We were somewhere around Barstow on the edge of the desert when the silence began to take hold. Every rustle of weeds or iguana fart muted by the desert sand and endless skies. Out here a man can do some thinking. About life. And love. The things that matter. And maybe a couple screenplay pitches.
Sand and skies and sunsets are good during daylight. But the real gem of the Great Outdoors is the silence.
Recently the adult Eagle Scouts of the National Parks Service did us a solid by mapping out the decibel levels of this great country of ours.
Cities are on the map just between “busy restaurant” and “jackhammer” according to the National Parks. It should look eerly familiar to anyone who has ever shopped for cellphone plans.
Note how even the remote highways of Texas—loud with trucks and rigs—are lined with the Christmas light network of cell towers. No wonder you need a battery-powered earpiece to hear anyone.
It’s no coincidence that the Prozac ’90s subsided in the age of mobile Internet. The constant-drip of distraction is now easier to get than the lobotomizing effect of hard-sell prescriptions. But just as the biggest size at Starbucks grew bigger, so did our national anxiety. Which means it’s time to unplug.
Take out your phone—any phone not plugged into a wall—hop in the car, get on a bike, and don’t stop until you lose reception. It will be the hardest hard-to-find place you know.
Sit there. Consider how the mountains raised around you are rising and have risen at the same rate for eternity. Take an agnostic vow and then sing, “How Great Thou Art” into the sunset of whatever warehouse district you’ve found. Power through your impulse to Tweet about it. Tell no one about this place. And re-enter your life like someone who actually wants to live on this side of the screen.