Plugging In to Unplug (Virtual Reality’s Great Escape)

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My 5 year old son recently told me what his favorite day of the week is. As an orthodox Jewish family, we invest time and energy into making Shabbos (Friday sundown-Saturday sundown) special. Special for a child in my house means good dessert, a special snack, staying up extra late, wearing nice clothes, singing songs, going to synagogue, and having extra one-on-one time with parents, family, and friends. Shabbos was the answer I anticipated but not the one I got. “Sunday!”, my son smiled wide, completely unaware that Mommy was  more than a little dismayed with this revelation.

Then I gave some thought to my favorite day of the week. For an adult who observes all of the laws of Shabbos, it’s an incredible 25 hours of relinquishing the attempted stranglehold of control over our worlds.

There’s an acknowledgement that something Transcendent, in fact, is in control and has been this whole time. Whether I finished all my work or I left lots over, once the sun goes down on a Friday, I stop.

Stopping specifically entails shutting down all electronics (yep, smartphone included) and all “creative work” where I’m changing something existentially is prohibited.

If a light is off in a room, it stays off (if it’s on, it stays on). Nothing gets cooked, no water gets boiled, no fires are lit, no preparation is made for the upcoming week, no laundry is folded or washed, nothing is sorted, nothing is cut, nothing is glued.

There are times when the stopping is a total relief and I literally exhale. There are also times when the stopping is frustrating because I feel as though I have so much to do and yet… The lesson I take is that life is fleeting and there will be an indefinite stop button pressed for me one day (hopefully at 120 years old!) whether I feel I’m finished, or not, so better not waste a second. I certainly love Shabbos and while it may be my very favorite day of the week, I do think that it’s best in small doses. I admit, I don’t mourn resuming my normal, productive activities. Maybe that’s by design, to feel compelled to get up and DO, ACCOMPLISH after some time of forced stopping.

Sunday is the day when I grocery shop for the week, take the kids out somewhere fun to run free so I can observe (comfortably!), and organize my life and house for a whirlwind schedule beginning Monday morning. It’s family day, it’s me day, like my son, I do like Sundays.

Still, a part of me feels guilty. Shabbos should be our obvious answer. If it’s not, then WHY NOT?

One possibility is that when we plug in our computers and cell phones, we essentially DISCONNECT from the real world to CONNECT with the virtual one where our selfish whims, thoughts, and desires are catered to by well sponsored sites. When we pull the cord from the outlet and shut down, we are turning on our inner selves. We are forced to have actual human contact and interaction. The world isn’t just about us, it’s about everyone around us too. While Sunday through Friday, I plug in my computer to escape (read: plug out), on Friday night and Saturday I plug my electronics out to spiritually recharge (read: plug in).

No matter how we choose our “favorite day”, I think it’s critical to plug out sometimes and even more meaningful on a Saturday when the day has been carved out for us as one of rest. But what do you think?

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