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  • Writer's pictureChristopher McHale


How one overheated brain learned to cool down and balance

Our technology far outstrips our dreams. Is that a good thing?

The average American checks their phone up to 352 times a day.

The I-phone is not even 20-years old.

Social media sucks at our blood like a digital vampire.

We clutter up our lives with reams of unnecessary moments.  Moments outside of ourselves. There’s joy there we tell ourselves. But slowly we hollow out the air around us and replace it with a digital pulse that exists nowhere beyond the screen.

We allow ourselves to be haunted by these digital phantoms. Canceled. Trolled. Hurt. We feel a deep emotional tug beyond the everyday.

It’s led me here  Seek boredom. Turn off the screens.

Do you feel your brain overheating? We’re wired for downtime. Do you take it? Ever?

The pace of the world is crushing our spirit. Doom scroll. News tsunami. A global click bait of if it bleeds, it leads. Only the lede changes every minute.

Do you know I’ve actually felt ‘I wish the headlines would change up.’ What am I looking for? Some new bombing? Some fresh disaster?

The news of the world becomes a distraction. Is all the social media simply a distraction? From what? The silence of the day?

I’ve traveled the world seeking silence. In the deserts. The Karoo, the Kalahari , the Mohave, the Sahara, the deep bush of Australia. When you step into these places you can hear the silence.

The digital mission is to bray into our brain 24/7. To keep us wired. Like the Matrix movie, we live in our pods and feed our energy to the machine. Some heavy days it feels like it’s why we live.

Yeah, crazy tight?

Here’s something to darken your day.

The world is dying around our distraction.

And here’s a sliver of light.

Perhaps the way to save our world is to digitally declutter our lives, shut down the digital hum.

We signed up for these services and bought these devices for minor reasons — to look up friends’ relationship statuses or eliminate the need to carry a separate iPod and phone — and then found ourselves, years later, increasingly dominated by their influence, allowing them to control more and more of how we spend our time, how we feel, and how we behave. Cal Newport Digital Minimalism

I’m deeply digitally dysfunctional. I’m not sure I can do it. Not really. I mean I can turn away for a day, or a month, but never again get device dazed by the suck of social media?

Do I even want that? Or is it surrender? Are we going to likecommentshare our way to The End? Is the Apocalypse an Instagram Story?

I think this through at 5am, the harsh light wash of my iPhone in front of me. I turn my face to the night. I see shadows across from me. Spines stand sentinel. Is my answer as simple as that? Books?

Precisely, the answer is reading.

Reading is the answer I seek.

I’ve got hundreds of books. My North Star is what my North Star has always been. My compass points to the written word. Not on a screen. On a page. A papyrus pulse. Reading.

I’m not going to pretend I’m going to morph into Larry Luddite, find some hidden Walden and disconnect. But I can push toward balance and books are the counterweight.

Lists are fun, right?

Here are my top 5 books of all time:

  1. Great Expectations by Dickens

  2. IQ 84 by Murakami

  3. The Aubrey–Maturin series by Patrick O’Brian

  4. Ulysses by Joyce

  5. War and Peace by Tolstoy

I have the entire trove of human endeavor in my hand. I have a network tracing lines across the globe. I have the world and my digital messenger is working tirelessly to bring all this to me.

But to balance things.

And more importantly to understand things.

I need books.

So today I sit down with my personal list of faves and begin again with the first book on my list.

My father’s family name being Pirrip, and my Christian name Philip, my infant tongue could make of both names nothing longer or more explicit than Pip. So, I called myself Pip, and came to be called Pip.


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