Telephones ringing. Printer clacking. Voices murmuring. PDA buzzing. Copy machine pulsating. Online calendar beeping. Traffic throbbing. Sirens wailing. Keyboards clicking. Doors opening. Footsteps rushing. HVAC droning. Pens scratching. File drawer slamming. Elevator whirring. Light fixture humming. Clock ticking.
Within this relentless barrage, analysis is conducted, proposals are made, and decisions are finalized. Often the work is critical, always it is necessary. But how well can we — any of us — effectively manage all that oh-so-vital work without the consideration enabled us by even a single peaceful, uninterrupted moment? Without the opportunity to reflect in stillness, how can we hope to catch the elusive whisper of innovative solutions or noteworthy inquiries?
The great emperor Marcus Aurelius taught an important lesson in his journal, best known now as Meditations: life must be considered from within “a space of quiet” if we have any hope of living it well. Joseph Badaracco explains Aurelius’ philosophy as the belief “that serenity could protect him from the hazard of overimmersion, of losing himself and his bearings in the unending stream of life’s tasks” (Defining Moments, 1997, p.124).
If this long-ago emperor found life hectic, demanding, and full to bursting with demands and concerns and problems needing resolution, how much more so are our lives?
We all instinctively recognize the need for reflection, for consideration, for meditation. Yet we decry that need, insisting we do not have time to devote to such unproductive activities. We’re too busy, too important, too understaffed or overwhelmed or underpaid or inundated to waste our precious minutes in such pursuits. Certainly the concept has merit, but realistically there’s no way we can find the time for such petty endeavors.
And so on we go, bumbling along our daily path, secure in our own self-consequence, certain we’re doing “the best that we can.” Even when we’re not.
So, this is my challenge to each of us today: take three precious minutes to enjoy a space of quiet. Close the door. Step outside. Sit in the car. Dawdle in the restroom. Hide in an unoccupied cubicle. Gift your brain, for a mere 180 seconds, with a space of quiet. You might just find that it saves your soul.