The other day I was driving through Indiana farm country on my way back from a business trip. It was late afternoon, and the sun was beginning to set on the western horizon. It was a beautiful setting, but I wasn’t paying any attention to the beauty. My eyes were fixed on my rearview mirror. There, I saw a truck tailing close behind me. I quickly realized that the driver of the truck was somewhat impatient, because he proceeded to pass me on this country road. People were just getting off work, so the road was somewhat busier than I assume it usually is. There were other cars ahead of me, but the truck had just enough room to pass and slide right in front of my car.
I was furious.
It wasn’t so much that the truck passed me. Whatever, that’s not a big deal. It was the fact that the move made no sense to me at all. I was driving the speed limit. In fact, I think I was going a few miles-per-hour faster. (Hey, you do it too.) Now, the truck was mere feet closer to whatever destination awaited it and its driver. I was flummoxed by it. So I decided to tail him as close as I dared for about a mile.
Road rage — we’ve all been there. But it’s what happened next that makes this particular experience one that I will surely not soon forget.
I sat on a park bench with a book in hand and a pocket-sized notebook at my side. My meetings were done, and I had made a quick stop at a city park for a respite before heading home. It was cold, but the sun was out just enough that I had deemed a coat unnecessary. I sat and read, then I commenced with writing for a few minutes. Thankfully, I had the clarity to leave my phone in my pocket. No notifications. No updates. No news.
Just quiet moments. Reflection. A little peace amid the constant inputs.
I think the echo chamber can wait for me. I don’t always have to live inside its constrictions. By echo chamber, I mean the constant information stream we put before our eyes — social media, texts, apps, updates, breaking news, online videos, movies, games, Netflix and on and on. None of these are bad in and of themselves. But together, I often find that their total impact on me can be somewhat of a negative. The choice is mine to step outside and recharge. It’s a choice I sadly overlook at times. But in those moments when I choose to unplug and rejuvenate — it is oh so beautiful!
After a while, the cold did start to get to me. The sun was past its apex in the afternoon sky. It was probably time to start my drive home. The sunset would be coming while I was still on the road, no doubt.
My anger still fuming, I realized that I was far too close to the truck for comfort. I began to slow my pace just enough to allow a little more space between us while still making my intentions clear to the driver of the truck. As I was slowing down, a vision caught my eye.
In a passing field, there was a small pool of water. My eyes happened to catch a glint — a momentary reflection. It was the sunset mirrored in that pool. It was gorgeous, like some masterwork of art. As I passed by the pool, I suddenly acknowledged the sunset out my window. I thought of the folly of angrily tailing this driver who I deemed had slighted me in some way while this fantastic array of colors danced just outside. I slowed down the car and let the man drive on ahead. I chose to appreciate the beauty around me.
Listen, I love technology and social media. I really do. Whenever I see one of those “thinkpieces” about how social media is destroying our culture, my ire builds up — just like it did when that truck passed me. This is not a post about millennials ruining anything or about the danger of social media. I’m a millennial, and I love social media.
But even I have to admit that mindlessly scrolling isn’t always healthy. Living in the echo chamber is a recipe for disaster. We must have moments where we choose to step away — even if only for a few brief moments.
What I am writing to you here is a post about choices.
Soon after we were married, my wife and I realized we needed to schedule time for this conscious unplugging. We noticed that a large chunk of our time together involved some type of screen. It’s not that screens are bad, it’s just that there needs to be a reprieve. So, we started cooking together.
Every Sunday, we make a meal together, and we leave our phones in another room. We’ll allow a few photos, but other than that phones are off-limits. Instead, we work together and create something that we can then enjoy together. We even started keeping track of our adventures at our Medium publication called Cooking With Sarah. We’ve seen so much growth in our marriage from having a time set apart where we will unplug and invest in our relationship.
Cooking With Sarah
Every Sunday, my wife and I cook together. It’s a time to be intentional about our marriage and enjoy some good food…
But even just for me, I’ve seen the value in unplugging to reset my thinking. Our world can feel so dark at times when we only listen to the voices that constantly bombard us from the regular channels. It’s not their fault — it’s true that our world is often a very dark place. Horrible things happen every day. Some of those things find their way to our news channels and we hear about them. This cycle repeats itself with every new day, and it can become maddening.
But every day also has a sunset.
There’s beauty around us at all times. Get outside and take a walk. Sit in a cozy chair with a book and a warm cup of coffee. Write out what you’re feeling in that particular moment. Change your perspective. And do it through a wider lens than the screen of a smartphone.
There’s a time for anger and there’s a time for action. I know I’m constantly aware of areas in our culture that are in need of change or renewal. But here’s the thing…
…change won’t come from all of us being glued to our screens.
…change won’t come from people whose minds are not being routinely challenged and renewed.
…change won’t come solely from a place of anger.
I firmly believe that it is when we step outside the screen and give our minds and bodies a chance to recuperate that we see a change begin to work within us. Then we can in turn work to change the culture around us.
When I got home later that evening, I wrote a small poem about what I had experienced. I hope it can be some small form of encouragement for you. There is beauty around you all the time. Sometimes all it takes is a few minutes of looking around and recognizing that beauty to remind you that everything isn’t what you see on Facebook and Twitter. Thanks for reading, and I wish you all the best wherever you are in life. Blessings!
Slivers of Heaven
Once upon a road
I saw a sunset reflected
In a passing pool, and I thought
God must send slivers of heaven