The dogs and I went for an early-morning brisk walk on our customary route through a wooded area adjacent to our home. Usually, my mind is racing with commitments, responsibilities, and just the stuff of life with “miles to go before I sleep,” according to poet Robert Frost.
But for a moment—just for a moment—I glanced to the sky and was utterly breathless as I saw a full moon lovingly embraced by soft floating clouds. Not one human sound. Not one mechanical noise. No cars, no planes, no trains. No gadgets that beep, buzz, ding, or vibrate. Nothing screaming for my attention.
And for that fleeting moment in time I was not held hostage by the shackles of electronic handcuffs. There was no update about the latest political crisis, no breaking news about the current economic downturn or celebrity scandal, no talking head warning us of the latest virus that will wipe out the human race by noontime. Or maybe by 10:00 a.m.
I get it. We live in a frenetic, techno manic culture, the culture of the hustle, the culture driven by gimmicks, gadgets, and digital devices that devour the soul. We are each aware of the numbers and the facts and the figures. The typical knowledge worker is battered and bludgeoned by hundreds of emails and texts each day.
We toggle back and forth between tasks every minute or two, and we wonder why nothing gets accomplished. In some environments, many of us spend three hours a day on emails, which in general accomplish virtually nothing of substance.
What is the result of this digital dragon?
Depression, anxiety, suicide, fractured relationships. Some of these miseries have been further fueled by COVID and have reached an all-time peak.
Is there an end in sight?
On this particularly brisk Saturday morning here in the upper Midwest, a much-needed gentle cleansing rain had kissed the landscape. And on this refreshing morning, we needed no alarm clock to awaken us. Our two golden retrievers, McKenna and Stevie, who is blind, remind us with their wet noses in our faces that it is time to start the day.
Throughout history, almost without exception, every spiritual leader goes to the desert, goes to the garden, goes to the sea, goes to the mountain—in other words, these leaders go somewhere tranquil for prayer, introspection, and reflection especially before a major public event. These individuals do not take a posse of sycophants, they are not surrounded by a carnivorous entourage. They seek solitude by themselves.
This was the message of Henry David Thoreau. The morning is the most important part of the day. His writings at Walden Pond symbolize the alternative to, and withdrawal from, social conventions and obligations. But it also symbolizes the vitality and tranquility of nature.
Now let us be realistic. Many of us do not have that luxury of going off to a mountain retreat to get our act together. But each one of us can create the sacred moments of tranquility where just for a moment we can turn off that tsunami of electrons, we can divert or delete the electronic scouring and slow down in a moment of respectful gratitude for nature that lovingly embraces us.
We have options, we have alternatives, we can choose how to spend those sacred moments.
Image: Tim Swann from Unsplash.