Saturday, October 13, 2007

Contemplating Contemplation

When I was a teenager, I spent a lot of time just thinking. Of course much of my time was spent in angst ridden daydreams about some boy. But all the same, I was just sitting alone in the quiet of my favorite spot in our big yard, unplugged from even my transistor radio. This was what I liked to do in the early evening after the supper dishes were washed and put away and yes, I was involved in completing this task and not with the aid of a dishwasher. I would then wander away to my place, look up into the darkening sky, and simply think. Not all my reveries were lovelorn musings. I also thought about my future, what career I might have, where I might live, what college might be like, etc. Some of my thought were prayers as well. No one suggested this was a waste or time or an unusual activity. My folks left me alone. When it got dark or I got cold, I would wander back inside where there were all the usual distractions of TV, phones, and radio. I was not a hermit, but I did need and want time alone.

I was thinking about this yesterday as I relaxed during a heat treatment at the physical therapy clinic where I am receiving treatment for something aptly called frozen shoulder. Heretofore when I was lying on the nice padded table with pillows placed around my arm and shoulder, enjoying the lovely mild electric/heat treatment, I would let my mind drift, maybe thinking about a work project and how I would approach it. Another thing I might do was simply meditate, going through some of my repertoire of memorized Biblical passages and other inspirational ones, such as the Prayer of St. Francis and the Serenity Prayer. But yesterday I brought a new friend with me...a brand new iPod. I really enjoyed listening to my favorite lowbrow music, a mix of traditional country and Americana, with a heavy dose of Texas musicians including my own daughter, Lyle Lovett, Robert Earl Keen, Merle Haggard, Lucinda Williams, Alice Stuart, Gillian Welch, and lots of others. Even better was listening while doing my pulley exercises and using the hand bicycle. The music made these monotonous tasks much less boring and tiresome. But as I listened I did think about this new experience. Now I was NOT giving my undivided attention to the art of thought. And next time I have therapy, I know I will want to use the iPod again. It makes me wonder about people of all ages, but especially youngsters, who are never unplugged. I see then on the walking paths, on campus, in cars, and really everywhere. Do they ever just stop, be still, and think? Do we ever encourage kids to do this during school hours or at home? Don't we always scramble to keep them busily occupied, and even fill previously quiet areas with music or other sound to keep them occupied? Is this all to the good? In my graduate days I wrote a paper comparing American and Japanese educational environments. One big difference between the two, I learned, was importance given to silent time for thinking. Americans really seem to discount and also shy away from this. Now with all the wearable and easily carried technology to engage us, I wonder of anybody does ever stop and just think. And further, I wonder what it means to our society that we do not?

1 comment:

  1. Mary Ann, I, too, am doing therapy for "frozen shoulder." I have to do my own therapy and don't get heat treatments. Sounds yummy!!!
    Ruth Ann

    Ruth Ann Noe, Librarian
    Perryton Jr. High School