Many years ago I worked in an afternoon as a Messenger, which meant delivering and picking up post from various floors in the building.
There was a guy called Colin, who one day said to me, 'People never sit and doing nothing any more.'
We were having a break between rounds and sitting at the table in the post room. He said, 'People don't seem to just sit and reflect. They have to be doing something and if they're not, they call it boredom. They don't want to hear the silence around them.'
It was the days before social networking and the internet was still in its infancy. I remember thinking at the time, how true that was and how we are frightened of silence. I watched him stare into space, alone with his thoughts and in the back ground a buzz of a busy office. It felt good. It felt read.
Today with the advent of the multi-purpose mobile phone, it is even more relevant. It isn't just a phone now, it's for listening to music, social medial, games and taking photographs, too. I see people in the streets and if they are not talking on the phone, they have ear plugs in listening to music.
I tried that on more than one occasion, usually dog walking, while I listening to the radio or my favourite tunes, but it doesn't work, for me. The music of life is much more interesting. The sound of cars rumbling by and sometimes hearing the thump of their music, or the roar of a passing motor bike or the exhaust of a boy racer saying 'look at me'. There are the voices of women gossiping on street corners or the low rumble voices of men passing the time of day. The sounds of sirens, or cat on the hunt or a dog barking. Or simply the breeze in your ears and the fluttering of the Autumnal leaves as they crinkle and fall.
One day I was mesmerised by a can of coke clattering down the road in the wind. The clang and rattle was loud as rolled and bounced along. It got quite a far down the road until a car and flattened it. It just amused me.
The other day I was reading Facebook and came across 'If This Video Doesn't Make You Put Your Phone Down, Nothing Probably Will'. It's a sort of rap by Prince Ea and it talked about iPhones, and iPads and how there is no we in it, just and an I. It told how social networking is actually anti social networking. I listened to his slow tuneful rap about missing important things in life. Strong images passed through the screen, a couple in bed, she resting her head romantically on his chest and he reading his phone. in the darkness. Two people having dinner, one watching silently as the other looking at their screen. A man alone in an office as the night lights twinkling outside and he staring at his computer screen. Dogs vying for someone's attention, but everyone were too busy checking in o Facebook.
It struck a chord with me. How many times do I stare into my phone screen? I originally joined Facebook on my computer, then I could get it on my phone and then I could get notifications too, and my phone was constantly lightening up luring me to it.
I loved Facebook, it enabled me to keep in touch with family and see photos of children growing up. I've made some wonderful friends and found my solitary hobby of cross stitching is shared by so many others.
But it was taking over my life, I was suddenly addicted. As soon as a television programme came to a break, I'd check my phone. First thing in the morning, I was on my phone, constantly all day and all evening picking it up to find out what others were doing. My head full of images and words that were not mine. Precious moments were lost as I was running out of time to do things that were just for me.
So I stopped. I stopped having other people's lives in my head. I turned off notifications and I put my phone away. Suddenly I felt free again. I'm having quiet moments of reflection, too. I sit with a cup of tea staring out of the window alone with my thoughts and its all right. Suddenly I can work through writing ideas again. In the morning I can write, or cross stitch instead of wasting an hour just staring at my phone.
I'm finding the person I used to be, the one before Facebook and my mobile phone was my world.
It is all right to be silent, to not have the radio or television constantly blaring. It's actually quite nice to read a book in complete silence absorbing the words and conjuring up images. It's all right to occasionally be bored as well. It's all right to live your own life at your own pace.