By Jim Poling Sr.
From Shaman’s Rock
How sad that the sweetest dreams never last long, or come true.
Just the other night my fantastically happy dream evaporated into the shrill ring of my mobile phone. The sleepy smile and warm, fuzzy feeling generated by the dream went with it.
Cruellest was the fact that this wonderful dream was ruined by a cell phone. Cruel because the dream was about not having a cell phone, nor other electronic devices such as laptop computer, tablet, television, or so-called smartwatch.
Not to forget the automobile smart screen that tells me 1,000 things I don’t understand, don’t want to know, and don’t need to know.
When my cell phone’s screeching ruined it, my dream had taken me back to ancient days of pens and paper, real time visits to a library and research done with hardcover books. Those days when you needed to communicate with someone, you got up off your gluteus maximus and spoke to them face to face.
My dream of life without electronic devices was set off by a magazine article I was reading about a tiny Italian place without the signals that feed cell phones and the internet.
Galliano di Mugello is a medieval village in northcentral Italy, somewhere between Florence and Bologna. It is listed as a “very white zone,” an area without reliable cell phone signals and internet service.
When the 1,300 village residents want information, they resort to activities abandoned by much of the rest of the world. They read newspapers, and talk to each other.
They live lives free of digital toxins spilling from the hyperbolic social media world. None of the Twitter nastiness, nor the silliness of Facebook. No YouTube videos of people saying the Jan.6, 2021 armed insurrection in Washington was a normal tourist event.
And, no pets in funny hats on Instagram.
Not only were digital devices absent from my sweet dream, so were the geeky annoyances that accompany them. When you have digital gear, you have to suffer the aggravations of an increasingly omnipresent geek culture.
Geek talk. Geek thinking. You know the stuff. Like when you call a techie line looking for help and 10 minutes later you are staring into your telephone and yelling: “What in God’s name are you talking about? Speak English!”
Many Galliano di Mugello citizens are happy living without cell phone service and the internet. Their lives are less complicated and more peaceful without them. In fact, some are promoting the village as a tourist destination for people who simply want time away from the digital world.
Others, however, are starting to protest not being able to make a cell phone call, text friends or search for something on Google. Many have cell phones but can’t use them because of weak service signals.
The village mayor is campaigning to get the place fully online, suggesting that Italy’s federal government pay mobile phone companies to provide service to the community. Those companies haven’t wanted to provide reliable service because they don’t think it is worth the cost. Too few people, too little profit.
The mayor and his supporters say that digital communication is a basic necessity. They say it is a must have, especially in case of emergencies like earthquakes or floods.
I suppose they do have a point. Digital devices improve our lives in many ways, but there are days when the exasperations seem to outweigh the benefits.
The nights following those days are the ones when I have the dream about not having any digital devices. Having true liberty from all the time-consuming frustrations they carry with them.
The mayor of that little Italian village notes, however, that total freedom from the digital world is not about not having digital devices or the signals that light them up.
“When I went to the beach for 15 days in the summer, I turned off my phone,” he said in the magazine story. “The true liberty isn’t about not having a signal, but about being able to choose when to switch off.”
Point taken, but too many of us are so addicted that we can’t summon the nerve to click the things off and spend some time with life as it used to be.