No Time to Think
Discovered thanks to Dave Pell’s excellent newsletter The Next Draft under the title “Just Look at Yourself”, this is a very fascinating realization that immediately resonated with me: perhaps one of the reasons so many people spend such vast amounts of time engrossed in one device or another is not necessarily because Candy Crush is so addicting and Facebook makes them feel happy — or sad, as the case may be — , but rather because we have developed an intense dislike of introspection and the discomforts it almost invariably brings along with it. Reading that, it felt as if a puzzle piece had clicked into place: “Yes, it all makes sense.”
I wake up every morning, and within fifteen minutes of getting out of bed I walk into the gym where I spend the next hour working out. After that, I have between thirty minutes and an hour before I have to leave for work, during which I prepare for my day and, if I have time, read and do a little bit of writing. As I find it difficult to read or write while listening to music, I generally keep iTunes closed when engaged in one of those two activities; otherwise though, I keep something playing almost constantly.
Every day at work, I keep one earbud in at all times through which I listen to podcasts for nearly eight hours every day. Painting can be a quiet, lonely, and somewhat tedious task at times; this helps me stay focused and engaged. Both to and from work at the beginning and end of the day, I continue listening to those podcasts in the car until I get home, where the same rule set that determines what I listen to in the morning once again informs whether I listen to a song, podcast, or merely the sound of my finders tapping away at the keyboard. Regardless though, here once again, just as I do throughout the rest of my day, I permit myself no silence whatsoever. Even when lying in bed at the end of the day, I turn to a past episode of one of my favorite podcasts to help put me to sleep.
I routinely go an entire day without any time for quiet introspection. While I once considered this simply an efficient use of my time — why drive in silence when I can listen to a podcast or two? — , I now recognize this common happenstance as the habit it has become: filling every available second with an activity has ceased to serve as a means to the end of greater productivity in a given twenty-four hour timespan, and now functions merely as an excuse for me to avoid any time alone with my thoughts.
As for the future, I cannot say for sure where I will go from here. This is a very interesting realization, and also a potentially very important one as well. For now though, I plan to start by sitting alone with my thoughts before bed; in a week or two, who knows?