A Vacation Away From Glowing Screens and Incessant Noises

No alarms and no surprises, no alarms and no surprises; silence--Radiohead.  

Lebron James Cavaliers Heat King James illustration wearing king's crown black and white
ESPN: Lebron, we're in
talks with the new pope
to get you canonized,
so will you now sign
our basketballs? 
As I write this entry, my itunes randomly played this classic 90s song.  ESPN is on in the background blathering on about another March Madness upset and the Miami Heat winning 25 games in a row (part of their godification of all things Lebron James).  My children are exhaustively begging for a snack before bedtime, and an overhead light is buzzing some kind of electronic white-noise dubstep tune.


Please, no more alarms, no beeps, no buzzes, no glowing screens begging to be viewed, no crying, no sonic wavelengths conflicting for my attention.  Silencio. I don't want to spend my spring break surrounded by devices making me more frazzled, more insular, more robotic.

Some have interpreted the meaning of Radiohead's song as longing for death; perhaps via suicide.  But I always understood it as a longing to get away from the bombardment of life's distractions.  A desire to go to the woods and live deliberately.  To escape the ADHD status updates and LED glow of a million pieces of electronica.

Black and white photo of 1800s plowing fields hard labor midwest
I don't know if this farming looks like fun, but it should
probably be required that every human experience it.  
I wouldn't mind an EMP bomb going off in my life.  A forced thrust into the ancient world of dependence on earth, instead of dependence on technology.  Technology always lets me down.  Give me my acoustic guitar over my electric. A good whiteboard and markers over a document camera.  Sure, technology makes life easier at times, but it also makes us dependent on it.  I don't even know if I own a dictionary anymore, instead relying on all these digital spellchecks. And frankly, that scares me.

I make my students write multi-page scenarios about survival after teaching Lord of the Flies.  We talk about what necessities we would need, what problems different environments would present, what problems our own psyches would cause...and yet, almost all the students incorporate some kind of "found" technology that saves them from nature's calamities.

Because our phone's reliability has replaced a trusted friend.  Who needs companionship or collaborative teamwork when you can find instant answers and gratification online?

beautiful image of tropical island ocean palm trees deserted green foliage
How could anyone kill Piggy on an island
that looks anything close to this?  
At one point a student asked me, "Mr. Plumb what would you do if you were stranded on a tropical island by yourself for a month?"

Are you kidding me? No students? No kids? No wife? No cell phones, bosses, bills, distractions, responsibilities, duties, stresses, conveniences, cars?

"I'd have the most amazing vacation of all time. It would probably add ten years to my life, that is, if I survived the month. I think I would enjoy every minute of that scenario."

And they were dumbfounded. Because after a few days camping, they long for their X-boxes, phones, and digital updates.  We will never have a transcendental movement again in this nation.  We will never find ourselves in Walden Pond.  We have become slaves to technology.  Addicted to worthless and trivial updates and modifications to our existing items.

Instagram is down just describe your lunch to me meme ugly guy on two phones socially awkward But isn't there already a backlash, you say?  What about the homeopathic, anti-GMO, organic, hipster movement that celebrates buying local and used, and lessening their carbon footprint?  Aren't they already rebelling against technology?  And I'd reply, "Have you been to Portland recently?  Those people "saving the earth" are mind-numbingly absorbed by their touch screen devices.  Donating a goat to a family in Africa online, buying their Toms shoes while using Starbucks' free wi-fi, and all the while oblivious to their child who is kicking my chair to the timing of The Cave by Mumford & Sons.

Wake up people!  (Unless you are reading this blog on a portable device). The Harlem Shake is already old. Whatever you discover on the internet will be old in five days. There is no reward for discovering something before someone else. Create something yourself. Or put the device down and people watch again.  You'd be surprised how socially inept we have become in ten years.  Eye contact, alertness, "normal behavior," all have been replaced with narrow collisions by people starring at their devices. This is American culture. Red-eyed, inattentive, bland, pacified, clumsy...stoned.  We are stoned on technology.  And it's a real depressant, a real downer.

Or maybe I'm just Debbie Downer, and need a quiet vacation.

Sound dead room in wisconsin wall baffles 99% sound proof
Supposedly, this sound chamber in Wisconsin, which is 99% dead to sound will drive you insane in 45 minutes.   


  1. I am right there with you. A luddite at times, even. I LOVE vacations in the wilderness where there is no phone, tv, internet, etc. In fact, I'm going on a four-day getaway next week where there is no reception, no nothing, and I CANNOT WAIT. Debbie Downer? Nope, you're just speaking my language.

  2. I totally agree with you. Every year that I direct that camp up in the mountains, I'm constantly battling with the kids over their iPods/iPhones. If structured activity is not going on, they slyly pull them out and start watching videos or checking their facebook until someone catches them. I'd like to outlaw them completely, but phones have turned into this generation's cameras, and I know how important it was to me to take pictures at camp. I still cherish the photos I have from that time. In any case, I've tried to put myself in their shoes, and remember what it was like to be their age at camp, but really, the worst we had were our walkmans and discmans that were only ever used in the cabins during "rest time." We weren't nearly as removed from reality as they were. Though, I wonder if the adults at the time were thinking the same thing about us.