The Little Lady Unplugged: A Light in the Darkess
Last weekend, Mother Nature unleashed her fury on Toronto in the form of an ice storm. Everything in the city glittered under a thick layer of ice and the streets were as slick as skating rinks. We were reminded how nature’s force can be both strikingly beautiful and amazingly destructive. Trees, heavy with the weight of the ice on their boughs, simply snapped, falling onto homes, streets and, most frustratingly, power lines. Thousands of people were left without power as temperatures dipped below zero. I was one of those people. In fact, our power was off for eight days.
Of course, that came with its share of frustrations. For one, we learned the value of sharing body heat, as the temperature in our apartment plummeted. Pizza boxes piled up in our recycling bin as we had no means of cooking, even after we got a generator to power the heat. Navigating our home by candlelight and crossing our fingers for warm water from the shower head were both equally annoying. And of course, there was no wifi. We, like so many others, were unplugged. One night, as I lay in bed with my boyfriend, we talked about how nice it was to watch the candle light dance against the wall, to engage in conversation, uninterrupted by the chirps and beeps of social media alerts. Our conversations were not inspired by memes or funny Instagram posts, or provocative news stories, but by thoughts that were bubbling up in our minds, uninhibited by external stimulation. We were unplugged from the matrix, and plugged into each other.
In this world where the thoughts and experiences of millions of people are literally at our fingertips, it is easy to get disconnected from yourself and the people closest to you. It seems that despite the fact that we are interacting with people on multiple forums and platforms during any given day, we’re not connecting. I realized the value of turning off our devices, and embracing the silence that truly allows us to be introspective. Without the TV to bear news (good or bad) without laptops to distract, cellphones to occupy us, with literally every screen in the house gone black, I was struck by the revelation of how infrequently I really let my mind wander inside. And the inability to see inside yourself seems directly linked to the inability to connect with others on a personal level. It took literal darkness, for me to realize that a part of my humanity had gone dark – I was not plugged in to me, and I wasn’t plugged into others either.
I’ve learned that it is so important that I take the time to be with myself. In spite of all the external stimulation, judgments, opinions, views, and experiences that we are privy to, we must always stop to check our own. What do the thoughts that cross our minds in our rare moments of silence really say about us? Are our souls and our bodies asking us for rest or escape and are we denying them that because we are too consumed by all the information, useless and otherwise, that is constantly at hand? It is of the utmost importance that we actively work to separate our thoughts from the larger social mind and examine who we really are.
This extends to our interaction with those we consider close to us as well. It occurred to me that I don’t often have conversations with people about how they feel. We talk about things, and events, and ideas, but feelings seem to fly under the radar, as if those are not the things that make us most human. In those eight days without power, I encountered a desire to want to know how people felt, and what was going on beneath the stories they told. I yearned for emotional contact, in the absence of the constant chatter that usually surrounds me. Even when I interacted with strangers, I wanted to see them smile, to understand why there was sadness in some people’s eyes, and joy in the eyes of others. I was less distracted, and more in tune with the acts of kindness that were happening around me – a gentleman catching a lady’s hand as she slipped on the bus, my mother boiling water on her gas stove for neighbours who didn’t have heat, my landlady bringing coffee, blankets, chocolate and soup for my boyfriend and I.
In the darkness, I saw a light, a flicker of humanity, touching others like the candles’ flames dancing against the walls. Our humanity is revealed most in the face of disaster, when we are unplugged from all our little conveniences, and reminded to care more about ourselves and others. As I sit in my now brightly lit living room, more grateful than ever for light and heat, I feel that my heart and mind are now more brightly lit and a little bit warmer than they were before the storm. I don’t usually have New Year resolutions, but I’d like to commit this year to working on being more introspective, more emotionally connected to others, and more unplugged from the matrix. I think I’ll make a habit of turning the lights off, lighting some candles, and relishing the beauty of a light in the darkness.