piece of paper used for kindling.
My goal would be spend measurably less “screen time” and more “paper time”. I would hope to read more – much more. I’m old fashioned there yet that I prefer reading print off a paper page. I can read short articles and such on the screen but for me to really engage, I need paper. I’m thinking of picking a particular book or chapter in the Bible and just reading – re-reading and studying it. Finding a couple good books and reading them. Maybe some as educational subjects and others as entertainment. Everywhere I have read about writing, I read it’s important to read. I don’t get much time to read, unless I give something else up. Vacations used to be a time do some reading but all our vacations as of late have been more of family celebration/crisis times – i.e. graduations, weddings, illness and funerals. Please understand I would not trade those celebrations, with exception to the funerals, for anything. But those times off and away where more about completing major projects/events than kicking back and relaxing.
I’m annoyed to no end, of every screen showing/mentioning particular entertainment personalities, (I thought about including their names here but they are already printed too much). I think of a celebrity’s life like a Pro Wrestling match – it may appear real, but it’s all a choreographed publicity stunt to further themselves and their popularity. The more outrageous, the more free press, the more they become a “trend”. In truth they are human beings struggling for acceptance and love and they will never achieve it in the manner they are pursuing it. They are sad, depressed, manics, searching for a cure that most will never know. One day they are on top of the world, the next they are in the gutter, sometimes literally. I often ask myself; “Who’s the stupid one here? The one in the outlandish predicament, or the ones watching?”
I’m tired of Facebook drama. “I’m here”, “I’m going there”, “I’m almost there” “This is what I ate/drank/thought/said/saw/wished for, while going from here to there – I’m here – See?” Some of the comments that trail news stories and other postings at times shocks me. Complete strangers getting into an argument that neither one knows first-hand the actual truth to. “I read it so it must be true and you’re a racist/bigoted/freak/idiot; if you don’t believe my side, that side, the other side or any other side to that story”. Then there’s the; “Look at all this wonderful stuff I found on the internet today”, “Must See”. “I don’t “Share” things but this will change your life, and if you don’t share it too, you are not a; Christian/true blooded American/cat lover, that likes to laugh, or maybe you just don’t have a heart or soul! Am I exaggerating? Yes, (in some cases slightly) but I think you get the point.
I have a core gut feeling there is way too much time (my time); devoted, spent, used up, by a screen. Computer screen, phone screen, television screen or whatever other device you want to add. I realize I’m more or less shooting myself in the foot here, but I’m not planning on stopping completely, just downshifting and getting a new pace, renewing, refreshing, dare I say, rebooting.
The second part of this Digital Sabbatical, would be to write only on paper. No keyboarding, no posting, no submitting – just good, old fashioned, cursive writing, note-booking, journaling, whatever you want to call it – plain pen/pencil to paper. I have read several successful accounts of journaling, daily writing rituals. I must admit I am a tad envious of many that produce phenomenal writings on a daily basis, poetry, pros, and short stories –whatever – they just blow me away. There are many folks in the virtual world that I consider friends; that I have never met personally, but have read much of their musings and just sit back and say; “Wow, how do they do that?” I’m not looking to post something on a daily basis but I would like to reenergize the craft of writing for myself, make it more of an integral part of each day. The easiest way for me to do that is to scribble some thoughts, lists, ideas, grand masterpieces, on a pad of paper: simple and direct.
What I am not doing is making this “grand statement” of spiritual holier-than-thou, uppitiness. We all have different levels in our spiritual, personal relationship, with God. Some reading this may not have one at all. I’m not saying in my attempts to do this that I am better than anyone – I’m just exploring a new avenue for my own benefit and maybe someone reading this may want to give their own version a try. I believe I’m ok as a person, husband, father, Christian, but I know I can improve immensely in all those areas, everyone can. We are in denial if we think we can’t, slightly conceited as well.
I have a sense of being at a crossroad in my life and I am searching my heart to know God’s heart. I can’t do that unless I open my heart to His heart and the only way I know how, is to focus. Focus on Him, His Word and His Will. If you seek with all your heart you will find. If you will knock, He will answer.
The word sabbatical has biblical originations and originally was done on a 7 year cycle. I made up my own rules and decided my sabbatical starts; today, Saturday, March 7 and will run for 7 weeks ending; Saturday, April 25. I intend to limit any and all screen time to bare minimum. Essential work, e-mail and strict project work only. No Facebook, no random surfing, searching, movie/Netflix binging, (although I do reserve the right to an occasional movie/couch date with my wife). Some may think of this as a form of “fasting”, which I guess you could, but that wasn’t my intent, nor did I plan this to coincide with Easter, although it does actually work well into the concept of renewing, rebirth, dying to the old/rising to the new, that Easter and Spring bring about. How better to focus, than to put all aside and truly focus on our Savior during a time of His ultimate suffering and sacrifice for any that would believe.
I humbly ask your prayers for direction and perseverance in fulfilling what I have said I will do. If you have any suggestions on books, practice, etc. – I’m open.
Thanks, see you in seven weeks.