Our power recently went out and the digital clock on our microwave went out along with it. My husband usually resets it, but for some reason, this time he didn’t. So I found myself looking over at the blank screen, instinctively, throughout the day, and then I had to remind myself to look a few feet away at the traditional wall clock.
I wasn’t surprised at feeling a little annoyed by this first world inconvenience, but what did surprise me was the strange little sense of anxiety it caused. Seeing the microwave’s blank, silent display whenever I looked over for information made me feel insecure and unsecure. The traditional wall clock, with its patient ticking, could not console me.
I’ve been exploring this uneasiness. I haven’t reset the microwave clock. Turns out my husband had left it off to explore the same feeling. It’s become our little experiment. How long before we stop looking over for the digital time? When will we accept the darkness with peace? Why does it cause uneasiness in the first place? What other technology habits might be addictions? Do we need a microwave?
Most of us know how technology, especially the smart phone, can bring us down – undermining our time management, our attention spans, our relationships, etc. My husband and I have set some clear boundaries for our phone use like keeping them plugged in when we’re home. But I hadn’t realized how addicted I was to simply being in the presence of screens. That green-lit boxy digital display (retro compared to my smart phone) comforted me. It told me the electricity was working. Our home was connected. We were protected and cradled by white noise. We weren’t alone. We weren’t exposed to the elements. The house stayed up as we slept. Our devices stayed up too, connected to other sleepless devices around the world. The silence was drowned out by energy and information.
I don’t mean to sound dramatic – as if the blank microwave clock caused existential crisis. But it does make me worry about my state of mind if there was to be a prolonged power outage. Some people seem more naturally tuned in with silence and stillness. They might not get restless lying out under the stars. But I’m not one of those people. And I think it is getting harder to be one of those people in our highly digitized and connected world.
I don’t think we all need to turn off our power, but maybe it would be worth asking ourselves, Could I be okay with silence right now? Am I too dependent on the mere presence of technology? I know I am. And I want to get better. So I’m watching myself. I’ve notice how often I pick up my phone just to look at it. Just to look at it! And it makes me feel good, even if I see nothing on it. It makes me feel good to hear the refrigerator hum. It makes me feel good to hear the phone ring. It makes me feel good to know people are up doing things and saying things and I could watch and listen at all hours of the day. I could avoid silence for the rest of my life if I wanted to.
But I don’t want to. I want to be more okay with silence. I want to embrace stillness, slowness. Because that is often where beautiful, meaningful things happen. I want to be more in tune with the earth, rather than only in tune with the world. I want to be more in tune with human beings, rather than only in tune with people. And I want to become more in tune with God.
It may sound silly, but for me, a break from the microwave clock is a good start. There are far better sources of comfort. Now, when it’s late and dark, and I find myself glancing uneasily toward the microwave for its green glow, I remind myself to light a candle instead.