Last week I had the rare opportunity of visiting my high school friend and college roommate at her home in Georgia. On the bedside table of the guest room was another old friend, the book Gift from the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh. By day my friend and I re-visited past memories, by night I re-read the book written years ago by another active mother. Her problems were essentially the same as my problems – a pervasive “busyness” that invades every aspect of life. In fact, she described life in the 1950’s with the shattering German word Zerrissenheit that means, “torn-to-pieces-hood.”
Is there a word strong enough to encompass our world in 2010 with job demands, family needs, school activities, church functions, community responsibilities, smart phones, laptops, Internet access, Blackberries, and cable TV? Even traditional places of rest are so no longer. At a recent women’s retreat I looked around the restaurant and instead of seeing laughing groups of women sharing a rare moment of girlfriend talk, I witnessed 100 individuals with a finger in one ear and a cell phone in the other. When I’m at the symphony, as the last strains of music vibrate on the air, iPhones come out and the buzz begins all around me destroying the magic of the moment.
Can a culture that places so much value on being distracted ever learn to lead lives of thoughtful focus that Lindbergh discusses? Few people ever achieve it, but it is possible. In fact, if we are to train our children for excellence, we must ruthlessly cut distractions from our lives – our own and our children’s. We all need time and space to dream, to stare at the clouds, to think, to wonder. But to have that precious time, we have to choose to value it and we must eliminate the things that would interfere with it.
Just this week, World magazine (Oct. 9, 2010) reported recent studies that all pointed to the implication that constant technology use (instead of taking a break to think or walk in the woods) “may keep us from being able to solidify ideas and experiences or turn them into knowledge and long-term memory.” In other words, without down time, you won’t process new experiences. Without the processing, you don’t learn. Turn off your phone and computer and think about that!