A story about freeing my brain

Late one night in January 2016 I found myself glued once again to the flux within my iPhone’s screen. I was surrounded by a blue cloud of smartphone light, held inside a bubble I did not even know I was in. That self-made prison was actually a comfortable place to be. Day and night I could hide in people’s Instagram and Twitter feeds. I could escape family duties and let my thumb swipe through the many miles of email that required my attention. Or so I thought at least. Certainly, I could always argue that urgent ‘work’ needed my immediate intervention. Now who would go against that? Not my wife for sure. Not my children who knew very well their father was supposedly a busy man with a busy job in a busy company. But I was wrong. And I was a fool to ignore it.

The next morning it dawned on me that my behaviour – or to put it better, my addiction – was harmful and disturbing. Sitting at our kitchen table, I saw myself as there-but-not-there: in truth, I was gliding through a parallel universe. I’d gone through a wormhole, had abandoned time and space as they were defined by my family in need of breakfast and the clock that commanded us to drive to school. Seeing myself sitting there, being elsewhere, I did not like what I had created. So I drifted back to the entrance to the wormhole and closed it. Forever.

A few days later I opened a cardboard box and flipped my new Punkt. phone over in my hand a few times to get used to this unusual black device that was designed to text and call. In particular, I was curious to find out if I could survive going cold turkey in the coming days with no 4G, wifi, hashtags, social media – without everything always on. Was life even possible at all?

It was, so it turned out.

I am not going to lie to you about my first week. It was a nightmare. I was nervous, anxious, impatient and irritated by, well, everything and everyone. Because. I. Did. Not. Have. My. Smartphone. With. Me. Anymore. After sweating that out, I noticed the return of something whose very existence I had entirely forgotten. My mind began to change in its habits. I was thinking thoughts I had not thought for years. Stupid things mainly. Wild observations. Ungrounded interpretations. Things that weren’t real. Or there, for the matter. Looking back upon those first weeks in Winter 2016 I now see clearly what it was that I experienced. It was my brain awakening, from a long period of sedation. I had liberated my mind and allowed it to drift free again.

When you are a creative writer as I am, you need to treasure moments of boredom. You need time to do absolutely nothing at all. Because that’s exactly when you start contemplating things that do not seem to matter at first, but prove to be essential to your thinking and writing. Any creative process involves uncertainty and undefined goals. You know your departure point but not where you will end up. When on that road, you simply need to rely on your mind and its ability to come up with something. Eventually.

I had been unable to let my mind drift when my hands were still welded to that iPhone. All my thoughts, all my attention were drawn into that little box of glass and aluminium. Looking at my mind from this perspective I do not see the Punkt. MP01 as a basic or dumb phone. It is an incredible tool. Rather than consuming my mind, it allows it to breathe, wander and create original thoughts. So I would not call that basic at all. It is like a George Harrison guitar solo: it knows exactly when to show up and show off – also when it’s time to shut up and back off.

Jorrit Hermans
Zolder, Belgium

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