Ten Things I Think About "Unplugging"

1. I Think It's Time To Live Life In Analog

a. Back in the band days we recorded our first "demo" on some odd digital contraption called "Radar." It was like Pro-Tools, only not. 

b. Then, we spent hours "dumping" our digital tracks on two-inch analog tape. We thought that was so cool. We wanted the ease and convenience and expediency of digital, but we longed for the saturation and authenticity of analog. 

c. "Hear that tape hiss? Hear that goodness? That's the two-inch tape. That's the music embedding itself in the tape, living its imprint on, the tape. 

2. I Think It's Fourteen Years Later And I Can Speak For Us All: "Give me the tape hiss!"

a. We have a rule at the table: no toys and no computers or digital devices. 

b. We bought our table on the British version of Craigslist. It's made of some kind of wood from India. It's got actual grain that sketches through the surface and is absolutely beautiful. We wanted that hunk of a table to be the center of the family gathering: food time. It's real wood. The dents and scratches create a wood memory. It records our life in Oxford. 

c. If you want "tape hiss" in your life, you have to lay some rules down. You have to get all '90's on your family and demand real wood furniture to be the center place of your discussions. 

d. Do you know what I mean by tape hiss? Or, must I explain the nuance? Tape hiss is the "realness of life." There, you hear it? 

3. I Think Unplugging Demands Radical Devotion

a. You must be devoted to getting off your couch and turning the TV off. That's step one. Stop trolling social media for people talking about the next new great show. It's all digital noise, literally. You want tape hiss? Then shut off your TV for a year. See how that grabs you. 

b. This obsession with story and the sophistication that goes along with pulling Shakespeare out of House of Cards feels like seventh grade. "What is Norma wearing? Did you hear that Chris and Gina kissed at lunch time?" 

c. Who cares? 

d. Take a walk at lunch, and listen. What do you hear? Probably that's the sounds of God rolling into your ears. Get radical and don't look at your phone as soon as you roll out of bed. I think about this everyday. Why? Because I don't have an alarm clock or a watch, so I have to grab my phone and I hate it. So, I've stopped looking. I make my tea, and "talk" to my daughters first thing. 

e. Second thing is music. I listen to music while I'm grabbing something to read. Usually it's something by King David or that murderous chap, Paul. 

4. Here are the essentials to "UNPLUGGING"

a. Listen to Pearl Jam once a week 

b. Remember: growing herbs is better than watching TV

c. St. Bernardus

d. Long walks after dinner

e. Sitting in the grass, then rolling around in it

f. Remember that you're not that important

g. Twitter isn't real

h. Hangle-burgers

i. Arminian Theology

j. The Spavinaw Creek holds truth, as do baguettes (Thank you Seth Haines)

k. Flyfishing is like baptism

l. Daffodils speak louder than your blog or news feed

5. I Think Growing Something Helps Remedy THIS {^}

a. When I pray with my girls I don't pray about the Internet, or email, or my voicemails. I thank God for the rain he sent to grow the grass, to strengthen the trees, to give us hyacinths. 

b. My pixie-daughters get it, too. Since I'm at home all the time (I'm a writer), they constantly pull on me saying, "Daddy, come here. I want to show you something." They want to take me outside and show me how they climb the tree out back. They want to show me how they blow the dandelions. 

c. When was the last time you blew a dandelion. Really? That's what I thought. Me too. Let's go for a hike! 

d. For Easter I bought the girls some "planters." Whenever I bring home flowers they are all in. But the pots of flowers demand attention. I have to water them, give them sun, and care for them. 

e. In a digital world the only thing growing is our egos. We post. We tweet. We update our status. We post curated pictures of ourselves. We let people see what we want them to see. We want to look good and we want to move with the speed of gossip. 

f. I just watered my Rosemary. It did not care about my last tweet. 

6. I Think We Live In Sprints Too Much

a. I know a lot people who say to me, "I'm just in a crazy busy season right now." They're sprinting down the corridor of life, ignoring all the water stops, as if they are going to win something. 

b. But life is not a sprint. It is a pilgrimage, and to be honest, it never really ends. Seasons come and go, and it's fine--I think--to have "seasons" of busy-ness, but they should be fewer than the seasons of quiet, of growth, of re-ordering. 

7. I Think Spending More Time In Books Will Save Our Souls

a. Studies are emerging that show that our browsing culture is effecting our reading ability. The constant moving of the text translates into anxious readers who can't stare at a static stage for any length of time. 

b. Books are like analog tape. They demand our time and patience. 

c. Books also possess a tape hiss quality as well. When do take the time, when we do rest our bodies in a cozy couch and hover over the pages the very act embeds itself into our souls. The bookishness of the moment saturates itself into our whatness. {Thank you Chelsea Batten}

d. Unplugging is more than just removing a cord from the wall. it's about stopping time. It's about getting off the super train of progress and looking around at your surroundings. Something happens when you do this: you realize you don't really need it--the phone, the computer, the social media, the blogs, the incessant bent of the inane new cycle. Life actually does breeze on, and it's tasty, like honeysuckle wafting over yonder hill. 

8. I Think Our Prayer Life Suffers From All The Noise

a. Just like we can't sit and read without our heads exploding, I think for many, prayer suffers from the same ailment. Our minds can't shut down; we can't stop thinking about this or that stressful thing, or this or that deadline. 

b. We cannot expect to just hop in and out of prayer as if we're flipping open our Mac Airs to chat with God on IM. Prayer is not just words we speak or whisper, it is a spiritual posture. 

c. I don't know. When Jesus got up early in the morning to pray, was he checking his Facebook feed? 

9. Hemingway Would Not Understand "Unplugging," For He Embodied It

a. There are some things which cannot be learned quickly, and time, which is all we have, must be paid heavily for their acquiring. They are the very simplest things and because it takes a man's life to know them the little new that each man gets from life is very costly and the only heritage he has to leave. -Ernest Hemingway

10. THAT {^}


I'll send you two sample weeks to my devotional, and my eBook The Sound of Silence: A Short Book on Rest. 

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Tim's authored four books, including Longing For More: Daily Reflections on Finding God in the Rhythms of Life. He and his wife, Christine, co-founded The Edges and live in Charlotte, North Carolina with their three pixie-daughters. Sign-up here to follow their work.