Facing the silence

I'm late on this week's musing because I had a deadline that I needed to hit that took priority. It's that time in the semester when I'm feeling tired and overwhelmed by all the tasks that come with this time of year. I'm also aware of the cumulative effect of the academic year. At a certain point my threshold for shenanigans lowers, and general crabbiness ensues.

We as a 21st century culture have lives with lots of moving parts, spheres of influence, and often conflicting responsibilities. I've been revisiting a theatre project that I worked on last year that took place on a Revolutionary War battlefield in southern New Jersey, and even though the characters in the project were in the middle of a war, I can't help but think that their lives were much simpler. Master of the Obvious is in the house, I know, but the realization lands hard for me this morning as I write this.

I'm standing at the end of a subway train car, with my back against the door, and as I look down the car at all the faces sitting and standing, I see lots of the same feelings I have: heaviness, exhaustion, lack of enthusiasm, general discomfort. I wonder if my 18th century characters, both real and imagined, felt the same feelings. And if they did, were those feelings persistent or were they fleeting? And were they more likely to look each other in the eye, smile, take time to know each other, breathe deeply?  I wonder.

I know full well that I'm addicted to information and visual stimulation. It's very hard for me to not look at my phone or a computer screen or the television. I long for my childhood when a book could hold my attention for an entire day. That used to be the norm. Now it happens maybe once every three years. That's the root of my exhaustion. Quiet contemplation unmediated by a screen almost never happens.

I used to be much worse. At least I can stand to be alone with myself now, after many years of that not being the case. But as my comfort with that alone time increase, I find myself looking for ways to just sit in silence. That's still challenging.

So I guess that's the goal. Sitting in silence. Even if it's 5 minutes. What a concept...