The pace of change over the last 30 years has been incredible. The variety of media has exploded and all of it is clamoring for attention. The population keeps getting concentrated more and more in the major metro areas. We are immersed in constant background noise and distractions.
Much has changed since my Betamax lost to VHS in the VCR wars of the early 80’s. We now have five hundred or more TV channels, all of which can be easily recorded on DVRs for viewing at any time. In case that is not enough flexibility, services like Hulu and ESPN3 stream TV over the net whenever you want it. There are more movies than ever, many of which are available on demand from Netflix or your TV provider. The magazine rack is miles long, with printed products that have subdivided into smaller and smaller interest groups. The web offers zillions of websites, blogs, youtube videos, and podcasts, all offering more noise and distractions. None of this has killed the radio — the radio dial has stations literally on top of each other, satellite radio delivers hundreds of stations, and others like Slacker and Pandora stream radio wirelessly to cell phones.
On the personal messaging front, e-mail, SMS text messages, Facebook notices, and voice mail notifications beep, vibrate, and generally clobber our daily lives. People have crazy expectation of “real time” — if you don’t respond to someone’s text within a few seconds, the other party often wonders if you are angry with them.
Everywhere I go, it is loud. The hustle and bustle, the Kesha and Black Eyed Peas ringtones, the bleeps of BlackBerrys and iPhones, the general crowding at popular spots, the spray painted industrial ceilings without any sound absorbing material, all contribute to the din. It seems like a quiet dinner or a cup of coffee on a tranquil patio is extinct.
How can one think about the meaning of life, his purpose in life, her mission this year — without a bit of meditation while in his or her personal fortress of solitude?
We have to make a choice to leave the smartphone on the kitchen table and go for an hour’s walk (or at least turn off all the smartphone’s tones and vibrations during the walk). We have to decide to eat dinner without leaving the TV blaring in the living room. We have to go drink that first cup of coffee while watching the sun rise majestically in the east. And we have to focus for a half hour or hour at a time, without distractions, on tasks that we have decided are strategically important.
If you choose to stop the noise and the distractions, even for just one hour each day, you will find yourself recharged and refocused, optimistic about the potential this day brings.