Here’s a business idea that could make someone millions of pounds: a travel agency that – wait for it – runs holidays exclusively to black holes. Not the sort that excite Stephen Hawking. No, I mean the kind of “black holes” here on planet earth where you’ll find no internet connection, no mobile reception and no television. A black hole is a technology-free paradise.
Strictly speaking, I can’t claim the glory for this idea. It’s stolen from Pico Iyer, the British-born author, who recently wrote in the New York Times: “The future of travel… lies in ‘black-hole resorts’, which charge high prices precisely because you can’t get online in their rooms.”
This is because, Iyer says, “In barely one generation we’ve moved from exulting in the time-saving devices that have so expanded our lives to trying to get away from them… The more ways we have to connect, the more many of us seem desperate to unplug.”
Isn’t he right? Like so many of my generation, I’m a bone fide tech addict. Ninety per cent of my working day is spent in front of a desktop computer. But when I get home I simply plug into Sky Plus or switch on my laptop. If you spot me on the train on the way there, I’ll be glued to my iPad. I am pathetically lost without internet access.
So last week it was time for a healthy break. I headed to one of Britain’s black holes with my family and girlfriend. We chose Lundy, the rugged island that lies 12 miles off Devon’s north coast, where the Bristol Channel meets the Atlantic.
Lundy, which was once owned by a great-great-great-great-great uncle of mine (before it bankrupted the Heaven family), is utterly remote. It’s the sort of place where if you run out of loo paper you have to wait for a helicopter to land with more supplies.
It was the perfect place to go cold turkey, in other words. My mobile was off for five days, my MacBook was left on the mainland, and there wasn’t a television in sight. As for internet, I’m not sure the locals have heard of it.
Once the effects of my tech addiction had worn off, time seemed to slow down. The sun was shining, the air was as rich as wine and the only sound was of the waves crashing on to the rocks in the bay below.
Black holes are bliss – and in a few years they’ll be impossible to find without the help of an expert. Please can he or she remember to send me my cut?
Last week the Dalai Lama was awarded the Templeton Prize. It’s a prestigious award for “a living person who has made an exceptional contribution to affirming life’s spiritual dimension, whether through insight, discovery, or practical works”.
Some have criticised the Templeton Foundation for mixing religion with science. One prominent atheist wrote scathingly that the prize is given “usually to a scientist who is prepared to say something nice about religion”.
Now another commentator has said that the Dalai Lama’s “contribution to science is, at best, tenuous”. In other words: why has has this non-scientist won?
Which just proves that the foundation can’t please everybody. Personally, I’m delighted that His Holiness has won. I had the privilege of attending his teaching sessions in Dharamsala in India five years ago and will never forget witnessing him at work. It’s too easy to be cynical about this simple man’s teachings. But we should listen. He knows, better than any atheist scientist, how to be truly happy.
Will Heaven is assistant comment editor of The Daily Telegraph