Jack hammers are rattling in the background. A loud jarring noise that vibrates my windows and makes it difficult for me to focus on writing a presentation.
Another distraction is a world filled with distractions.
So it was a happy coincidence that as I was reading the New York Times this morning, I came upon Maureen Dowd’s column “Silence is Golden.”
“As far back as half-a-century ago, the Swiss philosopher Max Picard warned: “Nothing has changed the nature of man so much as the loss of silence,” once as natural as the sky and air.
As fiendish little gadgets conspire to track our movements and record our activities wherever we go, producing a barrage of pictures of everything we’re doing and saying, our lives will unroll as one long instant replay.
There will be fewer and fewer of what Virginia Woolf called “moments of being,” intense sensations that stand apart from the “cotton wool of daily life.””
Can I get an amen?
How often does anyone silently contemplate anything? During Thanksgiving break I went for a walk in the woods with my youngest daughter and happened upon two other solo hikers – one listening to music through ear buds and the other checking email.
We do our thinking on the fly – usually while multi-tasking – and as Malcolm Gladwell outlined for us we do our decision-making in a blink of an eye without really thinking at all. What we’re really doing is reacting in real-time.
Noise is everywhere. Beeping, buzzing, blinking and vibrating. Distractions are no longer distractions, but the normal course of how we conduct business. In the course of writing this blog post, I’ve gone to the work commons for a coffee, checked email at least three times (and written at least four responses), watched the draft of a client video and checked TweetDeck.
Yes, it embarrasses me to know that I can no longer seem to focus on one task at a time My normal course of business is to do many things rapidly – bing, bang, bing. I start here, go there, return here, move to something else. That’s how my brain is now wired (Nicholas Carr explores this topic further in his excellent book “The Shallows”).
I have colleagues that have a difficult time putting down their smart phones – even during one-on-one conversations. Are we all becoming Internet addicts with impulse control disorders?
What about you? Do you still value quiet time? Are you able to get anytime to simply think anymore? Do you multi-task all the time? As I recently told a colleague: “If I’m not interrupted every 10 minutes then I interrupt myself.” Does that describe you as well?
Maureen Dowd’s column “Silence is Golden”
Malcolm Gladwell’s book “Blink”
Nicholas Carr’s book “The Shallows”