Summer, 2021: Screenless Summer

Simone Weil writes that “attention is the purest form of generosity.”

As a way to be more attentive to people around me, and in celebration of my daughter’s college graduation, and as a way to recalibrate from teaching through three pandemic semesters, my daughter and I are spending the summer hiking the Redwood Forests, from Oregon to California. We are also going to Chicago to research at the Newberry Library, thanks to the generous support of Emory University.

And, if Covid permits, Kathryn and I have tickets to see Ian McKellen play Hamlet (at 83 years old) in London.

While I’m grateful for the increased social interaction after this last year, part of the way I hope to emerge from the pandemic as a stronger, more whole person is by suspending my iPhone account for the summer and making a conscious choice to limit how much time I spend looking at screens. I even found my old Canon T50 camera from college (I bought it at a pawn shop in Richmond, VA) and ordered film, so I can take pictures on our travels.

I’m eager to be gazing up in awe at the ancient Redwoods and studying early modern manuscripts as a welcome break from peering into my laptop or at the phone in my palm. I also hope I can regain some of the attentiveness and concentration that I’ve lost. Most importantly, I want to be fully present for the people around me in hopes that, as Weil writes, “If we turn our mind toward the good, it is impossible that little by little the whole soul will not be attracted thereto in spite of itself.”