Journal Entry: Thought Traffic

There’s an awful lot happening in the world, and that makes my thought traffic terrible. I had to lay down last night and just watch an episode or two of “Chopped” to clear things out. That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.

I think I mentioned not long ago that I’ve been working my way through this first volume of The Philokalia– slow but sure. And while reading, I’ve been putting down some brief reflections trying to bring ancient desert thoughts to my modern urban life. Today as I reflect on what I’ve written to date, I find this entry, and it hits me in all the right places, so I thought I’d share that with you.

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Sometimes thoughts are cut off, and sometimes they do the cutting off. Evil thoughts cut off good thoughts, and in turn are cut off by good thoughts. The Holy Spirit therefore notes to which thought we give priority and condemns or approves us accordingly.

-St. Evagrios, Texts on Discrimination.

There is a constant stream of traffic in my head. Thoughts never seem to stop at lights when they ought to; they do not wait patiently for other thoughts to pull through the intersection. Thoughts weave in and around and through other thoughts. They collide. They yell curses at each other out their window.

The idea of “stillness” in this busy brain seems impossible. There is always so much about which to consider, to debate, to worry. Thinking is necessary, like having a car in a place with no good public transportation, or well-paved pedestrian walkways.

But if we’re to travel this way, in a head full of thoughts, I imagine the act of prayer, the act of stillness ought to act as a sort of traffic cop.

Slow down. Stop here. Wait for your turn.

And then, in allowing that stillness to direct the busy brain, perhaps we have time, finally to take a look around. We see leaves on the trees beginning to bud. We see children crossing the road, walking home from school. We see the faces of the people in the cars around us. All of us busy. All of us worried. All of us ready for some break in the gridlock.

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