Monday Morning Wake-Up Call

The average human lifespan is absurdly, terrifyingly, insultingly short. Here’s one way of putting things in perspective: the first modern humans appeared on the plains of Africa at least 200,000 years ago, and scientists estimate that life, in some form, will persist for another 1.5bn years or more, until the intensifying heat of the sun condemns the last organism to death. But you? Assuming you live to be 80, you’ll have had about 4,000 weeks.

When I first made that calculation, I felt queasy; but once I’d recovered, I started pestering my friends, asking them to guess – off the top of their heads, without doing any mental arithmetic – how many weeks they thought the average person could expect to live. One named a number in the six figures. Yet, as I felt obliged to inform her, a fairly modest six-figure number of weeks – 310,000 – is the approximate duration of all human civilisation since the ancient Sumerians of Mesopotamia. On almost any meaningful timescale, as the contemporary philosopher Thomas Nagel has written, “we will all be dead any minute”.

And so distraction truly matters – because your experience of being alive consists of nothing other than the sum of everything to which you pay attention. At the end of your life, looking back, whatever compelled your attention from moment to moment is simply what your life will have been. When you pay attention to something you don’t especially value, it’s not an exaggeration to say that you’re paying with your life…

—  Oliver Burkeman, from At best, we’re on Earth for around 4,000 weeks —  so why do we lose so much time to online to online distraction? (The Guardian, August 7, 2021)

Monday Morning Wake-Up Call (Last week’s scorecard)

Screen Time: 4 hours and 50 minutes of screen time per day. (And that’s down 10% from last week.  And, this excludes desktop / laptop screen time.)

iPhone PIck-ups: 1,578 iPhone pick-ups last week. 225 pick-ups per day. 357 pick-ups on Thursday. (Approx. 1 pick-up every 3 minutes)

Notifications/Alerts: 5,736 notifications last week. 819 per day. (Approx. 1 notification every 1.2 minutes)


 



Guilty

Turning, one evening, from my phone to a book, I set myself the task of reading a single chapter in one sitting. Simple. But I couldn’t. There was nothing wrong with my eyes. No stroke or disease clouded my way. Yet – if I’m being honest – the failure was also not a surprise.

Paragraphs swirled; sentences snapped like twigs; and sentiments bled out. The usual, these days. I drag my vision across the page and process little. Half an hour later, I throw down the book and watch some Netflix…

So, it’s been unnerving to realize: I have forgotten how to read – really read – and I’ve been refusing to talk about it out of pride…

Online life makes me into a different kind of reader – a cynical one. I scrounge, now, for the useful fact; I zero in on the shareable link. My attention – and thus my experience – fractures. Online reading is about clicks, and comments, and points. When I take that mindset and try to apply it to a beaten-up paperback, my mind bucks.

Author Nicholas Carr writes that, “digital technologies are training us to be more conscious of and more antagonistic toward delays of all sorts.” We become, “more intolerant of moments of time that pass without the arrival of new stimuli.” So, I throw down the old book, craving mental Tabasco sauce. And yet not every emotion can be reduced to an emoji, and not every thought can be conveyed via tweet.

~ Michael Harris, “I have forgotten how to read.” For a long time Michael Harris convinced himself that a childhood spent immersed in old-fashioned books would insulate him from our new media climate – that he could keep on reading in the old way because his mind was formed in pre-internet days. He was wrong.

Read on: “I Have Forgotten How to Read.” (The Globe and Mail, Feb 9, 2018)

 

 

All dust and flashing hooves

hooves-dust

Certainly, being in the moment would seem impossible in our culture’s time-fissioning present, our iPhoned, Facebooked, Googled, Twittered restlessness, our desperate fear of missing the latest morsel of information, our attention never more than a nanosecond from seduction — our discontinuous, du jour present, a Smithsonian so densely packed with experiential exhibits that no lingering look, no settled examination, seems permitted. No sooner do we settle into a moment than another gallops by, all dust and flashing hooves.

~ Jerry DeNuccio, from “A Moment.” Just as you’re ”in” the moment, another moment comes. What to do?. 


Notes: Quote – Thank you Beth at Alive on All Channels. Photo: Richard Baxter (Harcourt, Australia) with Spirit Dance

 

Lightly child, lightly

jo-cardin

I think 99 times and find nothing.
I stop thinking,
swim in the silence,
and the truth comes to me.

~ Albert Einstein


Notes:

  • Photography by jo cardin (comfort in chaos); Quote: a dream within a dream
  • Prior “Lightly child, lightly” Posts? Connect here.
  • Post Title & Inspiration: Aldous Huxley: “It’s dark because you are trying too hard. Lightly child, lightly. Learn to do everything lightly. Yes, feel lightly even though you’re feeling deeply. Just lightly let things happen and lightly cope with them.”

Lightly child, lightly

yoga-cross-legged-light

It is such a small thing on the face of it, and yet in this world of speed and distraction, choosing to be less busy feels almost countercultural; slowing down, eccentric. Perhaps it is, for there’s no denying the expansive, time-bending effects of awareness. Sometimes, I do call it meditation: I sit cross-legged on a cushion in my yoga room; I set a timer and focus on my breath, bringing my attention to bear on the elusive, invisible third eye in the center of my brow point. These sittings are humbling: My mind sneaks away, I chase it down, lead it back, tie it again and again to my breath. Eventually, if I’m not in a rush to get on to the next thing, a small, silent space clears. I savor the taste of quiet, roll it around on my tongue, feel the day’s contours softening and opening around me.

