The Fine Art of Daydreaming
1. Daydream. 2. The condition of being lost in thought.
”Sit in reverie and watch the changing color of the waves that break upon the idle seashore of the mind.” — Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Have you noticed that people don’t daydream very much anymore? When was the last time you saw someone staring out a window or sitting quietly absorbed in thought? Daydreaming, or reverie as the French call it, seems to be a lost art. We have replaced it with our IPhones, and there is no daydreaming app (God help us if someone creates one).
It seems we now spend more and more of our free moments fixated on our mobile devices, reading, socializing, watching programs, playing games. Since we can do virtually anything within the confines of its rectangular screen, we do. But as the phone absorbs so much of our spare time, what becomes of our thought patterns, and to our ability to daydream?
Let’s suppose that reverie is not just an idle waste of time, but an essential mental (and visual) break from the constant electronic stimulation of our modern lives. And that daydreaming gives us a chance to sort our thoughts, to clear our minds, and as the name implies, to dream. As such, it would be essential to our well being. So what will become of us if we loose our capacity for reverie?
I began pondering these things recently when I noticed (with dismay) how often I defaulted to my phone when faced with a few minutes to spare. Beyond checking voice or e-mail, I was using my phone at an alarming rate. I carried it with me everywhere, like a child with a security blanket. I became keenly aware of the ways it kept me from face to face interactions, of the example I was setting for my children, of the sharp pain in my neck from craning towards the tiny glowing screen. These were the obvious things. What I didn’t perceive was that the phone was keeping me from… myself. That it had become a barrier between myself and my thoughts. It was clearly time for a break, a fast of sorts, from my phone and it’s many allurements.
It was difficult at first. In my free moments I felt restless, unable to decide what to do with myself. But ever so slowly the desire to look to my phone for distraction diminished. I found myself picking up books off the shelf, or using my sketchbook more often. And sometimes I just looked out the window and allowed my mind to wander. It was that very act of reverie that was to me most freeing. I felt comfortable within my thoughts and that gave me a more direct connection to the state of my soul.
I know it may sound silly that such a small break from technology should have such a profound impact. But in some ways it is no surprise. Technology, while useful, has a terrible way of creeping between us and the natural world. If we are not careful, it can separate us from our very humanity.
For me, I am happy to have rediscovered the ability to daydream. And even happier to have my phone resume its place as a tool for making and receiving phone calls. I have no doubt it will attempt to lure me back with its siren songs (new apps, new uses!) but I have learned my lesson and am stronger now. I have remembered how to daydream.