Where is your mind? Does it sometimes feel like you are distracted at all times? When was the last time your mind felt truly at rest?
I love the recently-departed TV show Mad Men. I sincerely hope you do, too. If you’ve not yet seen even a moment of it, I sincerely envy your having the opportunity to discover and luxuriate in every moment of it.
Mad Men has a uniquely satisfying conclusion. All about Saṃsāra, I think. The closing sequence perfectly sums up the state of mind of its central character, and speaks perfectly of the state of mind of the times, then and now.
You are distracted at all times
I had to do a spot of travelling for work this week. A chance for plentiful podcast listening to pass the time whilst watching the autumnal countryside scroll by. The podcast is a remarkable and addictive medium. Sometimes what you hear taps uncannily into your own thoughts. Take this exchange from a podcast I listened to on my travels, between Nerdist podcast host Chris Hardwick and Mad Men creator Matthew Weiner. I think it tells you exactly what’s going on at the end of Mad Men. And exactly what’s going on right now:
Hardwick: “People are always distracting themselves, which is why time seems to move so fast. Because you are distracted at all times. You’re not noticing the passage of time.”
Weiner: “The mindfulness thing… Whenever there’s a technological boom like we’ve just had, with massive change, there are transcendental meditation movements to slow the mind down and pay attention to things. It happened in the 1920s, it happened again in the 1950s, it happened in the 1970s, and it’s happening right now. But a lot of it is about ‘I am addicted to stimulation. This is more stimulation than I’ve ever had. What was my mind like when it was at rest?’”
The web is right there
What was my mind like when it was at rest? Now there is a question. I’ve only very recently joined the smartphone generation. I wasn’t sure my mind would ever get the chance to rest, with the world and its web suddenly right there on tap, 24/7. Seems Mr Weiner had similar concerns:
“I didn’t have a smartphone for like forever, because I knew I couldn’t handle it. Looking at your phone to see what is going on… you are always looking for entertainment, you are always looking for a diversion of some kind. You don’t even know what’s you and what’s it.”
Finding out what you think
Ironically, the medium through which Mr Weiner was speaking is both a source of stimulation and a route back into the mind.
“I write to find out what I think,” Stephen King once said. At their best, podcasts work in a similar way. The podcast can, in theory, go anywhere. It can present short, accessible bursts of information. It can enable sprawling conversations, digging deep into the mind or minds of the speaker or speakers. It can take the listener to almost a meditative place. Both speaker and listener can end up far from where they began.
Podcasting is democratic. For most people, talking is easier than writing. With podcasting, the means of production is at most people’s fingertips. Blogging and vlogging are just as accessible.
Saying what you need to say can help your mind return to a state of rest. You have something to say. Why not give it a go?
What works for you? What was it like when your mind was at rest?