Earlier I read an article that was titled The sheer terror of being alone with our thoughts. I thought the title sounded interesting and want to see what it was about. As the title suggested it has something to do with thinking or just being alone with your own thoughts, obviously.
What I did not expect was to get some real insight after I was done reading it. That is what I love about reading articles or books or what have you, is the unexpected idea(s) that are stimulated in the lump of neurons between your eyes. The article’s main point is that humans, and mammals in general, have evolved to be constantly aware of their surroundings. So they are basically always on the alert that something bad is going to happen or that a predator is lurking in the bushed ready to pounce. While that characteristic is not as useful in today’s society it still is ingrained in who we are. We are always taking in information about our surroundings through various different stimuli.
With all that being said because we are programmed to focus so much on our surroundings that we rarely have any time to think to ourselves. In fact as the title of the article suggest, it is downright terrifying to have no outside stimulation. No matter where you go there is always some sort of stimulation be it visual, auditory, or touch, there is almost no part of your, mine included, day that is not bombarded with constant stimulation from your environment. There is a very interesting experiment that is described in the article where individuals were put into a sound proof room alone. In the room there was a button the delivered a mildly painful shock. Surprisingly rather than wait the 15 minutes just sitting there a portion of the patients shocked themselves. The researcher came to the conclusion that it is very bizarre and almost terrifyingly unnatural for a person to be left alone with their own thoughts, where their focus is inside, with no outside stimulation so to provide some sort of stimulation they shocked themselves.
While I think this all makes sense and I see what the article is getting at, I am not 100% on board with what they are saying. However, what the article touches on next I think as some unconscious level is true, maybe for some it is more conscious than for others. The author makes the statement that we use the constant barrage of technological stimulation to help cope with the human condition stating that.
“Heidegger also suggested that we spend much of our lives fleeing from the fact of our finitude, throwing ourselves into the world and its concerns, including technological distractions and diversions.
But there are also moments when the truth reveals itself to us. This happens in certain moods, among them anxiety and boredom, when a dawning awareness of the groundlessness of our ordinary, everyday pursuits transfigures the world. When that happens, we grasp as we otherwise rarely do that our lives are lived hovering over an abyss that at some level we know with complete certainty will eventually — perhaps a mere moment from now — swallow us whole, along with everything we’ve ever cared about.
That is a pretty powerful statement, and for the most part I agree with what he is saying. It always drives me crazy that my girlfriend is constantly on Facebook and looking at Instagram. I have never understood the fascination with social media but I am not here to judge. After reading this article I see a different side of the this situation. Why not always be distracted from what we believe is reality, and the fact that we are all going to die someday. On my lunch break at my work I usually take a nap in my car, away from where anyone will find me so I am not shunned of course. But to me I always told myself that that nap was an escape from reality for a few minutes, and I truly believe that, plus it helps break up the day. It is nice to get away from reality at times but I think it is dangerous to always have to have that stimulation or need it for that matter.
While I do not think that everyone walks around contemplating their mortality, some may, but for some the brief laps in life where nothing is coming in is so unnatural that the phone comes out and immediately to their favorite social media site. Anything to not have me sit alone with myself. It is very interesting to see how biology and technology merger to create a very bizarre social culture. For the most part this is the norm, how many times do you look over at people driving and see them at a red light and looking down at their phones. Rather than wait the 30 seconds at the light they have their phone out.
Is the Human Condition that powerful that we will do almost anything, including voluntarily harming ourselves rather than experience a few brief moments of quiet, free from distraction, unstimulating, real reality? I can only imagine what impact this will have on future generations. Will there be a point when we no longer have to experience real reality. Perhaps there will be a future where the brain is in constant barrage by various means to help cope with the very real and boring thing we call reality.
-The mysteries of the universe are only mysteries to a noisy and cluttered mind. Silence is the veil of God.
Not sure who said this but perhaps this is why we will never truly understand the universe…