I saw a Quaker art installation last weekend. I know, right? Weird combination. I've never been in a Quaker meeting house before. From what my Quaker friends have told me, it's a two-hour long gathering in a plain room. Most of the time is spent in quiet reflection. If you feel compelled to share your thoughts with the congregation, you can stand up and do so. Sitting still and sitting quiet for multiple hours in 2016 at age 24 has become a foreign concept to me.
But I did it! And I survived.
Hilariously enough, that hour I spent away from my phone and alone with my thoughts was a primer for what this week would hold for me. My phone drew its last breath a couple nights ago (thank you to everyone who sent flowers) and my life has been positively 2005 lately. I say positively because I don't miss being shackled to a smartphone. There is something liberating about being unconnected in a plugged-in world. I have to wait until I have my laptop and wi-fi to check Facebook, Twitter, and my e-mail. Hell. I couldn't even write this blog post on my smartphone like I usually do. To complete my time travel to 2005, I've been listening to a ton of Fall Out Boy, wearing Etnies, and working on my kickflip.
Greet the Light is a modest but utterly intriguing art installation at the Chestnut Hill Friends Meeting. My sister wanted to see it before she moved to Chicago, so we took the suspicious half-hour drive up to the 'burbs. The meeting room itself is a simple space: wooden benches, white walls, a couple windows. The ceiling is high and curved, with a colored light embedded in the wall about eight feet up.
To be honest, I was initially underwhelmed. I was expecting something more extravagant for installation art. Then, the host introduced the piece and told us it was fifty minutes long. As we laid back on the benches, staring at the ceiling, I braced for a long hour without the aid of alcohol or psychedelics. Then, the roof opened. The vaguely rectangular frame filled with the complex color of the twilight sky. It looked like a solid color canvas, some sort of modern art piece from Joseph Marioni.
This whole time, the colored light embedded in the wall above us was slowly, subtly changing color from red to blue to yellow and back again. The twilight quickly faded and the sky in the ceiling frame turned from orange to navy to indigo. I was fascinated as the artificial color from the interior lights changed the color of the sky in the frame. I watched the night sky alternate from pitch black to deep green, all from the shifting lights inside the meeting room.
The installation itself was wonderful, but my biggest takeaway was something more personal. A sensation I haven't felt in a long time. In my busy life packed to the rafters with a full-time job, daily writing, a girlfriend, and a ton of friends and family, I can't remember the last time I literally laid back and did nothing.
Usually, I stay busy as hell to keep my mind from ripping itself apart. If I'm sitting still, it's only because I'm sleeping or at my desk and writing. Laying on that bench in that meeting hall made me feel like a kid again. At first, bored and literally counting the passing seconds while the adults did their boring adult thing. It made me ask myself: when was the last time I've been bored? Forced to sit still, ignore my text messages and emails, forced into quiet reflection without the help of booze or drugs?
Seriously, go experience this art installation if you're in the Philadelphia area. If you can't, strongly consider taking some time to do nothing. Turn your phone off (or as Stephen King might say, blow it up) and do nothing. Watch the light in the night sky and see how it changes. Let yourself be bored for a little while.
You can find the installation's website here.