March 27, 2013

This Crazy World Needs A Breather

James Wyckoff wrote in his 1975 book, "Franz Anton Mesmer: Between God and Devil," that life in the West in modern times moves very fast and that people have lost the skill to reflect quietly and be still:
"It has been said that in the Middle Ages people knew how to sit still, and consequently understood something of how to conserve their energies. A glance at the movement of Western civilization toward the present day shows the ever-increasing loss of this ability. Few people today are able to sit still; although in areas other than those of Western civilization this tendency is not so marked. [Wyckoff, J. Mesmer: Between God and Devil. Prentice-Hall, Inc., Englewood Cliffs, N.J. 1975. Pg. 4-5.]
What Wyckoff said almost forty years ago is even more true today. With the invention of the Internet,  smart phones, and a million other different things that distract us and keeps us busy, most of the time to our own detriment, there is very little time or interest to reflect on the immense changes that technology has unleashed.

What our countries need, more than a wasted bank bailout or another meaningless political election that never changes anything, is a time out. Just a minute to catch our collective breath, take in all the changes, and press on forward with a greater appreciation for life. Maybe an economic collapse will do us all some good.

So much has changed in so small a timeframe. There are drones in the sky, and surveillance cameras are now doubling as reading glasses (Google glasses). Clearly, no one has thought this out. 

This turbulent period in history is only in its early stages. So many more radical changes are still ahead. Governments will do their best to manage perceptions, but down the stretch the media won't be able to stop people from looking out their window and seeing a different world than the one that is presented on television.

As the world economy crumbles and the police state begins to take it to a higher gear, more people will freak out. It won't be just the quirky conspiracy theorists who will ask questions. Everyone now has a vague sense that something is rotting, and the smell is going from the top of the hill down to the edge of the village.

In the midst of all this change, it's important to remember to meditate, reflect, and do whatever thing that helps you to get you into a less nervous and less agitated state of mind. We should all take Wyckoff's words to heart and learn the art of being still. The mental path to that stage is different for every individual, and it takes constant work, but the rewards are worth the sacrifice.

Whether or not we as a society can develop the wisdom to take it slow remains to be seen. It will be one hell of a mistake if we blindly race towards the technologically mad future without looking back and retaining some aspect of our roots.

As individuals, we shouldn't wait for a big cataclysm to shake us out of our present habits. We should take the steps on the mental path towards calm and stillness now so we can better be prepared psychologically for the dramatic changes ahead.