Time out! We can see the chaos all around us and even within the confines of our homes and our lives as time seems to roll along ever faster, ever more demanding. “Stop the world; I want to get off,” pretty much describes how millions of people are feeling in these chaotic times, giving us the sense that we must either run faster and faster or risk being steamrolled by the forces closing in on us from behind.
We are assailed on all sides by things we cannot even see -- by technology shouting at us from every crevice in our jam-packed lives. There seems to be no silence nor place to sit in silence anywhere anymore. Even in our vehicles, the radio pounds at us with the sound of human voices or music. In our homes, the television set is on for more hours than we would like to admit each day and into the evening. Even our cell phones have become tyrants, stealing any leftover shreds of time and consuming them in the form of Facebook, online games, email and messaging, leaving us feeling drained and empty.
Whether we like to admit it to ourselves or not, we have all pretty much become addicts. Studies have shown that anxiety levels rise when we are deprived of our cell phones. They have become our lifeline to life itself, it seems, even to the point where we will ignore the people who are standing or sitting right next to us in our homes and lives so that we can keep checking to see who or what is urgently seeking our immediate attention.
Like any addiction, we cope with it through denial, thinking that we can stop any time we want. But can we? See how long it takes you each day to check your phone. Better yet, pick a day and commit to not checking your phone all day except to answer actual phone calls and see just how difficult it is.
My point is this: This insidious device has come to be our master rather than our servant. It now rules our lives by creating a compulsion – a compulsion that deprives us of empowerment, of being able to create rich and meaningful lives each and every day for our unique gifts, our unique selves to thrive and to be seen.
If there were no TV, no radio, no cell phones, no electronic devices full of games and entertaining distractions, what would we do? How would we make our days and our lives count? How would we make our mark on the world? How would we nourish our spirit and deepest yearnings?
We have precious little time here. If all the things that noisily fill our ears were to disappear, how would we fill the silence? Would it drive us crazy? Would it make us feel lost, irritated, at loose ends? Even that grave discomfort should be a wakeup call to us. If we can’t even hear ourselves think these days or tune in to what we think and what we feel, how can we choose wisely so that our lives will matter? How can we get in touch with ourselves, with our own honest emotions, our latent urges and desires, if we continue to fill that place with meaninglessness?
The other day, when I was driving along, I began to search my car radio for some music to fill that troublesome silence, only to find that that my eight preset stations were devoid of anything that resembles melodies rather than abrasive, hard sounds and beats. No wonder we can’t think straight anymore. Given this state of “noise” in our world, how are we to feed our spirit? How are we to even get to know ourselves in all our depth and quirkiness? How are we to ask ourselves the hard questions of “Who am I?” and “For what purpose am I on this planet?”
We cannot capitulate, we cannot fudge, on our existence. We are here for a reason. We are more than our bodies, more than our families or churches. There is only one of us and we must be that one. As the saying goes, “Be yourself. Everyone else is taken!”
To get to know that self, that person, that soul incarnate, we should and must take or make the time to be alone to pray, to think, to reflect, to be. It is only in aloneness, in that utter silence that we can hear the whisperings of spirit and choose a path or a new beginning we can be proud of. One of the most healing and uplifting places to be for this kind of inner work is somewhere out in nature. Even on a short walk, we can notice the tiniest and most awesome of things that would be missed if we were to only live the American norm of mostly sitting and watching life on a screen.
My guess is we won’t be asked who won “America’s Got Talent” when we die, so we had better begin to pay far more attention to the work of our hearts, of giving the gift of all that we are, or can be, not only to ourselves but to all others we encounter along the way.
Marianne Stanley is an attorney, college professor and former journalist who is a former resident of Houma.