My son recently sent me an article called, "Men would rather give themselves electric shocks than sit quietly" by John Timmer. Essentially, a research study was done to show how well people could be alone with their own thoughts. They discovered that for many people, even a short time of 15 minutes, was quite hard. To quote John Timmer on his website, "But then given 15 minutes on their own in an empty room, 2/3 of the male participants ended up giving themselves a shock to avoid the tedium of their own company." Yes, you read that right. To avoid the boredom in their 15 minute span, 2/3 of men self-administered an electric shock to themselves. Yes, this is a strange test, but it is also a strange thing to do to oneself.
I thought about that article last week when my son and I were at a meal together. He had finished eating and I was talking with the people across the table from us. My son began to build towers with salt and pepper shakers and cups. He couldn't go to high with only two shakers and a cup and plate. But he could not sit their quietly. Obviously, he did not consider the conversation worth entering. (I occasionally played paper football at restaurants with sugar packets as we awaited our food. I don't know if I ever told him that.)
On the other hand, I donated blood platelets a couple months ago. I could have watched a movie, but I had no desire to do so. I wanted to read, but I was not physically able to do so; I did not realize that going into the procedure. So, for three hours I sat, thought, observed, pondered, and prayed. Was it torturous? Not really. However, the next time I might watch a movie, if there is any good one.
But why can't we sit quietly? No good reason was given in the article. In fact, it was suggested that distractions might be welcomed. What would be interesting to know is if people 100 years ago would be able to sit quietly, or even 200 years ago. Would there be any change? Has our increasingly distracted life made it impossible to sit quietly?
Of course, I should note that John Timmer closed with a quote of Blaise Pascal who lived from 1623-1662, almost 400 years ago. What did Blaise Pascal say, "All human evil comes from a single cause, man's inability to sit still in a room."