A few years ago, Michael Harris had an epiphany when he looked up from a text message to see fourteen windows open on two computer monitors. He decided he didn’t want to live in a state of prolonged techno-brain burnout any longer, and quit his job at Vancouver magazine a few days later. This personal realization set him on a journey to research our obsession with a digital life. 

In The End of Absence, Harris argues that amid all the changes we’re experiencing, the most interesting is the one that future generations will find hardest to grasp. That is the end of absence—the loss of lack. The daydreaming silences in our lives are filled; the burning solitudes are extinguished. There’s no true “free time” when you carry a smartphone. Today’s rarest commodity is the chance to be alone with your own thoughts.

If you take a break from our culture of distraction, you can recall these harder earned pleasures:


·         Living in the moment, without distraction

·         Alone with your thoughts, becoming more creative and contemplative

·         Enjoying being alone and being comfortable when bored

·         Immersing yourself in an activity

·         Comforting yourself when you’re agitated

·         Enjoying real, face-to-face connections and conversations


Drawing on scores of interviews with experts from across the globe, Harris explores this “loss of lack” in chapters devoted to every aspect of our lives, from sex and commerce to memory and attention span.  We have gained an incredible asset with the Internet, but The End of Absence challenges us to rationalize the interruptions that our phones and tablets demand. The book’s message is urgent: once we’ve lost the gift of absence, we may never remember its value.


About the Author:

MICHAEL HARRIS is a contributing editor at Western Living and Vancouver magazine. His award-winning writing appears regularly in magazines such as The Walrus and Frieze. He lives in Toronto, Canada.