Monday, June 27, 2005

Fighting Absent-Mindedness and Superficiality

During his Sunday Angelus, the Holy Father reminded the faithful to take extra precaution on the freeways and highways as they begin their summer holidays. Citing the frequency of freeway accidents at the beginning of summer, he urged motorists to fight "absent-mindedness and superficiality" which can lead to the ruin of one's life and of others. More on The Pope Urges Motorists To Be Careful.

What are examples of absent-mindedness? It may be forgetting what we went into a room for, or misplace our car keys, or not remember to pick up the milk on the way home from work.

According to Dr. Rich Bayer...

"the problem of absent-mindedness has more to do with attention than memory. To solve absent-mindedness, we need to be more attentive to the task at hand. If we put our car keys down at a moment when we’re having an intense conversation with someone, the memory of putting the keys down may be disrupted by the memory of the conversation. Then, when we go to find our keys, we can’t remember where they are because we never really stored the key location in memory. Even our own, ongoing thoughts can be a distraction that can disrupt attentiveness and cause absent-mindedness".

What does it mean to be superficial? According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, superficial means shallow, lacking depth and thoroughness, neglect of detail. Therefore, being superficial implies the absence of deeper reasoning and a concern only of the obvious.

The Pope reminds motorists to be careful, alert and lucid on the road. Absent-mindedness and superficiality on the freeways can be fatal and often lead to major injuries and deaths. Would this have any direct corollary with the state of the human mind and soul in today's world?

Perhaps the fast pace of life forces us to be careless, even apathetic in the little things that really matter. Perhaps people's expectations of summer holidays have been compromised in such a way that there lacks today a deeper meaning, a deeper purpose of going away on holiday. Where do people go on holiday? On a cruise? To exotic resorts? To theme parks? Or to the mountains? What does it mean to go on holiday, to take a vacation? Is there a deeper meaning, a spirituality behind summer vacation? Are we called to be more attentive to the presence of the Lord during our vacation by spending time with family, appreciating nature, nurturing relationships with loved ones? Are we called to rise above the superficiality of today's concept of rest and relaxation which often tempts us to excite our senses instead of subdue them?

Perhaps this is something we can reflect on during the summer holidays.


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