~ Katrina Kenison, Magical Journey: An Apprenticeship in Contentment


Notes:

  • Photography by paul drzal with Mantra
  • Prior “Lightly child, lightly” Posts? Connect here.
  • Related posts: Katrina Kenison
  • Post Title & Inspiration: Aldous Huxley: “It’s dark because you are trying too hard. Lightly child, lightly. Learn to do everything lightly. Yes, feel lightly even though you’re feeling deeply. Just lightly let things happen and lightly cope with them.”

Growing more itchy and agitated by the day

Sven Birkerts

“Sven Birkerts is an anxious man. By turns he is frightened, terrified, alarmed, filled with dread. On one occasion he shudders in his core; mostly he is just plain worried. What concerns him, a concern he is eager to transmit to us, is the rapid spread of computer, Internet and telephone technologies and more specifically what those technologies are doing to our minds. Forever glued to screens of one kind or another, clicking compulsively on the links others provide for us, we are losing the ability to concentrate, growing more itchy and agitated by the day, allowing our consciousness to be fragmented and dispersed.”

~ Tim Parks. Read his full NY Times review of Sven Birkerts new book here: “Changing the Subject: Art and Attention in the Internet Age.”


Amazon’s Book Summary: “After two decades of rampant change, Birkerts has allowed a degree of everyday digital technology into his life. He refuses to use a smartphone, but communicates via e-mail and spends some time reading online. In Changing the Subject, he examines the changes that he observes in himself and others–the distraction when reading on the screen; the loss of personal agency through reliance on GPS and one-stop information resources; an increasing acceptance of “hive” behaviors. “An unprecedented shift is underway,” he argues, and “this transformation is dramatically accelerated and more psychologically formative than any previous technological innovation.” He finds solace in engagement with art, particularly literature, and he brilliantly describes the countering energy available to us through acts of sustained attention, even as he worries that our increasingly mediated existences are not conducive to creativity. It is impossible to read Changing the Subject without coming away with a renewed sense of what is lost by our wholesale acceptance of digital innovation and what is regained when we immerse ourselves in a good book.”

Look at me when I talking to you

read-book-woman-portrait-black-and-white

“I’ve been finding it harder and harder to concentrate on words, sentences, paragraphs. Let alone chapters. Chapters often have page after page of paragraphs. It just seems such an awful lot of words to concentrate on, on their own, without something else happening. […]

When the people at the New Yorker can’t concentrate long enough to listen to a song all the way through, how are books to survive? […]

It makes me feel vaguely dirty, reading my phone with my daughter doing something wonderful right next to me, like I’m sneaking a cigarette. Or a crack pipe. […]

One time I was reading on my phone while my older daughter, the four-year-old, was trying to talk to me. I didn’t quite hear what she had said, and in any case… She grabbed my face in her two hands, pulled me towards her. “Look at me,” she said, “when I’m talking to you.” She is right. I should. […]

Spending time with friends, or family, I often feel a soul-deep throb coming from that perfectly engineered wafer of stainless steel and glass and rare earth metals in my pocket. Touch me. Look at me. You might find something marvelous. […]”

Hugh McGuire, Why Can’t We Read Anymore?

Don’t miss how McGuire changes and his explanation on why books are important.  Full post here.


Photo Source: Choi Moi

Why Books Matter

books,read,reading,distraction,

I finished this book last night. I don’t recall another book packing such a punch at the finish.

“I felt myself enter Fitzgerald’s language, felt its lilt, its music, carry me away.”

Right book.
Right place.
Right time.

I’ve included the closing five paragraphs below. If you want to avoid a spoiler, stop here and go pick up David Ulin’s book:

David L. Ulin. The Lost Art of Reading: Why Books Matter in a Distracted Time. (Sasquatch Books. 2010)

[Read more…]

(Truth) The junkie’s temporary relief at the fleeting fix

lab-rat

For most of my adult life, I have read, like E. I. Lonoff in Roth’s The Ghost Writer, primarily at night: a hundred or so pages every evening once Rae and the kids have gone to bed. These days, after spending hours on the computer, I pick up a book and read a paragraph; then my mind wanders and I check my e-mail, drift onto the Internet, pace the house before returning to the page. Or I want to do these things but don’t, force myself to remain still, to follow what I’m reading until I give myself over to the flow. What I’m struggling with is the encroachment of the buzz, the sense that there is something out there that merits my attention, when in fact it’s mostly just a series of disconnected riffs, quick takes and fragments, that add up to the anxiety of the age. How did this happen? Perhaps it’s easier to pinpoint when. Certainly, it began after the fall of 2006, when I first got high-speed Internet, which I had previously resisted because I understood my tendency to lose myself in the instant gratifications of the information stream. […] It all felt so immensely freighted that to look back now is to recall little more than the frantic blur of stimulation, the lab rat’s manipulated jolt at pressing the proper button, the junkie’s temporary relief at the fleeting fix.

~ David L. Ulin. The Lost Art of Reading: Why Books Matter in a Distracted Time.


Related David L. Ulin Post: We immerse, slow down. Photo credit: dailymail.co.uk

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