Some time ago now, I was having coffee with an old friend, and for whatever reason, we thought it a good idea to brave the murky waters that encompass the never ending battle of the sexes, more specifically, the differences between men and women. He mentioned he had read some book on this issue (because we all know that books have solved all our problems in this regard) and that the book highlighted the fact that men have what is dubbed a “little black box” in their minds. I’m sorry, come again?
Allow me to explain.
You know those times (lets be real ladies, we both know you know those times) when you’re sitting accross the dinner table from your significant other and conversation has abated for the moment (that is, assuming it ever began) and they appear deep in thought. And even though you know it’s a long shot, and even though you’ve asked a million times before, and even though you already know the answer, you venture once again to ask the futile, though potentially dangerous “what are you thinking?” question, hoping beyond hope to unearth some deep, meaningful conversation while simultaneously burying the 3,001 anxieties that suddenly and instantaneously sprung up in your own mind at the exact moment you uttered the words… as though if he in fact did answer the question honestly it might only serve to confirm all your deepest insecurities about your relationship… (!!!) *gasp. Only to receive the oh-so climactic:
“Huh? oh, nothing.”
What is with that anyway? You can’t possibly be thinking about nothing. The very sentence is an oxymoron… thinking about nothing, implying that of course you are thinking about something. Come on ladies, am I wrong?
But my friend went on to explain that this is in fact true about (most) men. There exists, as the author phrases it, a “little black box” of nothingness in the mind of “man” where men can go and “zone-out” temporarily. That is, when men say they aren’t thinking about anything in that particular moment, they actually mean, they aren’t thinking about anything in that particular moment.
If you are anything like me, this very concept makes absolutely zero sense. I can’t even imagine a world in which this might possibly ever be a reality in my life. I will speak for myself on this one, but I know that any time a guy has ever asked me this question, every single time I’ve ever said “nothing,” I’ve been lying.
My mind never sleeps… ever. Am I alone here?
I think not. I have brought up this question to several of my girl friends, and often times to both my girl friends and their boyfriends simultaneously, and every time (thus far at least), I have received the same resounding “OHMYGOSH Yes! He always says that! I’m like, hello, what the hell does that mean?!!” followed by a casual shrug of the shoulders from the dudes saying “Oh yeah, that’s totally true.”
Again. Still can’t comprehend.
I remember back when I was in Africa, I was having trouble sleeping at night because I had so much going on in my mind. I had mentioned this to some of my teammates, and one of the guys gave me this bit of advice:
“You know what I do when that happens? I imagine a TV in my mind (I’m shocked, really, please go on), and imagine all the things I’m thinking about are on the TV set. Then I walk over to the TV set, and turn it off. And I picture everything going black. Problem solved. You should try it.”
I think I stared at him blankly for quite an uncomfortable amount of time while I tried to decide if he was in fact being serious before I realized that yes, of course he was, and then finally conceded figuring, “what the heck, it’s worth a shot.” I mean, it can’t hurt. But I knew it’d be just about as fruitful as counting sheep. (Side note: has that ever really worked for anyone past the age of 5?). So I tried it. That night, as I lay down to sleep in that sweltering room and closed my eyes. I envisioned a television set, and tried to collect & compact all the activity in my head onto the screen (which was a struggle in and of itself), and then reached out and turned off the TV as I imagined it turning black…
(DISCLAIMER: prepare to enter stream of consciousness)
“Great, so now I have a TV set, and it’s off. What good was this supposed to do again? How is this supposed to help me sleep? Now I am just staring at a blank screen. He can’t possibly turn his mind of with this TV? No way. That doesn’t even make sense. What am I supposed to think about now that the TV is off? Just imagine blackness? Okay, Operation Black Void: GO! … still not working. Dear Lord, please help me go to sleep! Holy (use your own imagination here)! What’s that noise? OHMYGAWWD!!! I hope it’s not that creepy salamander that keeps squirming behind the curtains! Makes me think of that movie… what’s the name of it again? Oh yes, Parent Trap. The one with Lindsay Lohan, before she went all psycho hollywood diva. That scene where she gives her evil step mom the Evian bottle to drink when they’re camping and when she opens her eyes there is a salamander on the bottle and it wanders into her mouth and she screams bloody murder. Haha, that was a funny movie. I should really watch that again when I get back to the states. Africa is hot. But the babiiies!!! I just love the babies. It’s totally worth it. Oh.my.lord. I’m never going to fall asleep…”
Needless to say, it didn’t work. Not.even.close.
I have always had difficultly turning off my brain and being still. I like to stay busy. I like to be doing, going, seeing, visiting, exploring, trying, engaging, “verbing” if you will. I suppose it’s just an external manifestation of what’s going on internally 24/7. But I am so intrigued by this thought that in general, men seem to be accomplish this mental state of stillness so easily and so completely. (Then again, should I really be all that surprised to discover there’s really not that much going on upstairs after all?)
-Juuuust kidding!- :)
Anyway- I had almost entirely forgotten about this whole thing until I ran into an article on The Practice of Stillness, and it really challenged me. I realized I hardly know the first thing about spending 15 minutes a day actively doing nothing, let alone not thinking anything. Even if I’m not physically doing something, I am certainly thinking about what I’m going to do next, or what I need to be doing, or what I’d rather be doing, you get the picture. But reading this article made me realize how much I could really use a little space in my life and in the gray matter between my temples. If only I had a little black box…
Anyone else have an opinion or experience with any of the above? I’m curious to find out just how accurate the theory in that book is. Any women out there with a little black box of their own? Or men who don’t have one? And what about that concept on the practice of stillness… I can’t help but wonder if the world wouldn’t revolve just a little smoother if we all took a little more time to be still…