Step Away from the Computer

The Analogue Counter-Revolution -- Part 1

Step away from the computer.

Not now, of course. First finish reading this article, and then by all means peruse the many other fine offerings at American Thinker. But sometime, on some occasion, try this: Turn off the screen. Turn away from the ever-present but enervating luminescence. Sit down alone in an empty room. And let the silence fill your ears.

You may be surprised by what happens next. Starved of external stimuli, your mind will turn inwards. Close your eyes and let it happen. Don't concentrate on anything; let whatever is churning underneath the murky waters bubble to the surface.

You may remember that dream you had last night. You may suddenly think of a long-lost friend. You may realize where you left your retainer in the third grade. You may dwell pleasantly and unexpectedly on that novel or film you enjoyed, and you might even have a new insight that hadn't occurred to you which deepens your appreciation even further.

It may not all be pleasant, of course. You may suddenly realize that the source of your slow-burning anxiety is that obligation you neglected, that lie you told, that night you regret. That's OK -- it is good to embrace such things, healthy to bring them into apprehension. You may even find yourself motivated to correct, amend, or atone for them, and thus apply a salve to your spirit.

As you sit and let your mind wander, you may be struck with the desire to pick up that cookbook, that pen, that paintbrush, that guitar that has collected dust in the corner, where it sits silently weeping as it watches you refresh your Twitter page over and over again, night after night. Go ahead: Pick up that instrument, that paintbrush, those utensils. Make something -- something that you can hold, taste, hear, smell, something composed of more than ones and zeros, something that can't be deleted forever with the stroke of a key.

When you behold what you have created, you may feel a twinge of disappointment. That is because your creative muscles have atrophied and become clumsy and weak. That's OK -- the challenge and the glory is in the doing; it is only a modern lie that perfection is expected, necessary, possible. The disappointment you feel will also be due in part to the fact that you have been conditioned to believe that all must be made available for worldwide consumption on the net in order to have value. This too is a horrible modern lie.

Create something real, something flawed, for no one's eyes but your own.

Not many people these days have the courage, or even the capacity, for such self-reflection. For the younger generations, whose brain synapses have literally been fused via interaction with digital technology from birth (species Homo digitus), it is perhaps not even possible.

But for those who can and will do this, you may find yourself suffused with a strange sensation: satisfaction. It is a chimeric sensation, ever-elusive to the stimuli-gorged net addicts which we have all, to some extent, become. And you will have taken your first step in joining the Analogue Counter-Revolution.

To be clear: This is not a movement that is anti-technology. I do not advocate entirely forsaking the conveniences and necessities of the Digital Age. We need them for work and play, and I love my iPhone as much as the next person. But we need to learn how to turn it all off if we are to reclaim the noble soul that humanity has heretofore held but which is now rapidly slipping away. This technology, any technology, must be our servant, not our master. Prometheus brought fire to Man to assist us in life, not as a replacement for it.

Try it, just once. Turn off the screen -- daydream, make something. And then have the courage not to share what you have thought and wrought. It will be painful at first. Even so, you will be glad you did.  

You may even want to do it again.

Matt Patterson is a National Review Institute Washington Fellow and the author of "Union of Hearts: The Abraham Lincoln & Ann Rutledge Story."  His email is
If you experience technical problems, please write to