Peace. Quiet. Solitude.

One of the greatest vices of the modern technological age is not leaving people well enough alone.  I’ve had friends who’ve taken ‘breaks’ from the internet.  I’ve had bosses unable to leave their Blackberrys at home while on vacation.  I’ve seen people on all modes of transportation with things in their ears, whether for business or pleasure.  Constant contact of one form or another is a tool that becomes a habit and eventually an addictive handicap.

It’s not that I think virtual instant contact is ‘bad’.  I can remember when my family first got cell phones.  We never used them to keep in touch, but they were kept in the car in case of emergency or accident.  In such a case, a cell phone would be serving a good cause and would allow help to arrive more quickly.  The internet made my two years in China more of an inconvenience rather than a burden.  New technology has also been handy in the research and the distribution of information, the selling of consumer goods, and increasing close communication worldwide.  But that reliance does eventually get in the way of what i think life should be.

Today the banjo man was playing at Davis Square T stop.  I saw him – I didn’t hear him play.  I had my noise-cancelling iPod headphones on, which are protecting my delicate ears from the screechings and engine turns of the trains.  But I also realized that since I got this shiny new toy for music, I haven’t been listening to the world on my way to work.  I’ve felt the wind, but only on the outside. I don’t necessarily know what my new neighborhood sounds like.

Earlier this week, Yellowstone officials revealed the new draft plan for increased cell phone coverage in the park.  The plan is aimed to address issues of preservation while still allowing for visitors and guests to have the convenience they expect from modern technology, at least in the more built-up areas.  This is probably a valid request, particularly since such an increase will also benefit park rangers who are committed to keeping the public safe and for whom instant communication might be a necessity.  As spokesperson Tim Stevens said, “it’s critical that Yellowstone continue to provide the solitude and peace and quiet that our first national park has to offer”.

Let’s take a moment and consider these three gifts a national park is supposed to provide.  Where do we get peace and quiet and solitude in our daily lives?  Do we take time for it?  Or do we let such things just traipse along by without it?  Are we using the excuse of safety and convenience too much?  Should we just leave our cell phones off more often?  I’m not sure, but I think a part of the answer comes naturally to me, in my own forgetfulness.  if I leave my cell phone at home, it’s really not that big of a deal.

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