I recently heard a diary piece by Olivia O’Leary on RTE’s Drivetime and, as always, Ms O’Leary gave me food for thought. For that is what she talked of – thought. In the increasing electronic clamour of today’s world it is often hard to find a spot to sit and ponder or write or dream. And yet out of such quiet moments have come all of humankind’s best ideas. All those Eureka moments as thinkers leapt from their chosen place of safety and comfort to tell the world a blindingly obvious truth.
Then the rest of us could cry – ‘Yes! Of course! Sure, why didn’t we think of that!’. Often because we were to busy simply living – ensuring our families and friends have enough to eat, are clothed and warm and not in pain. But in the Western World where increasingly these essential physical commodities are not as hard won as they once were, and where technology has made the daily grind of earning a living – one that simply that prevents hunger and discomfort - much easier and faster, one would think man had increased time for thought. Quiet reflection, moments to contemplate the beautiful, the sublime – to puzzle out the conundrums of the world.
Instead there is this constant background electronic hum. I occasionally suffer from insomnia and have long given up twisting and turning in bed vainly waiting for sleep. Instead I get up and toddle about downstairs. I used to listen to the radio and clean my house. In recent years I discovered writing and use these quiet hours as some of my more productive ones in getting ideas, plot lines, character descriptions from my fevered brain onto the page. I often use the time to read – to absorb another’s thoughts in the wee small hours.
One night recently I noticed I was being distracted by firstly an electronic hum and secondly a winking light in the direction of the ‘off’ PC. After disconnecting 8 , EIGHT, plugs I eventually had both visual and aural peace. As the sun rose I heard the dawn chorus, heard starlings shifting and scratching in the eaves – saw the rabbit nose his way out of his hutch , lift up on his hind legs and sniff the air before shaking himself and lope off to feed on the last of my dahlias. I drank it all in and thought. Really thought, about the wonder of life and the extraordinary in the ordinary.
So here’s my suggestion - not that you all develop insomnia – ye would make my quiet time too noisy if ye were all up - but every day for the next ten days find ten minutes. Shut off all (ALL-including your phones!) electronic devices. Sit and stare, sniff the air, look through your window, pray or dream if you want or think or not. Just enjoy being. You might get to like it.