Monday 6 April 2015

An Exercise in Freedom

During Holy Week, I did my best not to read, watch television or use the internet. As it happened, I had to use the internet to pay for my next Polish course and to check recipes. And during Holy Week services, I thought I had better read the missal or hymn sheet. Staying away from television entirely was much easier.

This media fast was inspired by Julia Cameron's The Artist's Way, a regimen I have been diligently following for weeks. I had come to a directive not to  watch television or read anything for a week, so I made Holy Week that week, being the easiest time in which to do it. I wrote my next CR column and sent it in a week early--an unprecedented move, I assure you.

So what was it like?

It was very nice, actually. It was peaceful. I got a lot done without feeling rushed and frantic. Instead of rushing to check my email as soon as I returned home from trips to church or the grocery store, I washed dishes or did some other household chore. I finished writing a short story. I cooked up a storm. I went with the Inner Child to the museum and then to the hipster café to sketch. I went to a ceilidh and danced with the SNP candidate for East Lothian.

I felt very focused on whatever task was at hand.

I was chagrined to discover, on Holy Saturday evening, how few real emails I had received in a week. Only three or four were of any importance; the rest were junk mail, announcements or alerts. And I didn't feel I had missed much by way of local or world news. Now I feel nauseated by "Yahoo News" which seems determined to fill my mind with trivial sensational junk whenever I wish to check my email.

The biggest problem of the regimen--for I got B.A. to look up train timetables--was what to do between 9 and 10 at night. Not being able to read, watch TV or surf the web after nine left my tired mind wondering what to do.

I did the household accounts or sketched or did some mindless household task and then simply went to bed early. And instead of reading myself to sleep, I said a rosary or barely got through praying for my family before I conked right out. It occurred to me that all that internet or even book-reading right before bed was actually bad for my sleep. Going to bed with a rosary was more conducive to sleep than going to bed with a book.

Meanwhile, I also realized how rarely I read a real, proper book, not just a paperback detective story before bed. This must change. Julia Cameron assumes that blocked writers put off writing by reading too many books, but this is most definitely not my problem. The world wide web is my problem.

B.A. and I agreed that Lent would end at 7 PM on Holy Saturday, and after we had a late supper of lamb pies, I went online. And before I knew it, it was past 11 PM, and I still had to wash my hair. (A time-consuming process for we 3Bs.) Very tired, I did all I had to do and went to bed very late and in a bad mood. I slept very badly, too.

My conclusions are that whereas the internet is incredibly useful in small doses, it interferes with paying real attention to whatever tasks one is going at the moment, even if that is just watching a show on television or taking a journey by bus.

It should not be indulged in before any kind of necessary work. In my case, all assignments and housework should be done before I hit that little Google chrome button.

Equally, the computer should be off by 10 PM, and even earlier if I want to go to bed early.

And, finally, it is insane behaviour to check for email umpteen times a day when I get only three or four interesting emails in an entire week.


  1. Happy Easter, Seraphic!

    Your experiences confirm my own, and confirm my own resolutions (made, broken, and remade umpteen times) to not get online for anything unrelated to work before work is done, and then to turn it off a reasonable time before bed. Hopefully this will encourage me to stick with it!

  2. Great post on an interesting experiment! I tried going without reading once and found myself reading a paper from the DMV like it was a great novel, lol.

    Anyway, I have bing as my homepage and just search yahoo mail so as to completely avoid yahoo headlines.

  3. Oh, I'm so glad I'm not the only one who checks e-mail (or in my case, more often facebook) dozens of times a day. Any ideas on how to break the habit?

  4. Ask God to free you from the chains of the internet, and tell yourself you aren't allowed to check between breakfast time and supper. Before breakfast, and after supper. That's it. Maybe before bed. That's three times. Good luck!

    1. Thank you! That is a great idea!!!


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