Peace Beyond the Screen

Originally published in the Alexandria Echo Press.

Every once in a while, we need to step away, take a break from the online world and breathe; find some peace.

It was a cool, calm morning as the sun was just above the horizon when I stared at the white caps rolling across the cold blue body of Lake Superior and took a sip of my coffee. I closed my eyes to focus on the rhythmic roar of the waves crashing against the rocky shore. The view is breathtaking and the sound is hypnotic.

I look forward to coming to this place every year. In my family, we call it “the land.” A couple of acres of property, home to a two-bedroom cabin, a bunkhouse, and a deck that rests on the edge of a cliff that towers 20 feet above a rocky beach located on the south end of Grand Portage. It is my family’s land, and it’s a sanctuary.

There is no running water, just an outhouse for the bit that requires you to sit and a designated tree for the thing you can do while standing. There is electricity and a TV but no cable or Wi-Fi. Yes, you read that right. There is no Wi-Fi on the land; there isn’t even cell phone service. If you want to make a phone call, you have to drive a mile or so up the road where you might get enough service to send a text or make a quick call. If you want internet, you have to get a hotel room or sign up for a computer at the community center. Needless to say, it’s a place where you can truly go to escape.

Growing up, I hated the isolation the land provided. But as an adult, I cherish it. This past weekend when my wife and I visited the land, I was able to shed the stress. To relax, clear my head, breathe and find peace. I never want to leave.

And it was sitting there watching the mighty Lake Superior do her thing that I was able to think and contemplate the worries I had in life, and I realized a lot of it had to do with media and technology in general. It’s funny for a guy who works directly in media, but I could still see the harmful effects it has on me and, and I am sure, many other people. Stress, anxiety and the viewpoint that the world is all bad.

With social media, there can be a lot of pressure for people who need to be constantly validated, checking the post they made every five minutes to see how many likes and comments it got. Or the obsession of stalking your favorite celebrity to see what they ate for lunch that day or who they are dating this week. Thankfully, that’s not how I use social media. My problem is circling through my apps. I check Marketplace for deals, scroll through Instagram for dank memes, read stupid comments on Twitter, and fast tap through everyone’s stories on Snapchat; I hardly ever watch them unless it looks like something truly interesting is happening in that split second I get before the next tap comes. And most of all, window shopping on Amazon. That’s the biggest one. It is so easy to get sucked into the virtual world, and it can be a literal day waster if not used wisely.

The news can be scary; it is usually always scary. There is a saying, “if it bleeds, it leads.” Meaning the more horrendous the story, the more people are going to want to view it. This has been the marketing plan seemingly since day one. That is why whenever you turn on the news, most of it is basically saying evil is everywhere, and no one is safe. Now, it is important to know about the things happening around you; to stay informed. Even the bad, because recognizing the bad is how we learn from it to do our best not to repeat it. And it’s not all bad, don’t get me wrong. It is very easy to get sucked into hours of cat videos too. But there is another saying, “Ignorance is bliss.” Sometimes not knowing, at least for a little while, can be peaceful.

Whether it’s social media or news media, there can be harm. Now I am not saying shut off all your apps and quit watching the news for good. It is vital to stay informed on the happenings, but it is also important to escape it once in a while.

At my cabin, I had no contact with anyone outside of the land. I didn’t know a thing that went down outside of my little slice of paradise, and that was just fine. I think everyone should dedicate time out of their life, probably monthly, to unplug. Give your mind a reset, a detox. Don’t get sucked into your phone, don’t channel surf, live. Enjoy the natural world and the beauty that comes with it. Take a walk down your street and strike up a conversation with a neighbor. Go on a hike and discover something you never knew existed. Take up a new hobby or skill. You will start to see the good in the world. You will learn to appreciate the little things, you will be humbled, and realize just how big the world really is and that it isn’t all evil and chaos. There is peace, harmony and love just beyond your illuminated screen and out the door.

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