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In the quiet suburb where I was raised, there was a green hill near our house, a place where no one ever went.

It was an easy trek, over the backyard fence and up a dirt path. I would go there on weekends with a book if I wanted to escape the company of family or merely remove myself from the stultifying order of a household. Children do need moments of solitude as well as moments of healthy interaction. (How else would they learn that the mind makes its own happiness?) But too often these moments of solitude are only stumbled upon by children, whereas socialization is constantly arranged. I remember — I was nine years old — I remember lying on the green hill and reading my book or merely staring for a long, long time at the sky. There would be a crush of childish thoughts that would eventually dissipate, piece by piece, until I was left alone with my bare consciousness, an experience that felt as close to religious rapture as I ever had. I could feel the chilled sunlight on my face and was only slightly awake to the faraway hum of traffic. This will sound more than a little fey, but that young boy on the hillside did press daisies into his book of poetry. And just the other day, when I took that book down from its dusty post on my shelf, the same pressed flower fell out of its pages (after a quarter century of stillness) and dropped onto my bare toes. There was a deep sense memory, then, that returned me to that hushed state of mind on the lost green hill, a state that I have so rarely known since …

I fear that we are the last of the daydreamers. I fear our children will lose lack, lose absence and never comprehend its quiet, immeasurable value. If the next generation socializes more online than in the so-called real world, and if they have no memory of a time when the reverse was true, it follows that my peers and I are the last to feel the static surrounding online socialization. The Internet becomes “the real world” and our physical reality becomes the thing that needs to be defined and set aside.

— Excerpted from The End of Absence by Michael Harris, winner of the 2014 Governor General’s Literary Award for Nonfiction.[cherry_banner image=”6260″ title=”Adbusters #118″ url=”″ template=”issue.tmpl”]Field Guide to Virtual Warfare [/cherry_banner]