Off the Grid – not by choice
Off the Grid
by Patrick Reed
Last night, I wondered if it was just me or something else when all of the lights in our house began to dim. Either a pall of amberish darkening had begun to creep into my consciousness or something odd was going on with the power. Though I had run my share of taxing workouts in the past couple of weeks, I figured my fatigue and nutrition were not so poor as to be causing such odd dimmings — and I was right.
Not minutes after my initial concern, and just as I found the electricity meter to our house and began to troubleshoot, I watched as all of the digits on the metter dissolved to zeroes. I looked a bit closer, from a different angle to check what I saw, and then all of the zeroes went totally blank. I quickly looked to the houses up and down our street and got the confirmation: all of the neighborhood’s power was off. So, my workouts weren’t catching up to me…:)
During the next hour, some unexpected and enlightening thoughts rolled through my head. First, as a result of my sudden inability to run on the electric-powered treadmill – my plan for last night as my wife was working late – I nonchalantly considered skipping my daily 5k run. Unthinkable, you say — yet for some reason, with the power out and me being instantaneously “off the grid,” the streak became less of a priority. As I imagined a grand cyber-takeover by some creepy, unknown world-wide computer-hacking entity, running and lots more came into clearer focus.
I’ll bet you know what I mean. When the power goes out, nearly everything that we use stops working. Our tablets, computers, TVs, our ability to cook and to see while we cook, our ability to charge our mobile devices which we suddenly realize are way low on battery… all of these key components of our lives, just stop. As darkness arrived into our house and neighborhood, immediately there was a soothing cessation of the busyness. No blogposts could be written — at least not ones which could garner immediate feedback — and no emails could be processed and responded to. As it was late evening when the power went down, our kids were already quietly tucked in bed, all obliviously peaceful as if we were still connected to the grand “POWERHOUSE” which makes so much of what we take for granted work.
The sudden peacefulness, the immediate stopping of background buzzes and spinning hard-drives whizzing and the super-high pitched zinging of some flourescent lightbulb — all of this suddenly went still. And quiet. It was instant camping, yet without getting out of town, and made me realize an alternative to camping: just turn off the circuit breaker for the weekend and stay put. I know — I can hear you now: “What about the frozen foods! Heck, even the refrigerated foods! And what about the book you were in the middle of writing — all of those links and all that content lost in seconds!!…. and what about the treadmill-runs, and how are you going to download the newest episode of TrailRunnerNation?? And the list goes on… What about work — all of the constant paperwork which cannot wait and which will pile up — and if the pile gets high enough will never, I mean NEVER go away!?!
I hear your concerns. They are mine. They are proof that we are — at least I am — so dependent upon the power grid that it has actually infiltrated my value system. That realization gave me great pause.
“I am so dependent upon the power grid that it has actually infiltrated my value system. That realization gave me great pause.”
I believe this is why — at the moment the power went out — I suddenly was able to see my running streak in truer light. My streak is made possible in many regards by so much of what I take for granted: being able to run at any time of day or night, so long as I can find a spot in my day for it…. made possible in part by my addiction to podcasts, music and the instantaneous feedback I depend upon from my iPhone and watch… And, most telling of all, an addiction to the buzz, the neverending GO of modern life.
All at once I saw that my schedule is utterly jammed with stuff — just as many of our houses are over-pouring with stuff — so much of it stuff we never even use and would never miss. Unfortunately, though, even if we don’t use it, it takes up space — and that saps our strength. The jammed schedules – though so many of the items are check-the-box chores and errands – take their toll. At the moment the power left us, I felt so much of that schedule dissipate — and it felt so freeing!
“This perspective puts the daily run into right context. The daily run is a blessing, should never become a chore and can represent that 30 minutes off the grid that we all just might long for more than we know.”
I got my run done – in the dark. My wife got home an hour before midnight — and I held onto the flashlight which had become my new companion for the evening. I put down my iPad and a new app I was enjoying — Christ in Song — a hymnal for the iPad with bios of many of the hymnists and with musical accompaniments so that one could, if one were feeling especially free and worshipful, sing along with the hymns… I put that down and laced up the shoes — and got my 175th consecutive run of the year done. I ran through ink black streets, past abandoned shops and shuttered stores and into the broad moonlight…
Though the power has since been restored, I was reminded of how dependent I have become on the grid and on so many of the instant gratifications of our modern world, and how I long to get back to a simpler life — where simply talking one-on-one with my wife and with my kids is all I need. This perspective puts the daily run into clear context. The daily run is a blessing, should never become a chore and can represent that 30 minutes off the grid that we all just might long for more than we know.
Keep it light! Keep it simple!