Monday, July 19, 2021

Your messages can wait

Walking the city streets of the 21st Century is fascinating. Sometimes I stand alongside two intersecting roads and watch people queue in their vehicles, awaiting permission to move. This permission is granted by an unseen entity, but is signaled with a light.

Frequently I observe people hurredly reaching for their phones so that they may quickly check recent correspondance while they wait for the light signal. Some people even continue to gaze at their phones after the signal to move has been given. By the gods, what an urge. People must place great importance on checking for correspondance every few minutes.

I am reminded of an anecdote from a philosopher who lived around 400 years after my bodily death. His name was Seneca. He practiced a philosophy that was founded by the people who gathered and talked at the Stoa Poikile, a nicely decorated area near the Agora where I spent my time. He found it amusing to watch people waiting for letters to arrive by ship. They had been waiting for weeks to hear from their family and friends, and one might think that waiting a few minutes more would make little difference. But no. They would stampede towards the boat in a frenzy, just to get their letter a minute or two earlier. As if that would make any real difference. Seneca would quietly wait for the rabble to move on before finding his letters in peace.

It seems that people have not changed much in 2000 years. But I think the pressure we put on ourselves to always be available, to constantly check for news, and to immediately respond to correspondence, can be a cause of stress. Next time you're tempted to pick up your phone while driving, ask yourself "will waiting 15 minutes to read the message cause any real harm in the world?" or "will the person who sent the message think any less of me for not reading it while in charge of a car?" If you're honest with yourself, you may find that the sense of urgency to read the message is a product of your own mind and is something you can change.

Drive safely, and may Tyche (Fortuna) help you avoid heavy traffic.