My Good Reverend,
I spend way too much time on my phone screen. Some of it’s work-related. I also like to post on my social media accounts and get lots of likes and scroll around and see what others are posting. When I look up on the subway, everyone around me is glued to their phone screen as well. If the first part of beating an addiction is acknowledging you have one, I’m there. But then what?
I myself have not gone cold turkey. In my own case, I began my independence move- ment with simple steps. First, I don’t go on the screen when I wake up in the morning. I bike in Prospect Park. When I get back to the apartment, again, I don’t go the screen first. I go to my journal and write down what I will do when I’m online. Make a list. Then I lay that notebook next to the computer and try to be strict with myself, not drifting down the wormhole of social media or the online news. I go to the bodega if I want a paper.
Increasing the continuous non-screen times, and then writing down reports on my real-time experience, I’m in better shape — but I won’t lie, I do have relapses. I recover by feeling the reality on purpose, then growing more freedom from the screen into each day. Then take a full day for a fast, like a Sunday. Some people can do it for a week, a month. Whatever abstinence you achieve, be sure to spend time walking through the green earth. Exercise. Make love. Long walks. Turn the phone off and slow down with your favorite folks.
Build back that real life and soon the real part of your day has a more exciting presence. It might feel unsophisticated, making a note that you are whistling again and it feels good. Cultivate life-time, slow down and taste it. You’re making a friendship with your life. Your brain is quietly de-wiring from Silicon Valley and after a while your body and soul will be your enforcer, insisting on the real.
I’m a middle-aged person who enjoys spending time around older people who have lived well, still have a twinkle in their eye, tell great stories and are still fully engaged with life. To me, they are really special. But they are also more prone to getting sick and dying. This has been especially the case since the pandemic started. It makes me really sad. Should I save myself the heartache of losing my older friends and only spend time around people my age and younger?
You are being strategic toward the world around you as if you have plenty of time to lose. You are holding data that proves that the older people that are more interesting have less time to live. You assume that it’s good strategy to spend your time with other people that have more time to spend. You see time as money and younger people as a sounder investment. You think our time remains ticking and tocking forward in the same way that it did before the virus. You are guiding your friendships the way that we used to plan our careers.
Remember when people sought the promises of products? They invested in the objects to secure youth and looks and wealth … That is all gone. Time has a different kind of rhythm. Those moments you enjoy with interesting, older people? Go deep into those moments. Make those moments expand. Have the drama of living with death nearby. That was always the gift of life. Don’t let go of those people and they won’t let go of you, as we all share this temporary time together, “rounded by a sleep.” Storytellers with a twinkle in their eye can be younger, too.
REVEREND BILLY IS PASTOR OF THE CHURCH OF STOP SHOPPING. HAVE A QUESTION FOR THE REVEREND? EMAIL REVBILLY@REVBILLY.COM AND UNBURDEN YOUR SOUL.