There is a wonderful sketch in ‘Monty Python Live at the Hollywood Bowl’ where the pythons are lounging onstage enacting nostalgic wealthy characters trying to best each other regarding who survived the most indigent and treacherous childhood.
Douglas Coupland referred to a similar phenomenon that occurs at AA meetings as “Onedownsmenship.”
There is a new game in town in relation to busyness. If you observe conversations closely, does it not seem as if there is some sort of tacit contest regarding who is busier? For instance, you tell a friend that your day was jam-packed with back-to-back meetings and she tells you that she had to fly the organ-donor helicopter to Santa Inez and back—twice—to save two Nobel Prize-winning rocket-scientist twin sisters who both needed kidney transplants?
And you think you had a busy day?
I have noticed that a large percentage of belated email responses I receive include the words ‘Crazy busy’ or some derivative thereof in the first two lines. If I were writing in German, ‘crazybusy’ would already be one word. Of late, I have been on the receiving end of that phrase so many times that I am certain it will be included as a single word in the next edition of the OED.
Of course, the ultimate manifestation of ‘crazybusy—the emperor’s new clothes—is to not receive any response at all. Those non-responses are from people who are so many clicks beyond ‘crazybusy’ that they are ‘overwhelmed’, ‘totally swamped’, ‘crushed’ or ‘inundated’. And then when your paths casually cross at yoga or Whole Foods or Starbucks, their faces light up as they rush past you exclaiming, “I know I owe you a call. I have been ‘crazybusy’. Let us get together next week!”
Granted, through many years of studying and traveling, I have met some pretty high-powered human beings. Yet dear few of the people floating around my orbit have full-time 60-hours-per-week desk jobs; most of them are self-employed freelancers—yoga teachers, artists, writers, filmmakers, musicians, therapists and other types of rampant do-gooders.
If I met someone who worked seventeen hours per day, 7 days per week, in the Foxconn factory and he said, ‘crazybusy’, I would understand. If I met someone who was weeks away from finding the cure for Leukemia after twenty years in a laboratory and she said, ‘crazybusy’, I would concur. But if you are self-employed, I think the term ‘crazybusy’ is relative.
The problem is that busyness has become part of personal identity, how we get our sense of self. Eleven years ago, David Brooks wrote of the new Bohemian Bourgeois class nonchalantly trying to gain social status by besting each other with exotic vacation destinations: “Oh you were in Saint Barthes for Christmas? Antigua is so much less scene-y!” I think that busyness is a new status symbol that people use to measure themselves against other people.
When was the last time you heard someone say, “I sat in bed for the last week eating licorice and watching TV” and did not think he or she must be unwell?
Ever hear the phrase, “I want to be a human being, not a human doing”?
And this is how Yes has become the new No—because many of us have become human doings. Since the invention of multi-tasking, Descartes’ ‘Cogito Ergo Sum’ could now be translated as, “I am ‘crazybusy’, therefore I am.”
And we are all so ‘crazybusy’ that we double-book, flake on meetings, cancel at the last minute via email, text important messages that should not be texted (‘Pregnant!’, ‘Driving on freeway now!’, ‘Gotta stop smoking!’, ‘Sucks!’, ‘Will call later!’, etc.), and wield Caller ID like Luke Skywalker wielding a lightsaber.
Swoosh! Swoosh! “Oh, Joan’s calling—probably just to whine about her cat’s hairball. It can wait. I’ll call her back later. Right now I’m ‘crazybusy’.”
But when ‘crazybusy’ becomes your way of being in the world, later is often never.
So Yes is the new No because people say “Yes, let us get together next week!” to your face, but after many emails and texts trying to schedule a place and time to actually meet, they give up and actual human connection flitters away into the ether.
Ever hear of the second yama—Satya—truthfulness? Can I discuss ‘right speech’ with my fellow yogis and yoginis? Should I mention creating your reality by being true to your word and showing up when you say you will?
I recall hearing the phrase many years ago, “On your deathbed, your inbox will be full,” meaning that there are perpetually things to ‘do’, things we think need to get checked off our ever-growing checklist. We delude ourselves into believing that texting and emailing allow us more time to get things done. And we delude ourselves into believing that we are really connecting with people through these new media—sans facial expressions, sans smells, sans body language, sans touch, sans eye contact.
Are people living happier and more fulfilling lives since technology has enabled us to ‘do’ more—or more precisely, to do more things at the same time, and be ‘crazybusy’? Or are people increasingly stressed out due to overstimulation, due to being over-connected?
Let us not allow Yes to be the new No. Let us make an effort to engage in authentic and compassionate communications. Let us not think that interacting on Facebook or Twitter will help us get our emotional needs met. Let us take out our earbuds when we are in a restaurant or cafe. Let us show up for the human beings in our lives with face-to-face interactions.
Let us stop hiding behind our thumbs and fingers.
The eyes, and not the thumbs, are the windows to the soul.
So put down your iPhone, put down your Blackberry, get up from your computer, and make a real connection with a fellow human being today.
Because you do not want your tombstone to read, “Was Crazybusy.”
You want it to read, “Beloved.”
Ira Israel is a psychotherapist, and the author of “Mindfulness for Urban Depression DVD” and “Yoga for Depression and Anxiety DVD” . Ira has a Master of Arts degree in Psychology, a Master of Arts degree in Religious Studies, and a Master of Arts degree in Philosophy. He is a Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist, a Certified Yoga Therapist, and an E-RYT500.
Prepared by Soumyajeet Chattaraj/Edited by Tanya L. Markul
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