Shutting it Down: A Week in the Life of the Collective Now by Brian Campbell

Imagine what would happen if we shut everything down, collectively, for one full week. If we unplugged our televisions and laptops and tablets and music players and headed out the door to count the stars or take a walk.   If we stopped paying attention to popular culture and politics and the absurd notion that fame and fortune are the measures of mankind, and dove deeper into our communities. What if we stopped trying to get ahead and simply lived? If we lifted up our heads and looked every single person in the eye. If we stopped thinking, craving, imitating, buying, counting, worrying, ruminating, analyzing, identifying, comparing, complaining, and competing and went off to introduce ourselves to strangers. If we left the newspapers unread and cooked a meal instead. If we put the work down at a reasonable hour, regardless of those artificial deadlines we set for ourselves, and headed home to sit with family and friends.   If we dropped the smart phone in an old shoe and put the shoe in a closet. If we did the same with the digital camera, which was designed to disregard the present moment in hopes that we remember it at a future date (when the moment no longer exists). If we played board games instead of browsed, talked instead of posted, savored instead of scurried? If those of us who are parents pulled our kids out of practice and put aside that glad bag full of homework and found a tree that both parent and child alike could climb. If we rediscovered our front porches and stoops. If we turned the mundane into the sublime.

What would happen if we sat still for a long time and just listened? If we went for a walk and instead of thinking about what to do next, or what we did that day, or what we did many moons ago, simply felt our feet moving against the earth, the wind running through us. Or heard the church bells and the train horns, the hum drum of the world outside of our windows.   What if we found ourselves a book on how to juggle or do magic or how to perfect the moonwalk?

What if we touched each other more? A pat on the back. A hand on the head. A hug for everyone we knew, or maybe even those we are meeting for the very first time. If we stopped moving so fast, stopped questioning where the time went, stopped being uncomfortable in silence? What if we watched the moonlight against the windowsill for what it is, rather than harken back to a memory of some other moonlight against some other windowsill?

For one full week, what if we stopped being “informed” and “connected” and “productive?” Stopped identifying ourselves with things, titles, degrees, wealth, and looks. Stopped living through celebrities, professional athletes, politicians, pop stars, wall street journal executives, and even our former selves, and live through all inhabitants.

What if we reversed that old axiom, that we don’t live life, but relive it? That instead of grasping at the something gone or worry about something yet to be, we grab the now with two hands and watch it, listen to it, touch it, smell it and taste it. As Jon Kabat-Zinn writes in Wherever You Go, You are There, our life is at least as miraculous as the sun and the moon and the stars. What if we treated it with the same kind of wonder?

For just one week, what if we saw the world as children again? Those shards of sunlight holding our undivided attention.  Those sugar cookies making us dance across the room.  Those thunderstorms felt from head to toe. What if we rediscovered what it meant to just be?

All at the same time.   A week in the life of the collective now.  A week without screens.

Imagine that.

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