#7 – CUT THE CRAP! – Hell is other people – J. P. Sartre

“Quiet is peace. Tranquility. Quiet is turning down the volume knob on life. Silence is pushing the off button. Shutting it down. All of it. – Amir”

― Khaled Hosseini

I stand a good chance of being accused of impatience, selfishness, and many other less-than-complimentary charges against my character with this next thought. Julie, the dogs, and I were out walking in the woods on a Sunday morning at around seven o’clock. Being a Sunday, the general white-noise levels were at their weekly low. This morning was sunny. The birds were singing and on good form, and we had seen some deer and raptors. It is fair to say we were feeling quite connected to nature at this time. Each of us had visited our sanctuaries to clear our minds of as much inner turbulence as possible. Peace of mind and serenity were ours for a few precious moments each Sunday morning, as others just never came to this place on this day and never at this time. Never?

Suddenly I was startled by seeing a large animal in my peripheral vision. I was a little confused, as I expected a deer to instantly materialise and then vanish as quickly as it had appeared. In reality, there appeared what can only be described as a large, crazy dog. The craziness seemed to be contagious, for Smudge and Jake instantly became agitated, and soon all three were running around like headless chickens. Eventually, our new friend’s unwanted attentions induced Jake to bark, as he likes to do as a form of very loud protest when he is being harassed. With the silence broken and all control of the situation lost hopelessly, I felt myself becoming agitated at the mood this four-legged whirlwind had introduced to our calm Sunday morning by seemingly appearing from nowhere. But this was only the first scene of this Sunday morning performance.

Scene two erupted when an equally loud teenager appeared, screaming at the dog. We heard him before we saw him. The turbulent situation intensified, as obviously the dog was not listening to the boy. So, lots of louder shouting was the answer. Why didn’t I think of that? I spoke to the teenager, but alas, he seemed not to be from this planet and was too busy shouting to listen to anyone.

By the time the third actor arrived for the final scene, I was resenting their existence. Actor number three was also yelling at the dog and the teenage boy. Bliss. In the middle of this, he felt obliged to start a conversation with me about the amazing phenomena of there being mud on the ground in the woods, and then moved on to complain about the weather. The weather was gorgeous. I must have had my best “sod off” face on, as before I could react in any civilised manner, the gruesome threesome hurtled off into the distance. I am aware that many humans are just not comfortable with silence and feel the need to fill in any silent pauses with all sorts of noise, but this was just ridiculous. Maybe it is always ridiculous. What is it about silence (and being alone) that humans fear so much? They must always have noise: talk, music, and television – anything to distract from serious thought.

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Julie and I stood in open-mouthed amazement. What had just happened? A human and canine whirlwind had appeared, maybe taking a shortcut to somewhere, but I doubt that, as they had seemed to be on a mission. Whatever their purpose, it must have been viewed by them as an inconvenience and a duty, as they were oblivious to the beauty and peacefulness of the place that I consider they were desecrating. They saw nothing, they felt nothing, they heard no birdsong. They were 100 per cent disconnected, focused on all things apart from that moment. The contrast for me between the mental states we had achieved that morning and what the twenty-first-century robot invaders had on their minds made me consider this thought worthy of inclusion.

Perhaps this invasion was well-timed after all. This invasion affected my mood, and it was very contagious. I felt turbulence inside myself and hostility towards the others who had shown such little respect for other humans’ peace. I did realise this was a reaction that I would need to change and that only by exhibiting calm could I ever hope to battle the forces we had met that morning. Calm may be just as contagious. I made a conscious effort to restore some calm and maybe begin to understand. The turbulence had spread fast – that may be the default setting for the twenty-first century.

What is the lesson here? I had often seen dog walkers speed-walking through nature and knew that they were exercising the dog and themselves into the bargain, often begrudgingly. They were performing a duty in an area where one performs such duties. They were oblivious to the surroundings, and their minds were elsewhere. I can only comment here, without this thought becoming too deep, that although you may be out amongst nature and the natural world, that does very little to ensure that your mind accompanies you on your walk. Without total presence and participation at the moment, you miss the richness and release that can be found by reconnecting to nature as often as possible. My woods invaders created a storm more tumultuous and damaging than any natural weather condition. It’s a storm we all must learn to weather, and we must introduce as much calm as is possible to ourselves. It’s an unnatural reminder of how separate man has become from that which he is one with. If only man could take a moment occasionally, he would begin to awaken and smell the roses, or at least see the roses, and that might start a re-connection that would gladden his heart. Failing that occurrence, it could be argued that if a man remains disconnected he may well become more like the machines that he worships and cannot live without and less of the unique species we once recognised as human. The goal remains harmony between man and nature, man and man, and the man with himself. Nowhere is it written that man’s ultimate evolution should be harmony with machines, let alone being controlled by machines. There are many unnerving signs that such is already a reality – a reality to which the victims remain less than blissfully ignorant.

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