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May 21, 2011

The young boy sat in the back seat of his parents car with his grandmother.   They drove through a medium sized American town.  And Ken recounted his experience some 60 years later to me in a Bangkok Restaurant.  As they were driving through town his grandmother commented “Why do these people look so restless?”  It was the 1940’s. It was a time before Universities had Departments of Sociology or as one conservative colleague used say : “Department of Trendology’.  This woman was born in the Nineteenth Century.    Yet she was a social commentator, she was describing not only what she saw but in some way how she felt.  

Had she lived to see the Technological Revolution, like so many of her generation, she would have been overwhelmed.  But I see a restlessness in the midst of the digital express train, bullet train in this case.  Everyone is busy.  If you are not seen as busy you are of little worth.  The eminent Australian Researcher Hugh McKay describes it as “T he Theory of Distraction”.  Reflection has little Kudos in our society.  Little wonder people seek meditation and Yoga.  We live in an intensely neurotic world.  ‘Catch up soon”, ‘Busy now but will call you”….People at tables in cafes corroded to iPhones like robotic automons…distracting themselves at every opportunity to download an app, check Faux Book, decipher emails, or just blankly send text messages for reasons that bewilder.  

Mindfulness does not seem to impinge in the West the way it does in the East.  We are urgent about our daily lives.  How often do we remain still.  I think the first Retreat I attended was as a 14 year old school boy.  I remember the silence.  It appealed and later in life I was to experience two weeks of silence.  At 18 it was an amazing experience albeit within the walls of a Catholic Seminary.

We need each other as psychiatrists.  It is our moral duty to heal one another.  Whether we can do that digitally I am doubtful.  I remember a wiser man than myself saying to me, “When you are controlling the madness that is fine, the problem arises when the madness controls you”.

We needs rest from time to time.  Without rest we can only be restless.

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