Since last Sunday, I've been out on a farm in Tennessee, a mere hour's drive from Nashville, yet far enough from what passes for civilization* to severely muck with my connection to the (clearly not) "world wide" web. Today it looks like I'm back in action, but that's not really what this post is about. Let me explain.
Maybe I should start with that asterisk. We tend to equate civilization with city-fication, perhaps because cities have opera houses, museums, monuments, and other examples of refinement that are most often absent (or at least scarce) in the countryside. Cities are great bustling hubs of communication, including that most frenetically hyperactive of all hubs, the www-dot-everything, and its lifeline, high speed internet connection. But this is all an illusion, a high-flying hot air ballon with a limited supply of heat.
Every time I leave the city for any amount of time, an ancient perspective comes back to me: the roots of civilization are not in schools, institutions or government, but in farms, and the people who work to keep them productive. If there had never been a fertile crescent, there would never have been a cradle of civilization. It was the ability to grow food that made it possible for human beings to diversify their activities, specialize, and invent the first forms of what we now consider humanity's greatest achievements.
The most important things in life--that is, to the living--are always the most easily overlooked: breath, love, joy, connection, appreciation, gratitude. I suspect this is because we wrongly assume them to be entitlements, and not irreplaceable gifts that come moment by moment. We have a tendency to become disconnected from the very things we need most, and place value on relatively frivolous things we can easily live without. Food is like that. We don't think about it until we get hungry...
It's a unique feature of disconnectivity from the internet that it begins with frustration, but (if you can manage to let go) eventually leads to a greater connection with the essentials of life, and (if you can really let it rip) with the self. I don't mean to devalue one of the greatest inventions of our time; after all, the internet has just facilitated a peaceful uprising in Egypt that brought about the end of a brutally repressive dictatorship of over 30 years--something no one would have thought possible just a couple of months ago. But nothing could be more important to the living than the connection with the essentials of life, which is greatly facilitated by disconnection from all the buzz. Speaking for myself, I'm grateful for the (temporary) dysfunctionality of my treasured communication tools--my cellphone and laptop. Glad to be back online, you understand, but much more so to be back with a slower, more appreciative view of things.