Shawshank Redemption was nearing the end. I watched Red travel on the bus going to Fort Hancock, Texas. It struck me. No one on that bus was listening to a Walkman, iPod, reading something on their phone or tablet. It was a long, quiet ride from Maine to Texas.
A bit over 30 years ago, Sony invented the Walkman. It was a first. You could take your music with you. And block out the rest of the world with stereo headphones.
Jogging and walking no longer had to be a slow silent slog. The daily commute, the plane trip, the time relaxing on the beach could all have a soundtrack.
With the Walkman, we could become our own island – isolating ourselves from boredom and brethren.
We also isolated ourselves from our self. And it might be eating us alive.
Meditation is shown to build the brain. Recent studies show meditation increases gray matter around the hippocampus, a part of our brain that is key in learning and memory. And it shrinks gray matter around the amygdala, an area of the brain that drives our fear, stress and anxiety. Better learning and memory and less knee-jerk anxiety and fear. Not a bad trade-off.
Meditation takes time. It requires us to disengage from our daily affairs. We once had times in our lives where we had no choice but to disengage. We might not have been mindful in those times. We were in a disengaged state of mind.
The Walkman (and the barrage of media, devices and content that swirls around us daily) encroach on the space and time that was once freely available for us to be disengaged. Now, disengaging from the world of content requires the determination of Sisyphus.
Ideas are often born in the quiet gaps of our lives … Peace and tranquility dwell in those empty spaces, too. Those gaps are an endangered species.
Content fills our lives. It fills the gaps of innovative thought, peace and tranquility. As the gaps close, so closes our minds.
You might think that none of this really matters. You really don’t mind.
Mindful disengagement builds the brain. Might it also be true that mindless engagement breaks it down.
Redemption is possible. You can change the outcome. You just have to exercise mind over matter.