(Continued from Part 1: The Awakening)
I had put my TV, video player and car up for sale. Why? No more being a spectator in my bubble, even in my car. No more electronic Buddha or motorized cow. No more glass. I want to walk, take the bus, and talk to people; live on the stage of everyday life as it is. This desire to live was my first benefit of detoxification.
The Reprogramming of Living
Imagine the shock of the new ex-hero who wakes up with a clear mind in the remains of his life, in a desert of meaning. In my case, once the TV was gone, a great emptiness appeared in my home. Impregnating myself with the presence of silence revealed a scene without a set. I listened to the radio. During the first month of deprogramming, I occupied my time reading nine plays by Shakespeare and three essays by Nietzsche. It filled most of the void.
Once the happiness deficits due to intoxication are known, the benefits of detoxification become as obvious as the breath that’s reborn in an ex-smoker. This awareness of one’s life is the second effect of detoxification. The natural benefits of life, resurface, whether it be money, freedom, love, friendship, family, comfort, job or health.
I also began writing and was able to be alone, without any stimulation other than background music. I was comfortable with myself. Being well and being alone was the third effect of detoxification.
In the Mean Time
I’d observe college students (at the local college where I taught) as well as reading their confidences in the practical work that they’d submit (interpreted through my understanding of life with philosophy) and realized that internet intoxication was a real hard drug. This intoxication was a network of encounters for all kinds of people—live masturbation with wetcams, Youtube, Twitter, virtual life, adventures as a hero, interactive guerrilla, online sites for playing chess, poker, backgammon, bridge, collecting friends on Facebook…
A student once confessed to me that she takes an hour every morning to go through all the new posts from her friends, plus text messages.
Since then, and with age, I’ve developed an anachronistic lifestyle issue. I’ve regressed from certain cultural or technological sectors, hence the cata-chronics (cata: down).
A door-to-door Internet subscription salesman was stunned by the extent of my voluntary simplicity.
“Do you have Internet?” he asked.
“No, I don’t have a phone line,” I replied.
“No problem,” he returned, “we can use cable.”
“I don’t have a TV.”
There was nothing in the salesman’s training that would allow him to deal with such a Cro-Magnon existing within tech and information fueled society. The young man exclaimed, vibrating with emotion:
“But… it’s 2008, come on!”
“In 1988, there were no laptops, » I threw back.
“But how do you make a living?”
“I breathe, drink filtered water, take walks and avoid fat, oil, alcohol and sugar. And indulge in a joint now and then.”
The salesman just stared back at me indulgently, then apologized.
After the Last Temptation
Can a relapse occur? Sure. Deficits in our happiness return abruptly. And it helps to wake up again. On the other hand, an alcoholic in a bar who resists temptation perceives the ritual of drinking with a keenness few people possess.
On Mont-Royal Avenue, I would often pass and sometimes go into a store selling TV sets, the big ones with a flat-screen. But by now, I had exhausted my meditative position of the couch potato, a time when I’d witness the cyclical observation of geographical, ecological and political disasters, immerse myself in various sports fights, revel in special effects movies, or watch soap operas to see if the weddings announced would take place (the cream pie of romantic anguish).
A terrible scene from a useless, supernatural, horror film, The Ring II (2005), comes to mind. The mother of the possessed child is on the balcony looking into the high-rise buildings around with all its TVs on—the doorway through which the evil spirit can infect the human race. I thought of the tens of millions of North Americans who were at the same time splashed with the light of their Buddha (the smartphone can do the same), living in thoughtful indifference to everyday life.
I came out of the gadget temple empty-handed—relieved. I walked along the interminable line of sacred cows parked grazing on the asphalt.
Plato wanted to get the humans out of their cave. Instead, they kicked the philosophers out and brought in the TV. Then we brought the cave into the TV. Since then, we’ve become the most misguided people in human history.
In the Ark (on drugs)
Basketball diaries, US film by Julian Schnabel, 1995.
Drugstore Cowboy, American film by Gus Van Sant, 1989.
Gia, American film by Michael Cristofer, 1998.
L’année dernière à Marienbad, French film by Alain Resnais, 1960.
The Lost Weekend, US film by Billy Wilder, 1945.
Naked Lunch, US film by David Cronenberg, 1991.
Requiem for a Dream, US film by Darren Aronovsky, 2000.
Trainspotting, English film by Danny Boyle, 1995.