The world operates on noise. Too many of us who find some alone time keep the TV or music playing to ward off the quiet. What one perceives as silence could be an acquired deafness.
It is increasingly difficult to imagine life without our handhelds and entertainment equipment. We wouldn’t know what to do with ourselves without computers, TV, books or cell phones. There is rarely space reserved for elegant thought. I see so many in a commute or in a line send text messages or strap on iPods rather than pause for contemplation.
I faced this point squarely when typhoon Reming in October 2000 forced me to confront a brownout alone in the city. A few months prior, I had scheduled some alone-time in Sagada and Banaue, free from pagers, phones and the Internet. The escape didn’t happen, regrettably, but the point is I thought I was prepared for isolation.
I wasn't. The brownout bore down with a darkness broken only by distant emergency lights. No activity or panorama to deflect my solitude. It was unnerving. I was overwhelmed by my bare thoughts, and frantic for cable television or a book.
I did not know when it was when I was first sucked into a treadmill of activity. I just knew I had to simplify my life.
To enjoy a quiet time with myself, no typing into a keyboard, no writing, no reading.
To find pieces of myself in memorabilia and old photos, and laugh at the cuts and scrapes of my childhood.
To think about where I came from, the distance I’ve covered, and the path I will take.
To be mindful of my breathing, just feel the air in and out.
I remind myself of this now because after a forced five-month rest, I can feel the pull back into the busyness vortex, unable to write yesterday, for instance, without listening to music or to the television. A few weeks ago my friend Art asked me how long it has been since my last dive. Blank. I couldn’t remember. “Whoa,” he said. “Now I know you are busy.”
Germaine had been more direct last year. “You, my friend,” she announced, “are a workaholic.”
“No, I’m not,” I said. “I just have too much work.”
Perhaps I should start listening to myself.