Erin and I just returned from a week-long trip to Hartford, CT via train for Liberation Conversations 2012, the annual conference hosted by my brother from another mother, Bishop John L. Selders, Jr. When we arrived, I realized I had forgotten my computer at home. Erin did have hers, which was fortunate because my power point presentation required a computer. We also both have smart phones, so I can’t claim we had a technology free vacation, but we certainly had a technology light vacation. I wrote blog posts on my phone and I answered essential emails, but didn’t spend nearly as much time on-line as I normally would. During my free time I did some reading, but was often too tired to do much reading. I spent some time meditating, but had quite a bit of trouble staying awake.
I feel as if the impact of a less technology would have been more appreciated had I not been so very tired. The undeniable truth, however, is that I can’t travel the way I used to, hitting the ground running on arrival. In a perfect travel world, I would arrive one day before anyone knew I was arriving and spend that day resting. That’s not a luxury I can afford, however, and since so much of the good work of a conference takes place outside the sessions during the evening, sleep can be in short supply. The good thing about short sleep is that it tends to cause people to be less defensive simply because they are often too tired to be quite as vigilant as they normally might be. The bad side is the muddied thinking that fatigue brings, and the extended recovery time after the conference ends. One of the reasons I like to take the train is the chance to debrief on the way home, to process what has transpired. This time I learned that I can be too tired to do that effectively, especially when people board the train in the middle of the night and feel its their right to hold loud conversations for the four or five hours they are on board. If there is one thing Amtrak is not very good at, it is enforcing their own quiet hours – and I elected not to hear the nonsense I often hear when, as a white man, I ask black people to be quiet on a train and so tolerated the bullshit.
Part of me wonders what it might be like to give up technology for a week – all of it, except calls from my family if I wasn’t on retreat. I am certain there would be something valuable to be learned in that process. In fact, I think there would be something very rich to electing to answer emails only on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays and similar exercises. After the chaos of my June schedule, I may just give that a try!