There is no Sleepy Hollow on the internet, no peaceful spot where contemplativeness can work its restorative magic. There is only the endless, mesmerizing buzz of the urban street…. It may be that we are now entering the final stage of that entrenchment. We are welcoming the frenziedness into our souls. The Shallows, Nicholas Carr p.221
As the latest batch of Christmas commercials hit the media airwaves, I am struck by the new normal that is portrayed as family life. The surly teen scrolling and texting at the family dinner table, children watching individual programs on their iPads at the back of the minivan, the couple in their bed each watching their individual programs on separate devices each with headphones.
What is my worry about this new normal?
There is the scathing assault on face to face contact, which our bodies have used for millions of years to build social awareness, learn self regulation and learn how to stay safe. But I don’t want to talk about that today.
There is the increasing amount of time we as a collective are sitting and watching a screen rather than moving our bodies, and once again, getting practice at managing anxiety, stress, frustration and overwhelm. But I don’t want to talk about that either.
The one worry that I want to highlight is about finding the silence. What happens when the ‘endless mesmerizing buzz of the urban street’ has become our new normal? For millions of years, our environments were punctuated with sound under a common soundscape of silence. Today, we have to work hard to find moments of quiet and still. Our brains were not designed for all that sensory overload. Our nervous systems equally, are not equipped to handle the constant barrage of sensory information. It is all too much.
Having extended periods of focused thinking, or day dreaming or being alone with our thoughts is how our brain grew and evolved. All this connecting with sensory overload puts a lot of stress on our nervous systems. In addition, it removes us from the very factors that help us learn how to regulate, calm and manage our feelings — like, moving, being outside, participating in face to face contact, connecting and engaging in conversation with others.
For me, I think meditative thinking is also the essence of functioning democracies and that is my worry of succumbing to that “final stage of entrenchment” that will take place if we constantly welcome ‘frenziedness into our souls.’
That’s why we need to include more experiences of reflection, meditation, silence and single focused task opportunities in our workspaces and homes.
As we enter into the holiday season, into the belly of winter, I wish for us all to invite everyone in our homes and in the workplace to stay in their bodies and work with the inherent wisdom inside them.
I wish for you silence, I wish for you a good dose of unbridled daydreaming and I wish for you extended moments of good company, contentment and quiet.