Everything there is a season: A time to unplug

By: Curtis Shelburne: Religion Columnist

These days it’s increasingly difficult to “unplug.”

I like technology as much as anyone. More than most, I think. In fact, my nerdy tendencies concern me some. When Juana and I went to visit our kids in Amarillo awhile back, I pulled my laptop computer out of the backpack and suddenly discovered I’d forgotten the cord. That meant I had at best three hours of battery time for the whole weekend. In much less than three minutes, I began showing the classic signs of an addict about to nose dive right into withdrawal. (I didn’t plan to use the computer much that weekend; it was just the idea that I couldn’t that made my skin crawl.)

I’m excited about the new computer mouse I just bought. It’s an e-rodent with a laser but no tail. It fits into my hand beautifully. Love at first click.

And I loved it when last Sunday after church a friend showed me that his new iPod Touch can connect to the Internet right in our church foyer. The thing is so cool I can even forgive the fact that it’s made by a company with fruit on its computers. I use the same company’s MP3 player every day. The best books I’ve “read” lately were books I listened to on that fine little Nano.

We can plug in everywhere these days.

My maternal grandparents would be delighted that my brothers and I treasure every moment we get to spend at the old “homeplace” at Robert Lee, Texas. Grandmother and Granddaddy Key would also be astounded that, pretty soon after we unpack at Robert Lee, three or four laptop computers are fired up on top of the old kitchen table where we used to eat Grandmother’s cornbread and beans with “chow-chow.”

Right there atop that table, we can fire e-mail around the world and check the local weather forecast with more computer firepower than NASA had available to send men to the moon.

Amazing.

Last time we were there, I got a little frustrated by the slow, unreliable dial-up Internet at the house. For years at the Robert Lee house, we had no phone line. And even when cell phones started growing on everybody’s ears, the reception at the house was terrible. So we’d head over to a pay phone once or twice during the trip to take turns phoning home. If Los Angeles broke off California and slipped into the ocean, we figured we’d hear about it soon enough anyway.

Now the good news, and bad news, is that cell phones work at that house just fine. And we have a phone line for Internet.

I did a little checking last week to see if broadband wireless Internet service was available for Robert Lee. Yep. For many shekels. Betraying some disappointment, I reported to my brothers via e-mail. My younger brother’s reply?

“As far as I’m concerned, we should disconnect all of it and reclaim the sanctity of the e-free sanctuary we once had. When I get there, I want to get away. All those connections make me work too hard. Think books, a little light writing, magazines, etc.”

Rats. I always hate it when the impertinent little twit is right.