My friend went to an amusement park and reported that there was no quiet to be found there. She was not just talking about screaming children on a rollercoaster. She was talking about the speakers put into the seats, so that while you are waiting for your ride, there are commercials playing, guitar riffs ripping, or bits from movies playing. The goal is constant entertainment, constant stimulation, and most importantly, no time to feel or think critically. The same methods are used in a department store. This is an important tool of salesmanship: If you don’t think, then you can be encouraged to buy what is for sale while not noticing prices, and not pay attention to whether what you are doing feels satisfying, or is even what you want. Discos and concerts, with their flashy lights and piercingly loud music, prevent you from thinking or relating to another. Do this too much and you will find your mind buzzing like an amusement park: separated from your higher self, easily manipulated, until finally you become a consumption zombie. If depression or discontent settles in, then there are drugs and distractions for sale, ready to take you farther away from yourself. You can then pay no attention to the real problems of human existence, and thus embrace oblivion.

Escape. This is what alcohol, loud music, and background noise of radio and television help you to do. It is oblivion from truths that are unpleasant, anxiety that makes us want to hide, and depression that wants to be relieved by any means. This creates a tension because the self, as it truly is, wants to be exposed to the light of day. It is part of the journey of the soul.

While we seek oblivion from thinking and feeling, we also fear it. We make up stories about the after-life to comfort us. Meanwhile, we hide away from death, pushing it under the rug any time it crawls out. It is terrifying. Death is the ultimate oblivion. This creates a contradiction: On one side, many people don’t want to be with themselves, and yet, on the other, they don’t want the self to go away. We seek to live in Pleasantville all the days of our lives.

What is the alternative? Create the quiet space where, through introspection and observation, you can become more aware of your inner life. This will likely produce some elation, comfort, and relief, but may also trigger depressing moments when we take stock of what our life looks like, where it is has been, and where it is heading. It is from here where we can grow and mature. We are human beings and we can do this. Any therapist will tell you that no growth is possible until the issues are faced. The reality of that facing becomes our life’s work. It is the obstacle that must be confronted, again and again, because, like a child, we have to fall many times before we learn to walk.

I recently was walking on a path in the woods on a windless, bright, October day. I said to my friend, “You have to face what comes at you in life, and not escape from it. Do you agree?” Before my friend could answer, a large tree branch crashed to the ground right in front of us. “Ha!” we both yelled from being startled, and then my friend belted out a laugh at the seeming cosmic affirmation.

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