I initially feel an unnerving isolation when I’m disconnected from the wider world.
Such moments are often forced upon me by circumstance: when mid-flight over a vast expanse of ocean or tucked betwixt bags and chickens and goats while rambling through mountainous South American landscapes in a run-down but resilient autobús.
I ultimately enjoy and even look forward to these periods of decouplement, but they don’t materialize as organically and consistently as they once did—and I think this is true for many of us.
We live at a moment in which tapping into the collective human unconsciousness via our omnipresent, always-on devices is effortless; it’s sometimes more difficult to disconnect than connect.
This is amazing and wonderful for many reasons, but it’s also discombobulating for brains that weren’t built for such protracted cognitive conjoining.
I personally do some of my best thinking and creating during my off-grid moments, but it can be a struggle to remind (and maybe even convince) myself this is the case.
When my connection with the enmeshed mob of e-linked humanity is severed, I slip in and out of fidgety focus before eventually descending deeply and satisfyingly into the cozy embrace of near-meditative contemplation.
Without external factors to forcibly amputate me from the globe-straddling body of our species, though, achieving this relative stillness is more of a task; it’s an effort—an ambition—rather than a circumstance emerging, weather-like, from a swirl of variables over which I lack any influence.
After a period of implacable integration I begin to feel deficient of deep-thinking and I’m strained by the slow accumulation of psychological baggage. My thoughts become more superficial and simplistic, and concerns I would normally address before they become issues accrete like plaque on a tooth.
I enjoy learning—celebrate it!—and consider exposure to works of art, bodies of knowledge, and differing perspectives to be fundamental to a well-rounded, cognitively nutritious diet.
But I also understand these things are (valuable, important) qualia gleaned from other people, and while such inputs are worthy of consumption and consideration and possible integration into our own thoughts and perspectives, without periods of absorbed introspection and single-brain digression we may lose ourselves in the collective and curb our capacity to contribute to our species’ shared accumulation of cultural riches.