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February 24, 2013 9:48 pmComments are Disabled

I got a haircut yesterday, and it would seem to be just a normal everyday experience, except while I was sitting there staring at myself in the mirror it occurred to me that this was one of the few moments in my daily life where I am not being bombarded with visual or audio stimulation.

When I wake up, the first thing I do is check my email and morning social networks. When I am on the bus to work, I either read a book or play chess online. I spend a good ten hours out of each day on the computer. When I take a break, I am listening to or playing music. On weekends, if I am not socializing with friends I am talking on the phone or watching TV. When I eat, I usually do it in combination with some social activity or watching something or listening. Even when I am going to sleep, I often have a podcast playing in the background. In other words, there is hardly a single moment in my day where I am sitting silently, completely unconnected to any external stimuli. My haircut may be the only time that happens. This seems sad to me, and I’m sure it’s not a unique experience.

What has happened to me that I cannot abide any time by myself with my own thoughts? I don’t have anything particularly scary to think about, or anything that would prevent me from being introspective. I don’t usually feel lonely or depressed. Yet I always feel the need to be constantly engaged with, and when I am too lazy to do the engagement myself, I turn on a machine to do the engaging for me. Internet browsing and television are probably the worst distractions, because they provide no level of intellectual engagement. At least when reading, I am forced to exchange ideas with the author. Chess is a good game because it forces strategic thinking. And I enjoy educational podcasts like RadioLab and EconTalk. But even with educational engagements, I still am being led to think by something else, and don’t have the time to do my own thinking.

There was something about the experience of the haircut that made me think about all the thinking I *can’t* do when everything else is on.

When I was in middle school, I had a teacher that would take us outside for “sky writing,” where we were obligated to stare at the sky for 5 minutes and then write. It worked very well for me, as it gave me an opportunity to clear my head of distractions and even to change perspective for a second, to realize the vastness of the universe outside of my self. Perhaps it would benefit me to take 5-10 minutes each day to just meditate in the absence of distraction.

Or, I can just get haircuts more often.

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