Monday, 29 October 2012

Total Internet Deprivation

They're starting to scream now. That was bound to happen. Once they realised the existential horror of their plight, they were bound to start screaming.

But I never made them sign up for the Total Internet Deprivation retreat. Oh no. It was a totally voluntary agreement.

You see, the concept of "retreat" has become blurred in the Community lately. The idea of "retreat" was about getting away from all external stimuli. Shaking loose all social ties. Withdrawing from mundane and quotidian considerations. Freeing oneself up to be and be known.

Yeah, well. That was then. The mobile phone was the first crack in the edifice, of course. Suddenly you were able to ask God to hang 5, while you checked on Gertie's bunions, the results of the Church Committee elections, the progress of the new marketing material in selling the new range of tea bags and so on. At most retreat centres that just involved popping outside, although I believe inmates at Launde Abbey had to indulge in a certain of moutaineering to achieve this.

And then along came the Smartphone, and smashed the whole "alone with God" concept to pieces. I mean, who's not going to have a quick peek? I bet even old Simeon Stylites, armed with a smartphone and a wireless connection, would have been checking out the timeline of St Ephraim the Syrian and throwing a cow at Augustine, just in case anything had been going on in the last fifteen years. In fact, Simeon would've probably been in pole position for 3G - what with being positioned, as it were, on a pole.

And so we introduced the Internet-free retreat. Three days in the South Wing. Of course, they all think "one little android's not going to do any harm." And they think they've evaded our security screening when they are presented with the same level of rigour as Belgian customs - just a bloke saying, "Got any phones?"

But that's because we know the heart of a retreat isn't the giving up of material objects. It's the electronic white-noise generator that blocks all phone signals. And the way you can't get out of the building. And the way we "accidentally" wired those ethernet connections to the mains.

They go through what we call "The long dark dead-spot of the soul" for about three days. After which we let them out. And the minute they're out, they're straight onto Twitter and Facebook telling all their mates how terrible it was.

Of course, that's still two days away. They're at the screaming point now. From there they will try throwing the furniture through the windows, and discover the glass is unbreakable. Then, if we're lucky and cannibalism doesn't set in, just after they stop dragging their fingernails down the doors, they may get 10 seconds of enlightenment.

Overall I'm not sure what spiritual good we're doing. But on the bright side, it pays quite well.


  1. You of course know that your treatment of those on retreat breaches their human rights and is in breach of about 50 clauses of the Geneva Convention.

    The use of white noise got the British Army into big trouble in the seventies when they used it as a tactic against suspected terrorists. Using it against innocent civilians must attract twice the penalties. Those who did naughty things all of those years ago, were transported to Siberia, where they are still breaking rocks with tea spoons.

    No, you need to retreat to your Nuclear Bunker, because the rights police are on their way to you as I write. Now, is it 999 or 101?

  2. Not sure I really understand this.
    Why not just plaster the walls with notices that breaking the internet-free period will seriously damage their spiritual health and then let them get on with it?
    After all, they sabotage only themselves and they still pay you.

    1. And, apart from the crudely monetary, what fun would I get out of that?


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