When my daughter was born many of my friends gave her presents. Quite a few of these were rattles.
We bought toys for her. One she liked was a device that had different ‘attractions’. Press a button and a clown would pop up. Move a handle and a nursery rhyme would start playing.
And, when she was lying on a blanket, we put a toy over her. It had crossed arches and there were figures hanging down that she could grasp or kick. Some made musical noises. Others rotated rapidly. Still others were squishy to grasp.
And, when my grandson was born, he had all these and many more. He had electronic devices that could sing “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” and recite the alphabet and do all manner of intriguing, attention getting things.
And now it hits me like a blow.
This is how we were trained, and are now training the next generation, to focus on stuff outside. Out there is where our attention always is.
This is now so habitual that we are incapable of sitting quietly by ourselves for even a few minutes. After a hard day do you turn on the TV and look for what you can watch on Netflix or Amazon Prime? Would you even consider not watching anything or reading anything and just being quiet?
I rest my case.
As Kafka put it, and I am summarizing, all of our problems are caused by the fact that we are unable to sit quietly in a room by ourselves.
The training to run after shiny objects outside, always outside, begins early.
Think about it!
And I want to tell you about a hilarious method of diffusing anger.
I was speaking with Vernon Sankey, the former CEO of Reckitt & Colman – now Reckitt – and he shared an anecdote.
He was part of a group of travelers whose flight was canceled. One of his fellow passengers went ballistic. He screamed at the hapless airline employee who was trying to help them and sent her fleeing in tears. And then he turned around to seek another target for his wrath.
Vernon tapped him on the shoulder and said, “That was magnificent! I have never seen a better performance. How on earth do you do it?”
Puzzled, the man asked him what he was talking about.
“What you did just now,” Vernon told him. “You played the part of someone really mad, and you did it so well. No one would ever have guessed that you were quite cool, that you were only putting on a show to get some action. Do you do this often? How did you get to be so good at it?”
And, of course, the man slipped into being a serene person who was acting angry. He even smiled.
Vernon is a tall avuncular figure, and he has gravitas, so he could pull this off.
I intend to try this myself when a similar situation arises.