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article: The Death of Stillness
........... by Richard Mahler
the question, "busy" is the answer.
We hear it again and again, all day long. But you can't fool me. "Busy" is more than a buzzword. It's shorthand for, "My schedule is a nightmare, my phone won't stop ringing, and my e-mail box is overflowing. I have a mile-long list of obligations to my spouse, boss, kids, friends, pets, car, and houseplants. I'm so swamped that I can't afford to give you more than a one-word answer."
What's wrong with
being busy? Plenty. Americans have become the most anxious, time-
we happy about it? Probably not. We're much too busy to be happy. It's
no coincidence that "busyness" is only one letter away from
"business." Workaholism-reflected in near-
Walk into any airport these days and you're surrounded by people at work: on the phone, at the keyboard, in the briefcase. Hotels (and even budget motels) are in cutthroat competition to see who can offer travelers the greatest number of work-related amenities, such as high-speed Internet access, fax machines, office-style desks, and overnight courier services. Sit down at a restaurant, drive down an interstate, ride a commuter train, or take a walk: half the folks around you are lost to a cellular or a laptop.
What's missing? The
three things many of us long for: silence, stillness, and solitude. The
Lost from our daily
routine is time alone to simply abide peacefully with ourselves. Yet this
The benefits of devoting
even ten quiet minutes a day to ourselves include mental clarity, greater
efficiency, and a sense of well-being. The negative consequences of constant
interaction are obvious. We get irritable and short-tempered, restless
and tired, without seeming to know why. Silence is accessible to each
of us and costs nothing. Stillness is as soothing as a bubble bath, as
illuminating as a bright idea, and as thrilling as a new romance. Solitude
allows us, as 19th-century writer Henry David Thoreau observed at Walden
Pond, to "be completely true to ourselves." The ability to mold
a healthful and life-affirming environment remains within our grasp, even
though human-made sound and activity continue to encroach on public and
private space. And as we continue filling the world with distractions,
often unbidden, we will keep craving the serenity that inevitably shrinks
with their arrival.
Mahler is a freelance writer in Santa Fe, NM. His book, Stillness:Daily
Gifts of Solitude is about the steady loss of silence, solitude, and
simplicity in modern life, and why overscheduled Americans need them back.
is distributed courtesy the Center for a New American Dreams bi-monthly
syndicated column which explores the connections between consumption,
quality of life, environment, and values. For more information about the
Center, click on www.newdream.org, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call
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