“There are too many mediocre books which exist just to entertain your mind. Therefore, read only those books which are accepted without doubt as good.” Seneca, d. 65
“Life seems but a quick succession of busy nothings.” Jane Austen, d. 1817
“The difference between real material poison and intellectual poison is that most material poison is disgusting to the taste, but intellectual poison, which takes the form of cheap newspapers or bad books, can unfortunately sometimes be attractive.” Leo Tolstoy, d. 1910
It has been long recognized that occupying our minds with things trivial crowds out what is most important. People who lived centuries ago thought there were too many unimportant distractions? Imagine that. Seneca, Austen, and Tolstoy didn’t even have to contend with smart phones or Netflix.
As Ash Wednesday and Lent approached this year, I read a newspaper article (on my phone) with suggestions about reducing unimportant distractions. What especially caught my notice was how the phone itself was a major source of the unimportant.
I charge my phone on my nightstand, and I am my own worst enemy at night. I go to bed reading articles or checking social media. If I wake in the middle of the night and cannot get back to sleep, I read the news on my phone. I tend to be a politics and news junkie so I just HAVE to read the latest. So I often find myself reading a political article in the middle of the night that leaves me mad or sad or both.
I decided it was time to remove the distraction. Wanting to get “spiritual credit” for this completely sensible mental health move, I gave up the phone by my bed at night for Lent. The simple solution was to put the phone across the room at night. It was actually easier than I thought it would be.
I’m back to keeping printed books on my nightstand to read. If I can’t sleep, I meditate or pray. What a novel approach.