Story by Terri McPherson
On the occasion of my fortieth birthday, my handsome husband surprised me with two tickets for a five day Caribbean cruise. The months leading up to our frolic in the sun were filled with eager anticipation. I thumbed through the colorful brochures from our travel agent repeatedly, and read each promise of exotic adventure with childlike enthusiasm.
As the day of our departure grew near, a fidgety thought began to wiggle its way to the forefront of my mind. I was going to be incommunicado with the outside world for five full days. Like a growing majority of the population, I am tied to technology. My daily commute on the electronic super-highway allows me to communicate across thousands of miles without drowning in long distance charges. It gives me control of which up-to-the-minute news pieces and noteworthy subjects I want to read and offers the information continuously throughout the day and night. Instant access to a wealth of worldwide business data sits at my fingertips. Electronic communication dissolves all borders and distance.
On D-day, I put the dust cover on my desktop computer, packed a book instead of my laptop and left the house feeling like I had an appendage missing. My husband, who has an aversion for highways that don’t grip the solid rubber of a tire, tried to look sympathetic. But the expression on his face leaned more toward pity.
The cruise ship loomed large as we approached the dock. Soon, we were swept up in the bustle of getting boarded and settled into our room. Once the monstrous boat was underway, we stood on our private balcony and waved goodbye to solid land. By nightfall, we had ‘oohed’ and ‘aahed’ our way through each luxurious level of the ship.
Mesmerized by the lapping of the waves against the side of the boat and the glow of the moon reflecting off the water, I stood on our balcony till the wee hours of the morning. A shift in the way I perceived the world began to take place. The realization of the minuscule amount of space I actually took up on this planet, dawned with great magnitude.
By taking advantage of the instantaneous wonders of technology, my view of the world had become distorted. The ease of sending and receiving information across whole continents in less time than it took to sneeze and bless myself, made the earth feel quite small. Standing in the face of the vast sky and the endless expanse of the ocean repaired my faulty perception. I spent more time on that balcony than anywhere else, for the duration of our trip.
Slowly, the importance of my modern lifestyle slipped away. The movement of the water, the motion of the stars and the beating of my heart fell into a familiar rhythm. Childhood memories rushed in to greet me. The little girl who used to gaze up at the stars and ponder the mysteries of the universe in earnest, stared out from my eyes once more. For the first time in a very long time, my mind was free of noise, no television, no radio, no outside opinions and no words on my computer screen. I could hear the voice of my own true thoughts.
What I owned and what I did with my possessions was of little significance, when the only thing standing between heaven and earth, was me.