There are quite a few people who have given up Facebook for Lent this year. I believe that I’ve done them one better. Tired of the oppressive toll in stress, human contact, and spiritual well-being that the omnipresence of technology in our world today brings, I have decided to give up all technology for Lent.
Things are going pretty well. I really feel a revitalized connection to the natural world and the human condition.
I was originally going to camp out in the shrubbery next to my townhouse — houses are made from trees cruelly ripped apart by steel blades and pierced by iron nails, after all — when I realized that even the shrubbery was a product of genetic engineering and was kept trimmed by power tools. Luckily there is a nice chunk of wild space in the middle of my city, so I was able to find a nice clump of bushes that keeps out the worst of the wind. Since most of the city is below sea level, protected by dykes constructed by petroleum-gulping machines, I chose the marshiest spot I could, in order to simulate the experience of living without the dykes. The skin on my feet will no doubt grow back after Easter.
I used to wear glasses, but having had laser eye surgery a couple of years ago I simulate the experience of giving up my glasses by tying a strip of clear plastic around my head to make everything look fuzzy. It’s a bit harder avoiding the use of my front teeth — they are made of a ceramic material similar to the tiles on the space shuttle — but I find that I can manage to skin and eat the rabbits and birds I catch bare-handed with the teeth on the sides of my mouth. (I know that rabbits don’t have enough fat to make a complete diet, but it’s only for a few more weeks, and I can stand to lose a bit of weight, anyway.)
I was conflicted about gathering leaves and branches to make a bit of a shelter, but considering that many animals make nests for themselves, I felt that I would be OK collecting a bit of natural material to keep warm at night. I can’t think of any animals that wear clothing, though, so I have discarded the rabbit pelts I’ve been collecting. I’ve had some near-misses with the unfortunately techno-philic Royal Canadian Mounted Police, no doubt incited by ignorant townspeople who have no appreciation for the free and easy lifestyle that is possible when you give up the trappings of modernity. It’s been around the freezing point for the past couple of weeks anyway, so any offending personal attributes have become practically invisible from a distance.
I haven’t quite achieved the level of authentic human contact I was aiming at in giving up the alienating interference of technological media — for some reason people tend to edge away slowly when I approach them. My wife got tired of carrying our toddler back and forth to see me — using a car would be completely artificial, after all — and the little one tends to … let loose … when she gets a chill. Luckily I was able to hold her over a nearby ditch the last time it happened. But for now I am enjoying the human warmth and geniune connection of my community of one.
I thought work might have been a problem, since I am a computer programmer, but things have worked out. I can make it cross-country to the office in a couple of hours — luckily it’s the Equinox right now, so I just work sunrise-to-sunset. I can’t go into the office, of course, or even the parking lot, so I have hired a teenager to sit at my computer and yell out the window whatever is on my screen. Then I yell back from the bushes what I want to change. Works pretty well, although for some reason I have caught a bit of a cold despite my natural lifestyle, so I’m getting a little hoarse. Anti-technological phlegm has a nice green colour, much more pleasing than the regular old stuff.
I can’t remember any Bible verses or anything from the prayerbook, and my teeth are chattering too much to really pray or anything, but I think that the spiritual side of this experience is starting to get going. Last night even though there was a bit of a frost I started feeling this nice warm toasty feeling, and I felt like I was making a voyage out into the heavens because the moon kept getting larger and larger, especially after I ate those mushrooms that I’d been saving.
Anyway, I think that this experience is a hugely valuable one. I’m really feeling in touch with my humanness — although I haven’t been able to feel my fingers and toes for the last week — and my ultimate place in the universe. I would recommend this type of discipline to all who wish to undergo a meaningful discipline for Lent.