Culture Clash: Thoughts on Stillness

is it a coincidence that the wisest people are always those who take advantage of stillness and quiet? when was the last time you met a sage that was “making things happen”? you don’t.

of course, you could pull the old person trump card and claim that those wise people are also old people, and thus more prone to stillness, quiet, and a slow-paced life. while that may be true, not all old people are wise, though most are slow and quiet.

the wise ones of which i speak are the ones who live a slower pace. they are the ones who don’t acquiesce to the impulsive and increasing speed of our culture. how they survive, i do not know. i doubt i could afford food, rent, electricity, and water if i refused to participate in the rush of societal commerce.

there are people who do it, though. maybe some farmers, ranchers, and homeless people in America, but i’m thinking more of normal people in places like Japan and Taiwan. i’m thinking of little fishing villages, where some old men and women grow and catch their own food each day, and have little use of urban anxiety. true, they may eat fish and rice with nearly every meal, but perhaps they see no problem with that. perhaps they live a quality of life i can only imagine.

for me, the thought of stillness causes feelings of shameful laziness. every day, i feel guilty for “wasted time”, which refers to time not spent actively doing something. then again, the kind of stillness i’m used involves a sofa and a television. that’s vegging. i’m not talking about that.

asian cultures have encouraged stillness in religious practices. meditation, zen, and yoga all deal with stillness or slow, deliberate movements. tranquility is one of their highest virtues.

jews and christians, though the westerners seem unaware of this, have similar principles, i.e. “be still and know that he is God.” sad how that command has been all but forgotten in practical daily American life.

even worse, in my mind, is how the opposite is culturally acceptable. “time management” is one of the bastardly uneducated ideas of our time. technology allows us to operate multiple machines at one time, all of which produce immeasurably more results than a single person could ever dream. with greater capabilities has come higher expectations. the “normal” bar is continually raised. a minor example is the cell phone. most people have one. now there’s no reason for being an hour or two late to work. flat tire? why didn’t you call? no cell phone? that’s irresponsible. you are now held to the new standard of normal. you either keep up and participate or you fall behind and risk extinction.

i’ve said all that before. it’s one of my biggest complaints against metropolitan life in this country. but technology and time management are not the main issue here. the question at issue here is this: is it okay to be still, silent, and unproductive? Think of Mister Miyagi or Yoda. masters or a failures? corporate America says failures. and yet we all know the simple truth.

wisdom says competing for top honors is wasteful. wisdom says serve others rather than try to rule them. wisdom says it is better to be poor and at peace within one’s self than to be a shallow, heartsick millionaire. the hard-hearted will disagree. that’s just the callouses talking.

time is a precious jewel. more precious than what most of us spend it on. what would you have to face if you were silent for one hour? what could you understand if you allowed yourself the time to reflect?

think about it. in silence.

can you handle it?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *