Stop!

stopIs it just me, or does it seem that everything is revving faster and faster by the day? I know that as we age, even baby boomers don’t move or think as fast as we once did. But I am starting to think it’s more than my just getting older and slower and crankier. It seems to me that the number of emails and texts and twitter alerts keep increasing exponentially. That the computer or handheld or cellphone – or all of them – seem to be on all the time, in every room, no matter what other activity’s the main event.

Witness: Despite a sign in my waiting room, and the expensive and rare luxury of an hour devoted exclusively to them, more and more patients “have to” leave their phones on during session: the kid might call, the market might fall, can’t miss anything at all.

Witness: Even people who a year ago vowed never to be “one of them” now text (they’ve been talking on the cell phones they vowed never to get for some time now) while crossing 96th and Madison. Or Times Square. Like your Aunt Harriet, model of decorum and good sense. Or your chill yoga instructor.

Witness: Despite tragic reports of car and subway and train crashes, drivers still convince themselves that, as long as they’re talking hands-free, they can pay sufficient attention to three things at once: the road, their phone conversation, and whatever else is going on in the car.

Witness: Despite numerous research studies that show multitasking is in fact less efficient than focusing on one thing at a time, we cling to the fantasy that we can somehow squeeze more into our day if we do two, three, even four things at once. That continually shifting gears, or paying attention to multiple things at once, helps us learn, when it fact it hinders learning. (How much do you miss about your dinner companion when your eyes are scanning every cute girl walking by?).

And it’s not just about the limit to what we can assimilate, or the eye strain from staring at the screens, or missing the eye contact you only get when you are only talking with the person with whom you are talking. No, what’s also bothering me is the sinking feeling that we’re all working for our technology, rather than the other way around. Everyone else does it, so we have to, too, to keep up. But there’s just too much to absorb before we’re saturated. And unfortunately, there’s still more and more to absorb.

I don’t know about you, but I need a rest. I want a rest. It’s summer, and I want time to just do nothing and stare at some clouds, wonder if they look like trees or if they’re cumulous or not…I want to enter into a conversation with no goal or agenda in mind, and no “excuse me’s” for the Blackberry calling, or a bevy of Iphones to the right of the soup spoons…

I want unplanned and unpaced time. I’m even starting to get nostalgic for the old days around the family dinner table before answering machines and cell phones and computers and more (well, not the quarreling part, or the “eat your dinner because of the starving children in ___ part). When the phone rang, there were glances around the table to see that everyone was accounted for, and some adult said something like, “Let it ring. We’re all here, having dinner. Whoever it is, if it’s important, they’ll call back.”

To do what you are doing when you are doing it… to only do what you are doing, fully and completely, trusting that, if important, they’ll call back again. That’s the break that refreshes, when the noise and the busyness stop…Now that’s today’s ultimate luxury: being in the moment, with no beeps or ringtones to interrupt quiet time, a quiet mind.

Copyright © 2009 Marlin S. Potash. All rights reserved.

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