2/7/08

Hush Yo' Mind

On the way to work each morning, I listen to the radio. It's weird if I don't; I drive along a few moments in silence, start to feel strange and lonely and quickly click it back on. The NPR announcer comes right back, in his comfortingly flat, dull, midwestern tone, and resumes feeding my brain things to think about.

My brain gets fed all day long, actually, and all evening too, with emails and articles and mp3s and blogs like this one and notes to myself and client feedback and phone calls from friends and interesting anthills I pass on my walk to lunch.

If I have a moment of "down" time, when the thought onslaught momentarily slows up, a million song lyrics and movie scenes and forgotten conversations immediately flood in like unwanted guests to refill my brain. They mingle and chatter and tell boring stories and repeat themselves to no end.

It's worst when I'm riding my motorcycle. I know it's supposed to be relaxing and mind-clearing, but I must be doing it wrong. All I can think about, unless the road is especially twisty or hilly or unfamiliar, is how far until the next curve, or whether that's a hidden path off the main road up ahead, or whether I should have taken a picture of that abandoned house I just passed.

I think that's probably why I spend so much time shopping for accessories for the bike -- trying to bolt on some distractions or gadgets to occupy my mind while I'm in the process of just sitting there, waiting to get somewhere.

"Should I put a compass there? It might be cool to always know what direction I'm pointing. I wonder if it's too close to metal, and the readings would be off? Or I could just mount a GPS over... there, on that space for a bracket, and run the wire along... how long until the exit?"

They do make some pretty good headphones you can use under a motorcycle helmet, and I've considered ordering those. They seal out the wind noise quite a bit, which would be nice, and replace it with music from an ipod or satellite radio receiver or whatever. Part of me thinks that would fix the problem. I could even wear them when I'm mowing the lawn, and protect my hearing at the same time I'm entertaining myself.

But I'm not so sure. I really find myself envying people who can drive long distances in silence -- like Penny -- or do simple things like kayak down a stream without driving themselves absolutely NUTSO IN THE KABUTSO with their constant need for stimuli. I wish I could just turn my brain off, or down at least, at will, but it doesn't work.

And it's not like I'm insanely productive either. Like I mentioned, most of these thoughts are just stale rehashes of previous thoughts, or half-formed notions that may have been great ideas or may have been random jibberish, but it doesn't matter either way because they're quickly left in the dust as my brain speeds off to the next noisy nowhere.

So I'm asking: should I just get the headphones? Would that calm my brain enough to make motorcycling and lawnmowing and flying on planes a genuinely peaceful experience, and give my thoughts a much-needed rest?

Or would I just, as I suspect, be making myself worse by intentionally lading myself with one more distraction from the life that keeps slipping through my fingers?

How have I let myself get so addicted to input? Is it still possible to learn stillness and serenity? I want the feeling I see in this picture, of escape from racing thoughts.

How can I have peace and quiet when peace and quiet drive me crazy?

3 comments:

josh said...

Crap I'm the exact same WAY!!! I even listen to NPR (because all other radio makes me feel violent). Most of the time I need the input, food for thought, but sometimes I really just need the background noise to keep my mind from stirring. (Read: It can NOT include commercials.) Plus I have this bad habit of talking like Samuel L Jackson when the radio isn't on, or making up my own horrible songs (last song written: That dude in front of me is a douche!). I have no problem singing these songs at full volume.

I've decided that true, unmanufactured peace is a lost relic of childhood.

*Sigh*

Anonymous said...

here's some pragmatic unsolicited advice...

concentrate on driving for the sake of safety. this will lead you safely to the moments of enlightment. stop and smell the roses. the most imporant step is to stop. (look both ways)

Do this, unless you are supposed to be utlimately enlightened on the side of the road by a 18 wheeler who fell asleep bc he's pushing his body to drive 20 hours a day just to make an early drop off.

peace be with you, and be safe.

Colin said...

Wise words! Thanks, and I didn't realize how completely reckless it probably sounds to even talk about multi-tasking while motorcycling.

I'll heed your advice, and ride mindfully (and be on the lookout for lunatic truckers -- especially ones who sound like Samuel Jackson).