Thursday, September 23, 2021

Taking Control

My mind is a chatterbox, running constantly, whether at work, at home, in the car, or walking.  There seems to be no escape from the clamor of attention that my mind asks of me.

Often, I'm brainstorming ways to improve what I do for my job.  But more often, it's just worry, plain and simple.  

To be frank, that's because I just feel a lot like an imposter.  What do I really know?  How can I really contribute?  So I stay ultra-busy.  However, I can guarantee you, I am not being paid to work 24/7.  

Yet it seems like I do.  Perhaps you do too. Work-life is out of control. Worry-life too.

Let me ask you a question that I'm asking myself.  

Why do I have this constant itch to check my phone, my email, my messages?  

In order to answer this, I thought I'd have a mythical conversation with Socrates, returning to our modern world today, who crosses our paths today.


Worry Wart: Wow. That is a strange costume. It almost looks like something straight out of ancient Athens and you too.

Socrates: That's because I am.

Worry Wart: You are what?

Socrates: I am Socrates.

Worry Wart: Come on.  I admit that you look like the genuine article but what is you gig?

Socrates: What do you mean gig?

Worry Wart: You know, what's your deal? 

Socrates: Deal?

Worry Wart: Your stick?

Socrates: Oh, that's my walking stick.  You know I am getting a bit old.

Worry Wart: No, I mean what are you doing here, at our law school?

Socrates: I'm doing what I always do, observe, question, and learn.

Worry Wart: Okay.  I'll play your little game.

Socrates: Games have very little to do it.

Worry Wart: What's the it?

Socrates: Thinking.  So shall we begin?

Worry Wart:  Fine.  Let the "games" begin. Oh, I"m sorry, let the "thinking" begin.

Socrates: May I ask you about the slim box in your hand?  You seem to keep rubbing it or something.  Is it your good luck charm?

Worry Wart: Oh no. It's my phone, a pocket phone. It lets me communicate with others and, as you say, to observe, question, and think.

Socrates: What are you thinking about?

Worry Wart: Oh I'm just checking my email?

Socrates: Email?

Worry Wart: Just a phrase of speech.  It's just a fancy way to say checking letters that are sent to me straight to my phone, sort of like an old parchment back in your day, without the delay.

Socrates: I see.  But you keep checking it quite frequently? Are you expecting a letter?

Worry Wart: You never know.

Socrates: That's what we are here to fine out.  What we know.

Worry Wart: Ok, I'll answer your question.  I'm a professor, perhaps like you, and I've got a lot of students that I work with, and you just never know when they might need my help.  And, I work in a big organization, a school, with lots of communications from the administrators and supervisors and my colleagues too.  You just never know when someone might write an email, I mean a "letter," that will need a quick response from me.

Socrates: Seems tedious and tiring to me, to always be alert, waiting for what might never come.

Worry Wart: That's the way that we do it in this modern age.  No time to waste.  

Socrates: But aren't you wasting time, constantly touching your phone to check your, what do you call it, emails?

Worry Wart: I hadn't thought about that. I didn't even realize that I was checking my phone constantly.

Socrates: Now we are getting somewhere.  The path to learning begins when we realize that we know so little, about ourselves and especially about others.

Worry Wart: Excellent point, Socrates. But what do you suggest I do?  You never know. There could be an urgent message at just this moment and I will miss out.

Socrates: What do you suggest?  Are you missing out on other tasks, perhaps even more important, why you wait on a letter that might never come?

Worry Wart: I hadn't thought about that too.  Let's see. But I am so busy.

Socrates: Why are you so busy?

Worry Wart: That's easy. Because I have so much to do.

Socrates: And, why do you have so much to do?

Worry Wart: That's easy. Because I am so busy.

Socrates: It seems like we've gone in a big circle. I'm beginning to wonder whether your phone is a device that makes you go in a circle, wandering aimlessly from task to task, worried that you might miss something important. Why don't you try being "un-busy?"

Worry Wart: If it were only that easy.  But you are a person of ancient ways.  The modern world is the way of bustle and hustle.  If I don't stay busy, I am at risk of missing something, or worse, being replaced.

Socrates: By another phone?

Worry Wart: Oh no, by another person with a phone.

Socrates: So is you're real worry that you are replaceable?  Just a cog in a big machine that can easily be switched out for a new version?

Worry Wart: I suppose so.  But I wonder if it's something else, this strange tendency that I haven't noticed before, this constant itching, to always be touching and looking at my phone. I wonder if it's fear.

Socrates: If so, we can find out.  What might you be afraid of?

Worry Wart: Hmm. This is a bit embarrassingly and humbling.

Socrates: The truth often is.

Worry Wart: I might just be afraid of myself, to be alone, to be quiet, to be present with myself. In short, to be real.

Socrates: So what might you do about that?

Worry Wart:  I might just have to switch off this phone, or put it away, or even better yet, remove the emails from my phone so that I am just not so tempted to always be looking at my phone for the latest messages and news.

Socrates: Hmm. Go on, please.

Worry Wart:  Well, that seems like it might just be a concrete start out of this maddening electronic circle that seems to have me roped into tangles.

Socrates: Indeed it does seem so.  But I'm not sure what concrete is, though I've heard of Crete.


Notes to Reader:

(1) And that's what I just did.  I just removed my work email from my smartphone.  It's not my work phone after all, anyhow.  

(2) I got this idea of a hypothetical conversation with ancient Socrates when I stumbled onto a book at my local bookstore by philosopher Peter Kraft, entitled "The Best Things in Life," which involves the tale of a mythical Socrates visiting a college campus asking people about their lives. (Scott Johns).

Advice, Stress & Anxiety | Permalink


Post a comment