I did like this book as a meditation on a problem, but it’s not “How to do nothing…” and it’s not an actionable plan. Instead it’s a polemic on a real problem in nice terms. Odell uses various ideas connected to Zen, philosophy, art, brain science, and radical detachment in various examples to try to address the fact that all of society (in broadly defined and inaccurate terms) is addicted to phones, tv, and computers. It’s funny because cultural critics from Neil Postman, Baudrillard, Zizek, Malcolm Muggeridge, Ray Bradbury and plenty of others have been making the same point for nearly 100 years, and it’s not all that different from Hawthorne writing about train noise in his woods and my wife complaining about leaf blowers. The complaint is real, but the structures that create this economy is more powerful than anyone of these writers, Odell, or ourselves can even process or imagine and it’s growing exponentially.
In fact, I basically read a version of this book this week from 1992 — Kathleen Norris’s Dakota — which reaches a lot of the same conclusions in her section on monastic life, and that was pre-internet.
So I don’t know the solution…or rather, I don’t think there is one. Like everything else in our lives, we have to see the problem in ourselves and make whatever adjustments we can to fight it. Other than the collapse of capitalism, I think the only way past this is through meaningful presence in our own lives, and well, that puts us right where we were with Plato.