Out of this world — and lov­ing every day of it

The world is way too ob­sessed with so­cial me­dia, but life does go on with­out it

The Hamilton Spectator - - COMMENT - PAUL BENEDETTI Paul Benedetti is the au­thor of You Can Have A Dog When I’m Dead.

A cou­ple of weeks ago, I left the world.

It was a sur­pris­ingly easy exit. No rocket ship in­volved, no mind-al­ter­ing sub­stances — un­less you count beer. Not even med­i­ta­tion. I just unplugged for a cou­ple of weeks. And the world I left be­hind wasn’t the real world, but what has be­come more and more “the world” for many of us: the in­ter­net.

You know, the con­tin­u­ous, end­less, im­pos­si­ble-to-keep-up-with stream of Twit­ter posts, the moun­tains of Face­book up­dates, re­lent­less au­to­mated alerts, and a steady, seem­ingly in­fi­nite bar­rage of mes­sages in your Gmail in­box, par­tic­u­larly the ones marked So­cial and Pro­mo­tions. So­cial keeps telling me (about 500 times a day) what I missed on Twit­ter and Pro­mo­tions keeps telling me (about a 1,000 times a day) what I’m miss­ing at Groupon. If I needed 50 per cent off “brow and lash tint­ing” or “mas­sage and body scrub” I might be ap­pre­cia­tive, but I scrub my own body and if I tinted my brows, I’d look (even more) like Grou­cho Marx.

What’s re­veal­ing about this world is how in­tox­i­cat­ingly ad­dic­tive it can be on a daily ba­sis and yet how inane and dis­pens­able it re­ally is. That rev­e­la­tion, if it is one, is only clear once you stop do­ing what you are al­ways do­ing with­out re­ally think­ing about it. Like mind­lessly lis­ten­ing to the pop mu­sic sta­tion in your car and re­al­iz­ing you’ve heard Des­pac­ito 17 times in one morn­ing and that you ac­tu­ally hate the song and you’re start­ing to hate Justin Bieber too. (For fans of Justin Bieber who are of­fended by that state­ment, let me say with all sin­cer­ity, I don’t care). Turn­ing off the ra­dio is so easy and feels so good.

So, that’s what I did. I turned off the world, well, the vir­tual world at least. It wasn’t that hard. I was at a cot­tage on va­ca­tion and frankly, I was just sick of read­ing about Trump’s hare-brained schemes, his hair­rais­ing tweets and, well, his hair. I was tired of Ivana Trump, Don­ald Trump Jr. Hell, I couldn’t even lis­ten to my wife call “trump” while play­ing eu­chre. I was Trumped out.

So in­stead of start­ing my day like I usu­ally do — with a 10-mile run and some light Bi­ble read­ing, ( just kid­ding), with check­ing email, and news sites and Twit­ter, I got up early, made some cof­fee and am­bled down the bank to the St. Lawrence River. It was just past dawn and the river was mir­ror smooth, the far bank per­fectly re­flected in wa­ter un­ruf­fled by the winds and boat traf­fic to come. I stood on the dock, the sun peak­ing over the pines, and cast a lure into the still, clear wa­ter in front of the cot­tage. I didn’t catch much — a cou­ple small­mouth bass that I re­leased, hop­ing to hook them next year — but I en­joyed watch­ing my Ra­pala shimmy through the weeds and my Jit­ter­bug crazily zigzag across the sur­face. Just the chance that a big pike might lunge up and hit the lure is enough to keep most an­glers in­ter­ested for hours.

And in­stead of fran­ti­cally scrolling through emails, I did what you should do at a cot­tage: I poured two fin­gers of Bai­leys in my cof­fee and went for a nap. Ac­tu­ally, I found my­self in front of the book­shelf that every good cot­tage has. You know, that eclec­tic col­lec­tion of old hard­cov­ers, bur­gundy leather-bound Reader’s Di­gest Con­densed vol­umes and rows of dog-eared pa­per­back west­erns, ro­mances and thrillers.

And I came across a won­der­ful find — a hard­cover set of three novel­las by John O’Hara, a once pop­u­lar but now some­what for­got­ten Amer­i­can writer of the ’40s and ’50s. The pages were wa­ter stained and the sto­ries were tales of smoke-filled bars and fad­ing Hol­ly­wood ac­tresses and New York so­cialites and I loved every musty minute of it. And as I spent the week read­ing, and swim­ming in the brac­ing river wa­ter, and chop­ping onions and po­ta­toes for din­ner, and chat­ting over chilled cock­tails while the sun slipped be­hind the tops of the trees, I re­al­ized some­thing. I hadn’t checked out of the world. I’d checked back in.

I was at a cot­tage on va­ca­tion and frankly, I was just sick of read­ing about Trump’s hare-brained schemes, his hair-rais­ing tweets and, well, his hair.

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