Turn off the white noise to fully experience lifeBy Mike Milke, author and journalistIn a world where many people have instant text messaging, ,several phones, the , and a smorgasbord of unlimited webinformation, lifes challenges today are not the ones faced by our ancestors. While theirs wereabout finding a way to eke out a slightly better life than their narrow circumstances allowed, ourworld requires a conscious denial of opportunities.Think back one hundred years. With the exception of the tiniest sliver of the population,most people faced daily scarcity. The food they ate was necessarily local (and limited thepossibility for a healthier diet); communication beyond their immediate surroundings wasrestricted to letters and in-person visits. Even for those who had telephones, long-distance callingwas prohibitively expensive. As for vacations, if taken at all, they were close to home or at therelatives. And only the rich could spare the money and time to see exotic locales that many nowassume as an annual rite and right. Such generations, to say nothing of the ones that precededthem, knew scarcity as a fact of daily life.In contrast, today, while poverty yet exists at home and abroad, and in some places moreseverely than othersNorth Korea and sub-Saharan Africa are examplesmuch of the worldendures a new predicament rarely considered: abundance. Thats a better problem to face thanchronic shortages of food and opportunities. Still, for anyone who wants to live out what Platocalled the good life, the challenge is to face this fact: If we want a better, more rewardingexistence, we have to say no more often than yes. Fail the temptation offered by abundance,and the waistline explodes, the mind atrophies, and the deepest potential joysdiscoveredthrough conversation and contemplation and by mastery of some skill, sport, art, or careeraresacrificed to a twittered and inconsequential life.An advantage exists for those who choose the better over the banal. Those who can shutup and shut out the unhelpful distractions long enough to let the useful thoughts and activitiesinto their soul can then accomplish something valuable. While [that is] counterintuitive, theworld will never belong to those who engage in every distraction. The world will not build futureshrines to those who e-mail, Facebook, text, Twitter, and talk their lives away but never haveanything useful to say in all their virtual activities. They have never taken the time to ignore thefrenetic present long enough to learn from the past or from some still small voice. What wouldbe the point of trekking into the great outdoors, but with little music buds stuck in ones ears, andthen missing the roar of a river or the call of one bird to another?The most profound books, the most sublime symphonies, and lifes rare beautifulmoments result from those who choose to say no to lifes many siren calls of opportunisticdistractions. Such men and women also have the most impact on the world around themprecisely because they found their own solid center. It is from that solidity that they can thenoffer others something unique. Case in point: Had Glenn Gould been raised in the Internet ageand succumbed to every possible distraction, the world would have missed out on the fullactualization of his talents; the world would also have been poorer.In much of human history, men and women necessarily devoted every waking moment toscratching out a basic life of subsistence. These days, our challenge is to block out the avalancheof cheap opportunities that can make us satiated, content, oblivious, and dull.
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