Does Our Excessive Busy-Ness Make Us Feel Important?

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This past week or so I read two articles that struck home with me. Each dealt with by-products of modern culture. The first, and I didn’t note where I saw it, had to do with constant background noise from television, radio, CD players, etc., citing how averse we’ve become to “dead air.” That is, we’re uncomfortable with silence. In the radio business there is nothing worse than dead air. I suppose that it’s a necessity to have continuous sound or chatter because if a potential listener tunes in and there are long, thoughtful pauses between sentences they might turn the channel thinking that the station is off the air.

The problem comes when we fill our lives with noise, with chatter, with continuous background music. When we’re with other people and we don’t know what to say, we feel pressure to fill the air with babble. Why, when someone is silent, do we immediately wonder if something is wrong? Quiet is actually healthy. We don’t have to fill the air with noise. When we’re with others, why is it so difficult to just enjoy the quiet together? Sometimes quiet contains the best moments of all.

The second piece that caught my eye, and stopped me in my tracks, was an article at ReadWave titled “You’re Way Too Busy To Read This.” ReadWave is a nicely designed hub for short, thought provoking articles and stories. Three minute reads is their specialty. It’s a gathering place for new writers, providing an opportunity to share one’s own work in a different kind of social media environment.

The title itself hooked me in. Yes, I was way too busy to read this, but I was intensely curious where the writer was going with it. So I clicked the link and took the plunge. You can always leave in ten seconds if the opening fails to grab you. But Sydney Geyer’s opening did grab me. It went with it.

Modern society is a place where stress is in vogue. The frequency with which we drop hints about the trials of everyday life goes largely unnoticed, but it’s a quiet problem reaching epidemic proportions. It has become a reflex to fill the silence with grievances about chores we must do, engagements that we must attend, and responsibilities that we have assumed. And, at this point, the proportion of conversation dominated by complaint has reached unacceptable heights.

Are you talking to me? Even if you don’t agree with all his generalizations, there’s real food for thought here. Paragraph two tightens the screws.

Why do we do it? What is it about external pressures that make us want to commiserate endlessly with others? A significant part of the allure lies in the desire to feel as though we’re not alone — as the saying goes, misery loves company. But something more lies under the surface. Our stress levels, in a sense, have assumed the role of a measurable form of importance, a meter-stick against which we can compare our contributions to those of our peers.

The next paragraph sums up the root of the matter.

Our culture is one that glorifies being busy…. The busier we are the more significant we feel.

It’s a problem. Maybe moreso for some than others, but it hits at a core issue for many lives. What is it that gives my life meaning? And the corollary: at the end of the day, what really matters?

If you’re not too busy, it’s a good read.

Meantime, hang in there. And if you can find the time, stop and smell some roses.

If you didn’t have time to read this today, come back tomorrow. It will probably still be here. And clap if it’s something you needed to hear.

Originally published at in 2014.

An avid reader who writes about arts, culture, literature & other life obsessions. @ennyman3 Look for my books on Amazon

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