By: Jocelyn Perry
“Off-The-Grid” is a term normally used by people living without electricity installed in their homes. This grid of power links people to the corporation that services their municipality. People of faith and justice have also coined the phrase to live without cell phones, TVs, cars, or other technologies that can be technological distractions. But the question is, “How do people of faith and justice stay connected without the power-lines of technology?” The answer to this challenge is community.
Using technology, for example using a cell phone, is not a question of dualism—“Is a cell phone good?” or “Is a cell phone bad?” But as people, we are on the path to becoming fully human. We are challenged to answer the question, “What does it mean to truly manifest Jesus’ spirit in community using the interconnection of community to communicate?” Turning “Off-The-Grid” is tuning into spiritual community without distraction.
In our ever-more-complex culture of technology and consumption, tuning in using such strategies as educational play, living in intentional community, the art of radical hospitality, the art of radical love, and meaningful non-violent communication free us to live happier and more creative lives. But lets look at the question of “Off-The-Grid” from the point of view of scripture.
1 Samuel 3:8–9 says tells us the story of Samuel lying down in his place. God called to Samuel as at the other times: “‘Samuel…Samuel.’ Then Samuel bade God to speak . . . for Samuel was listening.” We too must focus our spirit and clear our mind for deep listening. From time to time, instant gratification communication does not communicate our own spiritual voice. We need to take the time to stop and connect with humility.
John 2:13–15 reads, “In the temple courts he (Jesus) found men selling . . . at tables exchanging money. So he made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple area; he scattered the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables. To those who sold doves he said, “Get these out of here! How dare you turn my God’s house into a market.’” Are not we also sacred temples who need to be freed from market consumption? But let’s take the question of “Off-The-Grid” from a personal point of view.
I moved from New York City in late 2006 to a monastery in the Catskill Mountains: no access to cable TV, limited to no access to cars, limited to no access to internet (including no access to Facebook and other social networking websites), no cell phone service, limited access to telephone, limited use of electricity for lighting. Electricity during the winter months was non-existent and depended on weather conditions. The main monastery-building used two large wood-burning stoves for heating, replacing any dependency on oil heat.
Much of the food was made at the monastery and plans were to begin garden-based food production. This would tip the balance to food consumption from store-bought food to land-based food. The residents of the monastery were familiar with all of the local edible plants and harvested accordingly. Thus, the community was not dependent or attached to some of “the Grid”.
“Off-The-Grid” living at the monastery enabled me to fully experience living in spiritual community, completely dependent on the spiritual connection in all aspects of day-to-day living. Without the instant gratification of technology and realizing how dependent I am on the corporate market in my own life, this time gave me many moments of deep listening from a spiritual center which was transformational.
Living in spiritual community, which includes family and friends, we took time to understand the needs of ourselves and others and in meeting those needs were able to live as co-creators.
Spending time on a farm in Washington state, I am again in an area of limited-to-no cell phone access, limited access to the Internet and spending more time closer to land-based living…bringing me closer to realizing that the living spirit is flowing through all beings: plant, animal and humans which we are called to respect and honor.
Living “Off-The-Grid” is a matter of choice. If someone lives in a bustling urban center like New York City but does not own a cell phone or own a car, and by choice does not use the internet but rides the subway and rides a bike, and lives in an intentional community and is a member of a CSA—is that considered “Off-The Grid”? Absolutely. Anytime our sacred-selves challenges the market economy on any level this is “Off-The-Grid”.
By challenging the cycle of corporate-driven generation and consumption in areas such as, the Bank-Mortgage Industry, the Healthcare Industry, the Big Oil Industry, the Industrial Food Production Industry, the Advertisement/Communication Industry—we are challenged to create new a “Off-The-Grid” culture based on our spiritual interconnection and create change in our society.
Nonetheless, I am also reminded as I write this article that I am on a laptop using a computer. We are a long way from perfection.
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