nick unplugged (a letter to family)

“Socrates was so hooked on the dominant connectedness of his time—oral conversation—he couldn’t bear to spend time outside the walls of Athens…. A friend showed [him] that putting some distance between yourself and your busy, connected life does wonders for the mind. … Once you recognize that your life will really improve, disconnecting becomes a lot easier.”       –William Powers (from the Opinion Pages at, June 7, 2010)

It’s been about 1610 days since I moved to Korea.  In that time, Ian has started primary school and scored his first soccer goal; Audrey can no longer be cradled on my forearm and is what I perceive as a relatively quiet girl who prefers one-on-one interactions; Lexi was born, grew hair well past her shoulders and can dominate a room like no four year old I’ve ever known.  It was only by pure chance that I was able to hold Ella only hours after she was born last January.

And now, after missing all of these important metamorphoses, you may wonder why I am going to unplug while traveling.  Since the beginning of my Korea-era, I’ve become more and more dependent on technology to try and help with homesickness.  I often check my email more than ten times a day and visit facebook just as often.  While I think Skype and other such technologies have allowed me to keep the most important relationships from crumbling and foster uncle-dom, technology has driven me to distraction; it takes away time from tending to my own spiritual well-being.

I am agnostic and, by definition of this way of life, the idea of ultimate knowledge is unknown and unknowable.  Agnosticism is the ideal I choose because, even though I am often conservative in action (rather than in politics or thought) and often have difficulty with change, I want my perspectives to be challenged.  This is the reason I read widely and try to meet new people.  It is elemental that there are challenges to the “normal” and a constant query of any set of beliefs that I may adhere to.  In this way, I meet the spiritual demand for growth.  Therefore, my Self has manifested and will continue to manifest many times over the course of my physical life.

Currently, I lack balance.  I lack focus.  I lack sincerity in the things that I purport to be most important to me.  What I desire is to better strike an equilibrium between the essence of me and the essence of family and friendship.  What I aspire for is to continue developing my ability to accomplish a writing project in an efficient, powerful and meaningful way.  What I want is to include you in this experiment.

What would become of your personal relationships if you resorted to a letter writing campaign as your only means of communication?  What would happen to your ability to observe the world and your place in it if you completely took yourself out of cyberspace?  With an idea inspired by a series of articles in the New York Times last year, I want to test these questions in a unique way.

I have utmost confidence that my relationship with you will be enhanced if I commit to writing you a letter a week.  It is my plan to sit and write for an hour or so every morning before going off and exploring something new in the places Nic and I will be.  Each time I sit down, I will write to a different person in my family; when I write to you, it will be a meditation, an imagining that you are sitting nearby waiting for me to tell you a story of the previous day and the expectations of the day in front of me.

I do not want to be too dramatic about all this.  You have a life to lead.  You will most likely continue on as you usually do; in fact, I hope you do.  However, if the mood strikes you and you want to respond to me, write an old-fashioned letter and drop it in the outbox bound for Kewaskum, WI.  Upon my return to the States, I look forward to reading and catching up on your life over the three months.

At the very least, I wonder if you would be willing to make photocopies of my letters to you; this will be my way of journaling the trip.  Upon return to the motherland, it is my intention to transcribe my letters to you.  The words I wrote to you will become part of a bigger work.  With a little editing, I want to try and sell this unique travelogue to a publisher.  If it doesn’t get picked up, I will still assemble the journal of letters for your perusal: my gift to you that will complete the word picture of my travels.

Let’s talk soon on Skype.  I leave ROK in 18 days.

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