Falling

When I moved down to Cambridge in 1995 to work as a software tester for an IT company, I encountered a programmer who said he was quitting IT, heading off to work for the National Trust instead. The new-fangled email system and nascent internet were loading too many pressures on his shoulders and he could not wait to get out, to drive a tractor or something. The world has completely changed since then—in the course of my career I have only known this always-online world—but I can appreciate his sentiments perfectly. I often wish I could just turn off and disconnect. I sometimes think I might survive those old dreams of mine to disappear into the hills to live a subsistence lifestyle.

I mentioned my current feeling about the internet to my colleagues the other day and they all looked at me somewhat stunned. I have just got myself a job as a web application developer. ‘Don’t you think you might have chosen the wrong career path then?’ they asked me. Quite possibly.. I had just told them that I often think about cancelling my broadband internet connection, except that my wife now benefits from it greatly for staying in touch with family and friends overseas. ‘Okay, put it another way,’ I said, ‘I use the internet all the time, and that’s the problem.’ It wastes my time and worse.

I remember that feeling of relief we had after we disposed of our television six years ago. I can imagine such relief returning for me personally if I unplugged from this giant network. There is nothing fundamentally wrong with television: there is good in it as well as bad. The same is true of the internet. I am not condemning it as the ultimate source of evil. I am just saying I could live better without it, I think.

Today my heart is weighing heavy in my chest and I feel like I am burning up inside, and a memory keeps on recurring in my mind’s eye. A few years ago my wife and I holidayed in south Wales. One morning we were driving down hill along a private road. For a split second we freewheeled and I quickly lost control of the car. We hit a sharp rock and ripped one of the front tyres open. I managed to get the car back into gear, slow it down and regain control. But a minute on down the road, just round the bend, came a walker, rambling up the slope. I realised in that instant that I could have killed that man. The past few weeks I have been free wheeling (or free falling) just like that in my life. And now I see that walker, standing in my path. I think this pain in my chest is going to accompany me for a while now. I want to head for the hills and disappear.

6 thoughts on “Falling”

  1. Hopefully you manage to find balance again… free-wheeling and feeling that life is going like that can be very disconcerting. I share many of your concerns regarding tv/the net and how my life (and that of my wife) is going in general.

    One thing that has worked for me is to look at Surat al-Duha; it has a very profound message for us all even though it was directed to Rasul Allah (saw) in context.

    Ma`a al-Salama

  2. I wonder if the problem is time management. Perhaps you should treat the internet like a trip to the grocery store or library. Have a list of things you wish to accomplish and do not divert from your tasks.

    The internet has been a problem for me in that I would go online with the intention to do one task, then one million different ideas and questions pop into my head to research.

    Information can be addictive, and as an extremely busy Muslim, sometimes reading blogs and other things help anchor me when I feel that I am all alone.

    I assume that everything I am going through right now is going to help me help someone else.

    I feel rather lame, but I am sure we will get out of our collective ruts, and get on with it.

  3. Alhamdulillah! that in freewheeling and slashing a tire, Allah saved you from killing that walker. He is the best of planners and the most Merciful. It was a sign, brother, to slow down, and this weight on your heart is another sign. When the time comes, inshallah, you will know which road to take.

    Ya Haqq!

  4. I believe avoiding the net for a while might give heart/mind relaxation because I’ve personally tested that. First step was to avoid the routine tasks done online like, for example, chatting. When I abandoned chatting I noticed a great deal of net usage has been reduced. Next thing..is I thought of internet as a cigarette, despite this not being entirely true, and I decided to stop using it for a complete day. It was very effective and the benefit I got from doing that exceeded the benefit of using it. So it’s better to dedicate a specific amount of time, say in minutes or hours per day, for using computer as whole.. such as Bill Gates did for his daughter (one-two hours per day). Focus on real-life duties. notably religious ones like salaat and different ibadats.

  5. as salamu ‘alaykum

    I totally understand. We don’t have a television but I feel, on my occasions, that the internet weighs me down, burdening me and discouraging me from other more important things. I’ve decided to take some steps to stay away longer.

    I think you may find this site http://www.zenhabits.net to be of some benefit. Just type in the search box (on the right, scroll down) – internet. There are some very encouraging entries with many recommendations. But in the end of the day, the best recommendations, a slap across the face, would not help if we don’t have the will and if we don’t put our effort.

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