Where did it go and what did we lose?
Suddenly we find ourselves in this world of hustle and bustle, a world of constant entertainment by way of abundant electronic media, a world of constant contact by way of our cell phones. What did we lose when we stopped taking, or stopped being given quiet solitude?
As a child, I loved laying on the ground and watching the clouds roll by in the sky. I thought that if I could stare long enough and deeply enough into the deep blue sky I might be able to see stars during the daytime. Someone told me you could see stars in the daytime sky if you looked up from the bottom of a deep well. I stood and looked down into a neighbor’s well and thought about getting down into it and trying, but the fact that I am sitting here writing now might be sufficient proof that I never got enough nerve to give it a try. I did try going into abandoned mine shafts and looking out at the sky but, alas, that didn’t work.
I realized a few months ago that I hadn’t spent any time looking up at the clouds and gave it a try again but the brightness of the sky hurt my eyes which had been strained by too many hours in too many days looking at computer screens. I had too many other things to do to spend time getting used to it and gave up.
One of my grandfathers spent the last fifteen years of his life sitting on a bench in front of the family’s hardware store watching cars go by on the highway. He didn’t watch television or read books and always had a somber but warm greeting for anyone who came by. But I often wonder what he was thinking about during so many years of quiet sitting.
My other grandfather would stand looking out over his fields of grain and herds of black angus cattle. The subject of his musings is another subject of my curiosity. Both of these men had qualities most of us seem to be missing these days - wisdom and serenity. The absence of such men in today’s world leaves a black hole in our collective psyche.
If I take fifteen minutes to sit quietly, I spend the time feeling guilty for not getting any work done and can’t really make myself feel that I am doing some of my best work at such times. The absence of noise gives me a deep feeling of uneasiness. I worry about what I am not getting done and what my wife is going to have to say about it. Even when I recognize the value of my quiet meditation, I accuse myself of using it as an excuse to be lazy.
In an age of instant gratification, is it likely that any of us are going to be willing to take the time to regain an ability to sit idly and let our minds relax and expand? Can we ever truly take time to appreciate clouds floating across the sky or just watch stars shine in the night sky or enjoy the patterns formed by breezes ruffling the waters or buffeting fields of grain?