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Kill Your iPod, Find Your Walden

There are six life lessons that professor Keith Gogan teaches to the students of his English and Backpacking classes. The first five consist of obvious health tips such as: drink water, get plenty of sleep and other things those of us that don’t have time to run 7 miles every morning are hounded with our entire lives. The last health tip, however, is one that I do fulfill. It is simply entitled, “kill your iPod”.

The day that Mr. Gogan taught our backpacking class about his “kill your iPod” campaign, we all laughed and prepared to receive the lecture we had heard a thousand times. Most of the time Mr. Gogan would simply say the phrase, then mumble something under his breath and walk away. However, on the last day of class he took the liberty of explaining to us what this statement (that some would equate to “God is dead”) meant.

In not a few words, Mr. Gogan explained that he was mystified by a culture that is obsessed with entertainment. Why is it we must be entertained at all times? Most people can’t imagine walking, let alone driving, from point A to B without music. The classical American arrangement of furniture is one that centers around the television. God forbid that we ignore its warm glow in exchange for the warm glow of a fireplace. Most Americans, when they think of the act of relaxing, imagine themselves with feet propped up in front of the television for a few hours. When your mind doesn’t rest, neither does your body. This can be a large cause of stress for many Americans, thereby causing health problems.

This pervasive need for entertainment is not only killing our bodies, but our creativity. Mr. Gogan stated that when you are constantly being fed, when there is constant input, there is little to no room for original or creative output. Many of the best writers of our time don’t own a television because, in order to write an original story, they cannot have stories continually being thrown at them. The line between our thoughts and someone else’s becomes ever increasingly blurred, and we find ourselves thinking, “Did I come up with that? It sounds so familiar…”

Being a musician, I can testify to this. I’ve found that whenever I take long breaks from listening to music, I come up with my most original compositions. I’ve also experienced the other side and created a song I thought was really great, only to play it for a friend and have them say, “That sounds a lot like Further Seems Forever,” to which I cleverly reply, “…crap.”

This same pattern is true not just of art, but even of our perception of God. The modern Christian is overrun with everything from books to board games teaching them about God. We’ve invaded ever area of entertainment so as to send the message as far and as often as possible. Please listen to me carefully; I’m not saying this is in and of itself a bad thing. I am saying that if we are constantly reading books and hearing messages about God and never taking time to separate ourselves from those things to seek him for our own, then we will never know Christ beyond an entertainment or philosophical level.

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While the call to “kill your iPod” is more for shock value than for literal interpretation (most scholars maintain), this is a call to action. Consider this a challenge: deny yourself entertainment for two weeks and see if you are not less stressed, more creative and closer to God.

As Henry David Thoreau did, find your Walden Lake. This great writer needed a place away from his household and away from civilization to think clearly and creatively. In Walden’s “Where I Lived, and What I Lived For” Thoreau writes, I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.

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