What I’d like you to do today is take an inventory.
Try to go through your day and see how much noise is going on around you. How many distractions you allow in your life. How much white noise surrounds you.
As I am writing this, the TV is on, with Sports Center blaring out the latest failings of Jay Cutler from the previous evening’s game between the Packers and the Bears. Somewhere close by is my cell phone, begging to be picked up to check the latest postings on Facebook and Twitter, or to see if there are any new emails or text messages waiting.
When I’m at work, it’s all that on overload. Telephones are ringing. TVs are on, tuned into news channels. Emails are flying, and lots of people are talking, laughing, yelling and whatnot.
When I’m out with family and friends, it’s inevitable that someone’s eyes are pointed down at a cell phone, looking at something. Half the restaurants I go to are loud enough that real conversation is difficult.
And I’ll bet half of you fall asleep to the sounds of a TV, a fan or some sort of sleep-time noise machine.
We’ve become addicted to our electronic diversions and the noise they create.
I contrast this with the incredible quiet of the tent at night. You know, the kind of quiet that you get outside of cell phone range, miles away from a power outlet and another world away from streetlights, cars and even roads.
There’s no kind of quiet like the quiet you experience in the wilderness at night. The onset of darkness, the absence of “things to do” and the inability to flip on a light switch will change the rhythm of your life, even if only temporarily.
If you’re with someone, you can always talk. If you’re alone, you can sit there, or lie there, and think. It’s amazing how unnatural it feels to think without any external/manmade stimulation. And how liberating it can be.
That’s not to say that such quiet can’t be found in daylight hours. It can.
I find that quiet a lot when I go run. A lot of my trail running buds can run me into the ground, and my other potential running partners aren’t quite up to the miles I do. I’m in that “happy medium” where it’s just more practical to run alone, and honestly, I’m OK with that. I love running with friends and in groups, but heading off on my own agrees with my solitary nature. I get to think a lot on these runs, be they in the city or on the trail.
I can remember a time a few years back hiking alone when I found myself a sweet little perch under some trees at the foot of a rocky crag. The weather was threatening to go to pot, but it was OK with me. I was at peace with dealing with whatever the elements were going to throw at me (not so easy to do when others are with you) and just kicked back for a quick bite and some rest.
I had a lot to think about that day. To be able to do it outside of cell phone range, miles from civilization, with only the wind and birdsongs to distract me, well, there’s nothing quite like it.
Don’t take this as me raging against the evils of technology. It’s not. But if you can find a way to unplug once a day, you should do it. You’ll be amazed at the power of an undistracted mind.
On Twitter @RMHigh7088