I pick up the record, the one with the tattered cover due to age, and slip its black, round contents out of the protective layers of thin paper. After opening the cover of the turntable, I grasp it delicately by the edges and place it on the spindle, brush off the dust, and flip the switch to “on.” As the record starts to spin, I move the needle over just far enough to start the album at the beginning, and after a moment of descent followed by contact, the sound of music fills the room. I suppose I could have hooked up the iPhone to the stereo speakers, or even put a CD into the player, but there’s been something lately about records that keeps me dusting them off and taking the time to align the needle just so. And perhaps that’s what keeps me coming back: playing a record is tactile. It requires a different sort of attention than scrolling through a playlist – just enough difference to shift how the experience feels. Instead of just another thing in the background during a busy evening, when I play a record, I really listen to it. If I pay attention, the quality of the sound is a touch fuller, even though on the really old and beat up albums things get a little crackly. But that’s part of it – scratches or not, it’ll still play. Its analog nature lends itself to having the sort of staying power that I want more of, especially as so many elements of a human life adopt an increasingly digital presence.
Right then, so, how do we embrace analog in a world gone digital?
1: We can play more records. Read more books. Attend more plays. As illustrated above, being intentional about selection, having to mindfully prepare for the experience, and the fact that you can’t just easily fast forward to get to the parts you want…all of these details force the sort of attention that is often hard to come by in a scroll and click existence. I don’t know about you, but I want more attention/intention and less scroll/click.
2: We can cook from scratch. Food is a pretty significant part of a human life, so it must be stated. As easy as convenience food is, it makes a difference to prioritize setting aside the time required for selecting, cooking, and mindfully enjoying what we eat. Less eat and run, more savor and enjoy.
3: We can wander. Even though there are SO MANY THINGS to do, there is much value in allowing the list to fall to the wayside and drift now and then – even if it’s just for five minutes in your mind while seated in your chair at the office. A whole day of wandering in the woods or around your neighborhood is a fantastic way to reconnect with the pace that is lost in a digitized world, but even five minutes of mental meandering can have a positive impact. More wander, less frenzied list completion.
4: We can create. It’s easy to run to the store and just buy a new picture to hang on the wall or some socks to replace the ones with the hole or a birthday card for your mom. It takes more time and effort to paint a picture or knit some new socks or craft a card. But what if we, at least sometimes, took the time and energy required to make what we want ourselves? Dusting off creativity has the power to create all sorts of ripples if we can push past the fear of getting it wrong toward just starting. Less get it now/perfectionism more one step at a time/flaws add personality.
5: We can learn, or re-learn, how to navigate. Rely less on the little voice in the phone to tell us where to turn next and really pay attention to where we are in the world. Granted paper maps are sometimes missing new roads, and need to be updated. But relying on your brain and sense of direction and perhaps even the kindness of a stranger seems like a good thing. For an even greater challenge, head into the woods with a compass and a map and find your way out again. [note: be smart about this, tell someone, don’t get truly lost, etc] You might be surprised how empowering it is to reclaim ownership of your directions. Less GPS, more compass.
So, old school might not be what we always want to embrace (I mean, a paper map in the middle of a huge city at night in traffic…no thanks), but it is sometimes. Especially, for me anyway, when it comes to how I’m showing up in my everyday life. Less fragmentation, more focus. Less distraction, more presence. Less digital, more analog.