Regardless of what we do for a living or where we live, to some extent we are all connected by the demons of our digital world. According to some historians it took six weeks for news of President Lincoln’s assassination to reach the United Kingdom.
Not so today.
At an IBM seminar, a professor shared a startling figure: Information from every copy of the Wall Street Journal ever published could circulate around the world in less than a second. The body of medical knowledge doubles about every 72 days. And we are using that same brain that we inherited from our primitive ancestors who evolved from the humanoids on the great savannas of Africa.
Consider this: Over the past months our reality has ricocheted from one apocalyptic explosion to another: the nightmare of war in Ukraine and the threat of nuclear disaster, the emergence of aggressive infectious agents called COVID and monkeypox, the disintegration of the economy, the threat of undeniable world hunger, and the tyranny of climate change.
Each event alone batters and bludgeons us to one extent or another. Taken as the new normal, there is no time to process these cataclysmic assaults, and now as if things couldn’t get worse, we are impaled on the horror of random shootings in grocery stores and schools, in churches and hospitals.
Where to go, what to do?
Each of these events drains the soul, erodes our focus, depletes us of energy and vitality and to some extent challenges our compassion and empathy. We become numbed, we become almost robotic as these events assail us every day. As if we can turn off cable news to make these events disappear. No wonder CNN is doing away with the "breaking news" banner. Everything is breaking news.
Seek Safe Harbor from the Cacophony of Life
Throughout history every spiritual leader, adviser, guru, and savant likewise was battered and bruised by events of their time in history. Each of them regardless of their faith sought safe harbor from the cacophony of life and sought out the mountain, the desert, the garden, the sea, and withdrew to that quiet place of solitude to somehow process the events of their lives so they could reboot and then, recharged, go back into the arena.
Most of us do not have that luxury to heal our wounds in a monastic cloistered environment. But we need to recognize that we have only so much cognitive and spiritual bandwidth. If we become totally depleted, we cannot give what we do not have. But we can decisively and with purpose withdraw from the siren song of the cell phone, the tablet, the internet, cable news, and limit the tyranny of these gadgets and devices that threaten our very personhood.
Bottom line: Self-care, solitude, time to heal are not frivolous or trivial diversions. These are mission-critical decisions that we need to make to bring to our community the gifts and skills that we each must somehow make this planet a little safer, a little kinder, a little more nurturing.