Balance between consumption and contemplation

We live in the age of the fire hose…of information. Words come at us at a dizzying rate. Between videos, print, audio and of course social media we are bombarded with more words than any other people in history. The only study I could find was ten years old, but even then the average person was consuming 100,000 words per day. I’d venture to guess that has doubled since the advent of the smart phone.

That’s the same as reading Tolstoy’s War and Peace every two days, for the rest of your life!

At the same time, this constant barrage of information comes at us in an era when quiet, or dare I say boredom, is at an all time low. Rarely do you see someone sitting by themselves just thinking or day dreaming, instead they’ll have earbuds in, or they’ll be scrolling through their phone. In fact a recent experiment showed that people would rather give themselves an electric shock than sit alone with their thoughts for 30 minutes.

Information overload is being combined with zero processing time. This can not be good for us.

What we, what I, need is a balance between consumption and contemplation. Keeping up with the news is good, but keeping Twitter open all day so I can follow all the twists, turns and false starts of the news isn’t. Listening to music and podcasts is good, but never experiencing a half hour of quiet so my own thoughts can wander isn’t. I need time to process all of this information being thrown at me if I expect any of it to be useful.

So I am going to be consciously carving out a couple 30 minute periods of time where I can just sit and think. I know what some of you are thinking. This sounds great, but where am I supposed to get an extra hour a day to just sit and do nothing. I’ll admit this is going to be a challenge. But I think the sacrifice will be one worth making. Here are a few places where you might steal a half an hour for contemplation.

Commuting time. You don’t have to have the radio on. Just drive.
Lunch time. Instead of making it a working lunch, try going outside and sitting in the sun. Eat your sandwich and just daydream.
Night time. Give up a half hour of TV (or video games, or social media). Trust me, you really are not missing anything and you have peace of mind to gain.

I’m guessing after a couple weeks I am going to feel a bit less stressed about the state of the world and my own personal life. Without the constant comparison to others and the never ending fire hose of bad news maybe I’ll be able to actually appreciate my situation and figure out a few ways to improve it. It is certain worth a half an hour, don’t you think?