Cell phones either in our pockets, on the table or most insidiously, in our hands…constantly. Ringing, vibrating, pinging, dinging. If you think about it, the assault on our senses is never ending, akin to the ancient Chinese water torture but without the water. We try to look away, try to put it “up,” and even try to leave it behind, to no avail. It’s with us…constantly…and if we don’t feel it in our pockets, don’t have the tactile sensation of touching that device constantly, we are lost. We frantically search for it as though we need it to breathe, almost becoming panic-stricken as we hunt high and low for that little electronic device that so many of us claim, “has my entire life in it.”

I don’t recall having that problem with the first “brick” phones, those “I can kill an intruder with it if I need to” size behemoths that required a wrist loop or its own carrying case. Remember the bag phone?

I think radios mounted in cars were the first constant intrusion into occasional silence, or maybe the radio in general as it began to populate the American landscape in the 1920s. Entertainment was now had nearly 24 hours each day, along with news, special reports, and eventually, Presidential addresses under the guise of fireside chats. He was in your house, and you welcomed him with your undivided attention, the family gathering to hear the words of our chief elder.

Marconi’s invention led to the television, the almost always constantly “on” device in the house, if nothing else, for background noise, never giving our minds the chance to simmer down. We bombard ourselves with sound, with jangle, with everything we do, never allowing for welcome silence, a pause for the brain to process what’s been shoveled into our ears constantly without a minute’s rest, without a moment for the brain to breathe.

Relentless clatter, constant input, and overwhelming stimulus.

Is it any wonder our children cannot sit still for story hour? That so many cannot do silent work? That they must stare at their phones constantly, unable to pull themselves away even for a moment?

Watch teenagers together. They’ll be in a group, all staring at their phones while talking to each other. They call it multitasking. It is no wonder at all that so many teens cannot interact on a one-on-one basis, preferring the anonymity of their cell phones and alter egos to looking someone in the eye while they interact. Constant stimulus with no respite. Even when they try to sleep they can’t, for the phone, like a little devil on their shoulder, is whispering into their ear they’re missing something, the world’s turning without them and they must find out why.

We cannot endure the silent room, our stimulus-starved brain demanding to be fed, the helpless person succumbing, unaware of just how much control they’re under, and how helpless they are to resist.

So, they pick up their phone or turn on their iPad in the middle of the night, the little man on their shoulder smiling, his mission accomplished, as he and the brain he’s in cahoots with laughing at the control they weild over this dependent person. The advertisers laugh as do the propagandists, the pundits, and everyone else associated with this sleep deprived, over-stimulated individual.

There is no escape from this escape room. There is no way out, unless, as a drug addled addict, one simply forces us to quit it all—cold turkey. Leave it all behind. Go back to dial-up phones, or maybe the cans on a string. Remove television, radio and anything else other than books to reduce stimuli and let the brain get some rest. Let it recover, scarred, bruised, and battered, maybe even riddled with CTE because of all the injected stimulus it received over the years.

But if we’re going to do that, maybe we should go back to horse and buggy…or the bicycle…or walking. Maybe we should return to our true roots as humans and begin hunting and gathering as our far distant ancestors did.

Or, maybe we can embrace the notion of moderation, especially when it comes to our kids; Weening ourselves off the technology that is taking over our lives. You’re reading this because of technology so I’m preaching my own demise, and the demise of many others. But it’s more than that, much more.

Technology in and of itself is not a bad thing; activity for the brain is not a bad thing. It is often said the brain is like a muscle; it must be used if it is to get stronger and remain vital. What we’re doing today, however, is like ramming it into a wall every day. We’re bombarding our most vital organ with sounds, action, and constant stimulation as a drug addict must continue to feed the beast. The first hit is as high as you’ll ever get and you’ll spend the rest of your life chasing that high, coaxing those pesky endorphins from their resting place in our brains to constant release. They need more and more if they’re going to keep producing the effect we desire, so we keep feeding them with little to no respite.

We’ve become something like zombies, slaves to constant stimuli with no end in sight.

So, here’s my solution.

Embrace silence. When you get in the car, turn nothing on, other than the engine. Listen to the silence. Allow your mind to search for whatever it needs to search for with no stimulation other than watching the road.

Come home to your favorite chair and sit…in silence. Delight in the nothingness, or the creaking of the wooden frame, or the random bug that hits the picture window.

Breathe. Deep. Breathe to the bottom of your lungs, extending your lower belly on the inhale, your chest motionless. Exhale through your nose, slowly.

Relax. Let your brain simmer down. Feel the boil slowing. Maybe you’ll hear the wind outside blowing against your residence, the spider in the corner murmuring a little curse because her web isn’t just so.

Maybe you’ll hear a mouse giggle or a bird laugh..

Fifteen minutes…that’s all. It’s a start. Fifteen minutes for your over-stimulated brain to discover itself again. Fifteen minutes.

With any luck, you’ll hear nothing at all and enjoy it.