Thursday, September 19, 2019

All talk.

Every since I was knee-high to a cockroach in this benighted business I’ve made a habit of going for a walk at lunch. Or at least I try to. And counter-intuitively, the busier I am, often the longer I walk.

Maybe that’s not really counter-intuitive. The great English poet and Poet Laureate William Wordsworth wrote hundreds, maybe thousands, of poems. I read somewhere that during his lifetime he walked 175,000 miles. Over the 80 years of his life, that averages out to six-miles-a-day, seven days a week, yes, for eighty years. Maybe, I’ve always believed, there’s some sort of correlation between clearing your head and creative productivity.

One thing I’ve noticed both around the agency and as I wonder through the sterile far west side of Manhattan is this: everybody is on the phone.

Seriously, everybody.

I don’t have any data on the matter but just thinking back 20 years or so ago before cellphones were in every hand, my guess is people talk twice as much today as they did back in the late 1900s.

Though this being the era of information overload, you still can’t find any reliable data on how many calls people are making, or how many texts they are sending, etc. Most sites seem to have an axe to grind—they’re usually trumpeting the role of mobile in purchase behavior. In any event, I’ve seen claims that people are spending anywhere between three and six hours a day on their phones. Estimating that people are awake 17 hours a day, that’s between 17 percent and 34 percent of their waking hours.

Even this morning when I was up at five and taking Whiskey, my seven-year-old golden retriever out for a nice long walk, I noticed a middle-aged guy walking with his wife and talking on his phone. Who’s he talking to at five in the morning?

If we’re spending between 1/6 and 1/3 of our waking hours on our phones, I have two questions. One, who’s everyone talking to? Two, what are we all talking about? How much is there to actually say?

I guess to cut this thing short, because I’ve written enough, I think all this phoney-ization of our lives is indicative of a much bigger problem in our world today. We’re gabbing way too much and thinking way too little.

We’re so oppressively obsessed with yakking, so bent on business and viewing and texting and scrolling and swiping that we’ve almost completely forgotten all that gives a soul comfort, succor and restoration. How many times a week do you say yourself or do you hear from someone, “I’m in back to back to back meetings all day.”

We don’t need more meetings.

We don’t need more talking.

We don’t need more over-thinking.

We don’t need more spiritual clutter.
(In fact our chaotic, kinetic, clangorous workspaces add to the frenetic state of our souls.)

We need more solitude, more peace, more quiet.

I betcha more good work would result.

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