By Christina Capecchi
“Are you tweeting from Palestine?”
It was a harmless question popping up in my inbox, and I had already begun typing my Twitter handle, eager to pick up a few more followers, when I paused to consider the offer I was about to make. Did I really want to chronicle my Holy Land trip via Twitter? Did the fact that I could access an iPhone mean I should? Did I actually see myself tweeting “at Church of the Holy Sepulchre, reflecting on Jesus’ crucifixion”?
I stopped mid-sentence.
Something about tweeting on a pilgrimage feels wrong, contrary to the purpose. To tune in I must log off. To open my eyes I must still my fingers.
I’ll have ample opportunity to relay the experience when I return. I might as well give myself the 15-hour flight home as a buffer between seeing and sharing.
Social networks like Twitter and Facebook are challenging our notion of public and private. Their default setting is public; you have to take action to make it private. The assumption is yes, green light, go.
Saying no requires a deliberate stance. But it’s a healthy one. You must say no to some things in order to say yes to others.
A tweet may be just 140 characters, but it’s long enough to interrupt a thought or a prayer. And those are the little moments that allow for the big ones that bring us to our knees.
I’m saying yes to silence, to emptiness, to the absence of it all — a mode that doesn’t come naturally to wired young adults. I’m going to the Holy Land to see the bigger picture and the higher ground. I’m hoping to capture sights and smells that linger, lending new meaning throughout the year to old readings.
I’m planning to turn off my phone so I can experience the spiritual joy St. Therese of Lisieux once described. “For me prayer is a surge of the heart,” she said. “It is a simple look towards heaven. It is a cry of recognition and of love.”
I’m proud to take a break from a habit that shortens, if not eliminates, the line between perceiving and publishing. I’m pleased to give a little less to a force that keeps demanding more. This spring Twitter unveiled a tracking tool that pins an exact location to each tweet. When I was invited to activate it, I didn’t have to think twice. Thanks, but no thanks.
Many others, evidently, feel differently. Location-based applications like Foursquare are growing in popularity.
Personally, I’d rather go off the grid, as they say. I’m not keen on that kind of accessibility. There’s value in traveling lightly — no footsteps or footnotes.
I’m seeking the kind of discovery that comes with disappearing. After all, Jesus needed 40 days (in a desert I’ll soon see!). So I’m packing my suitcase and preparing an out-of-office message. Do you know how good that feels? Do you know how rarely I use that feature?
I’m inspired by my uncle Mike, who went off the grid for two weeks last fall to serve as the keeper of a historic lighthouse. He watched birds soar across sunsets, playing his flugelhorn into the glassy water. Sans electricity and Internet, he attuned his body to nature’s rhythms.
Uncle Mike is going back again this fall, and he’s planning to pack even lighter. He knows how to keep the light burning.