Thursday, May 21, 2015

Quiet Zone

Football pitch with GBT telescope in the background
Are there any truly quiet zones anymore, the places where we are able to truly focus in the moment because the accepted electronic distractions of daily life including cells phones just don't function?

I have mentioned before that while at the Ghost Ranch retreat and conference centre in New Mexico I would go for an early morning climb up a mesa with a guy from Atlanta I met during a visit. I was impressed to see other participants on the climb, first assuming that they were catching some quiet time with the Creator. They were actually attempting to catch a phone signal in this supposedly tranquil place.

There is a fascinating quiet area, the National Radio Quiet Zone in the Allegheny Mountains of the United States. A radio silence area of 34,000 square kilometres has existed in the wooded terrain of West Virginia since 1958 for the benefit of  a dazzling white saucer. It's the planet's largest land-based movable object - the Robert C Byrd Green Bank Telescope (GBT) - 2.3 acres in surface area, and taller than the Statue of Liberty. Nothing using radio waves works there, not even baby monitors and the residents of the sparsely populated area have learned to accept this.

While the Quiet Zone exists for scientific reasons site director Karen O'Neill and the BBC writer who interviews her comment on the community benefits:

"When I watch a soccer game, every parent on that field is watching the kids playing soccer, nobody is looking at their cell phone, no-one is worrying about that."And while I'm here, I no longer feel the constant compulsion to check my mobile - it's not like being in a remote spot with a frustratingly slow or expensive connection, it's a completely different way of life.

In this quiet pocket of North America there is a strong sense of community where conversations aren't interrupted by phone calls, status updates or notifications."You really don't see that struggle with the parents here where they talk to their kids and say, 'You've got to put the phones away,' and the kids go, 'Do I have to?' and they're sneaking them under the table and doing everything they can to text their friends," says O'Neill.

I wonder how we might encourage quiet, sanctuary as the Christian community. I am now tied to my phone like so many others. It gives me the wonderful benefit of communication with my family and friends at virtually any time of the day or night. I was awakened by fighting cats the other night at 2:00 AM so I checked my phone. There was the link to this BBC article from son Isaac.

So the blessing becomes a curse, becomes a blessing... I'm not sure what to think other than Jesus made sure he was in the Quiet Zone with God to be focussed in his ministry of healing and hope.



roger said...

It's those rare occasions when you find a quiet place, preferably without any electronic devices, and realize that many of us live our lives constantly checking and sending messages. I know I have experienced that peacefulness and sworn to continue it when I return to civilization. It lasts for about 45 minutes. Maybe one day...

David Mundy said...

I too make those pledges and then fall off the wagon Roger. Yes, maybe one day!