Road Construction: Learning to Savor Life

By Joseph Geliebter, Ph.D.

Leo, the building inspector for my village, knows a thing or two about Unplugging and Reconnecting. An Italian immigrant, he grew up in the Italian wine country, where he experienced a simpler way of life.

I met Leo during a road repaving project on my block. When I told him about how the road construction project was forcing neighbors to live a simpler life, albeit only briefly, he immediately appreciated how the benefits might possibly outweigh the inconveniences of having our street inaccessible for a few days.

Leo believes that, like water that flows from the freshest of mountain springs, we’re born to simplicity. The further water flows from its source, the more polluted it becomes. The same is true of our lives, he says. How we choose to maintain the simplicity to which we’re born is up to us.

As might be expected, food – especially savoring a good meal – is very important to Leo and his family. That’s why meal time is Unplug and Reconnect time in Leo’s house.

“We don’t use any technology while we’re eating,” he says. This rule also applies to Leo’s six grandchildren who, he admits, are as attached to their technological gadgets as any of their generation. “We hold onto the old ways at meal times. That’s when we discuss family matters.

Watch the “Road Construction” Video!

Road Construction from Unplug Reconnect on Vimeo.

Once, Leo and his wife were dining out in a restaurant and noticed a couple at the next table. They were “parallel texting” on their cell phones, Leo said. “My wife pointed out to me, ‘I don’t think they’re enjoying the food – their minds are set on whatever they’re texting.’ ”

It’s true. In order to truly enjoy food – to savor a meal or a good wine – one must devote a certain degree of attention and focus on the task. The same could be said about the way we choose to live our lives.

TOMORROW — Dr. Geliebter remembers “Road Construction,” a video classic.



Road Construction: Life in the Slow Lane


By: Joseph Geliebter, Ph.D.

When my village announced plans to repave my block last summer, many of my neighbors worried about the noise, the dust, and the inconvenience of not being able to park their cars on the street for several days.

But then a funny thing happened. We found ourselves getting out more as we walked to and from errands. In addition to getting exercise, we came into contact with each other more frequently. In fact, I saw one neighbor who had moved in two years ago more in the two days that work crews were paving my street than in the previous two years combined.

Surprisingly, some of my neighbors found that they didn’t mind the inconvenience quite as much as they anticipated. “I like life in the slow lane,” said one, a woman who found that she actually enjoyed walking to and from errands with her children.

“It slows me down,” she said. “When I walk with my kids, we actually talk. We’re not just running into the car on our way to and from the grocery store.”

Having the street repaved last summer proved to be a boon to the neighborhood. Like a block party, it brought everyone out of their houses from hibernation and encouraged them to socialize with each other in ways they

Watch the “Road Construction” Video!


Road Construction from Unplug Reconnect on Vimeo.


had forgotten. People moved about, carrying packages and running errands — and some actually talked to each other for the first time in years.

The road construction project reminded us that the Unplug and Reconnect concept is very appropriate to our age. It taught us that we need to pause from the constant hustle and bustle and and take a break from a world in which we don’t have time for each other anymore.

Perhaps we all could use the “inconvenience” of a road construction project to get in touch with what’s really important in life.


TOMORROW – Dr. Geliebter describes an early “unplug” protest movement.

Unplug and Reconnect Endorses ‘Screen-Free Week’

We at Unplug and Reconnect are proud to endorse “Screen-Free Week,” a weeklong unplugging event sponsored by the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood (CCFC) during the week of April 30 to May 6, 2012.

According to the CCFC, “Screen-Free Week is an annual celebration where children, families, schools and communities turn off screens and turn on life. Instead of relying on screens for entertainment, participants read, daydream, explore, enjoy nature and enjoy spending time with family and friends.”

The statistics tell the story of why an event like “Screen-Free Week” is necessary. Children as young as preschool-age spend an average of 32 hours a week viewing a television or computer screen for entertainment – and older children even more time than that, according to the CCFC. This screen time has been linked to poor school performance, childhood obesity and attention problems, and also exposes children to harmful marketing.

“Regardless of whether they are consuming ‘good’ or ‘bad’ programming, it’s clear that screen media dominates the lives of far too many children, displacing all sorts of other activities that are integral to childhood,” the CCFC points out.

We hope our readers will consider joining the thousands of parents, teachers, healthcare professionals, and religious and civic leaders who are supporting “Screen-Free Week” with a wide range of unplugged activities. For more information about this valuable initiative, check out the campaign’s website.

The Price of Peace and Quiet

In this era of 24-7 technology, the increasingly rare luxury of peace and quiet ought to be added to the list of the world’s most precious commodities, right up there with fresh air, clean water, copper, gold and diamonds.

Just ask vacation-goers who can afford to buy a slice of quiet. They’re shelling out cool thousands in order to travel to so-called “black-hole” destinations – places where technology can’t creep in.

So says Travel & Leisure, which predicts: “The greatest luxury of the 21st century will be dropping off the grid. Black-hole resorts will be notable for the total absence of the Internet – even their walls will be impervious to wireless signals.”

The ultimate getaway, these pricey resorts can be found “on mountaintops, in quaint villages, or in sleek urban centers,” according to the travel magazine.

For those willing to splurge less, “glamping” – is becoming another chic way to get away from it all.

What’s glamping? It’s a phrase coined by Mary Jane Butters, owner of Mary Jane’s Farm, which was recently named one of the top five destinations in America to unplug. Visitors to Mary Jane’s Farm can nix the noise of technology through an outdoor vacation experience that combines camping and glamour.

“Unplugging is the new ‘decompressing,’” Butters said in an interview with Enhanced Online News. “And, due to the economy, Americans are turning to camping as an affordable vacation option.”

Of course, for those of us who can’t afford to get away right now, there’s always the option of turning off the cell phone, shutting down the computer, tuning out the television. We call it unplugging.

Exercising Willpower to Unplug from Technology

“Willpower,” a new book by psychologist Roy F. Baumeister and “New York Times” science writer John Tierney, provides some great tips for exercising self-control. It’s a great skill to have for those of us who have resolved to be less tied to technology in the new year.

The authors of “Willpower” liken willpower to a muscle that can be both strengthened or weakened. In Baumeister’s experiments, students asked to engage in tasks requiring tremendous impulse control later suffered from serious willpower lapses when asked to perform subsequent tasks also requiring willpower – something Baumeister calls “ego depletion.”

But the psychologist also found out that like a muscle, willpower can be strengthened over time by undertaking small tasks requiring self-control. For example, Baumester asked students to exercise regularly, use a mouse with their weaker hand, or speak in complete sentences without swearing. He found that students who accomplished these tasks successfully were more resistant to ego depletion and showed greater self-control in other areas of their lives. Not surprisingly, say the authors, people who exercise willpower frequently – such as observant religious people – often have better self-control than those who don’t.

We at Unplug and Reconnect were inspired by “Willpower” to think about how Baumeister’s and Tierney’s strategies could be put to practical use for those who want to take an occasional break from technology. So, with a nod to the authors, we offer these ideas:

  • Start small. If your goal is to drastically cut down the time you spend glued to technology, don’t try to go cold turkey – start with baby steps.
  • Practice. Build your willpower muscle by designating a tech-free hour everyday. Work your way up as you build your self-control muscle.
  •  Out of sight means out of mind. Put your cell phone in another room during meals, at bedtime, or at any other time you want to avoid using it.
  • Make it less convenient. If you want to spend less time on the computer, shut it down completely so it’s less easy to log on.