Powering Down to Power Up - Huffington Post 2.3.2014


By Naphtali Hoff

Smartphones were supposed to make our lives easier and more relaxing. Keeping us current and up to the second with news and shared happenings, not to mention easy phone, text and email conversation, all at the touch of a finger (or voice command), would simplify our busy existence and give us more time for leisure time and other pursuits.

But a funny thing happened along the way. We have become so attached to our devices that we simply cannot imagine life without them. We check them routinely, even when we have no good reason to. We remain perpetually "on alert," waiting for the next update, tweet or email/text to populate our inbox. When we wake up in the middle of the night (assuming that we haven't been on our phone while under the covers), we grab for our phones to see what may have happened during our brief nocturnal hiatus.

This all raises the obvious question. How smart are we for owning smartphones? And is there anything that we can do to avoid being completely consumed by our technological cravings?

Perhaps a look at the story of creation can offer us an approach to these questions (if not a lifeline).

Genesis 2:2 presents a paradox. On the one hand, it says that God finished His work on the seventh day. Yet it also describes Him as abstaining from the work of the previous six days.Did He work on day 7 and only abstain then or did He stop the second that the seventh day began? One resolution is that God did in fact create something on the seventh day, rest. While it represents an abstention in the sense that nothing new was formed, the "act" of establishing a day of rest still represented a meaningful contribution to the world.

As a Sabbath observer, I can truly appreciate the concept of a day of rest. It provides for a meaningful (if not forced) recharge after a week of hard work and sleep deprivation. It also allows me to take a step back and clear my head, oblivious to the barrage of emails, tweets and other communications that may be populating my inbox.

Sometimes such distance can be challenging. Going "cold turkey" after a week of incessant communication requires discipline. It certainly helps that my entire immediate community is acting similarly, powering off in collective unison. But it also helps to know that such down time will not only help us (and our phone batteries) recharge, but also brings us back to "prehistoric" values of contemplation and face-to-face engagement, in the form of family time, singing, sharing religious thoughts and ideas, and some good old laughter.

Perhaps this forced abstinence from technology and communication was never more helpful than this past Saturday. Living just a few miles from MetLife Stadium, it was easy to get swept up by the frenzy that is enveloping the area in advance of the big game. Being "away" for just over 24 hours, with no access to phone or internet service, gave me a modest break from all of the frenzied excitement, and over analysis of the event. It also gave me a much needed recharge, so that I could remind myself once again of the sweet benefits of achieving silence in a loud, busy, share-crazed world.

Naphtali HoffComment