Invisibly, almost without notice, we are losing ourselves

Physicist, novelist, and essayist Alan Lightman has added his own manifestoIn Praise of Wasting Time. Of course, the title is ironic, because Lightman argues that by putting down our devices and spending time on quiet reflection, we regain some of our lost humanity, peace of mind, and capacity for creativity—not a waste of time, after all, despite the prevailing mentality that we should spend every moment actually doing something. The problem is not only our devices, the internet, and social media. Lightman argues that the world has become much more noisy, fast-paced, and distracting. Partly, he writes, this is because the advances that have enabled the much greater transfer of data, and therefore productivity, have created an environment in which seemingly inexorable market forces push for more time working and less leisure time.

Lightman starts his book with an anecdote from his recent time in a rural village in Cambodia. When he asked a villager how long it took her to bike daily to the market ten miles away to barter for food and goods, she replied that she had never thought about it. Lightman is “startled” at this, and jealous. He points out that we in the “developed” world (his scare quotes) have carved up our days into minuscule portions, not a single one to be wasted. He admits that “from the instant I open my eyes in the morning until I turn out the lights at night, I am at work on some project. First thing in the morning, I check my email. For any unexpected opening of time that appears during the day, I rush to patch it, as if a tear in my trousers…” 

Lightman points to several productive, creative individuals who routinely had unstructured time in their days. A fellow physicist at MIT, Paul Schechter, used to sit for hours daydreaming on park benches, which he credited with helping come up with important ideas, including a formula for the number of galaxies with different luminosities. Gertrude Stein used to drive around in the country every day and find a place to sit and write; much of that time was not spent writing, but gazing at cows. Mathematician Henri Poincaré, after a few weeks of fruitless work on functions, drank coffee one evening and in his sleeplessness found that “[i]deas rose in crowds; I felt them collide under pairs interlocked, so to speak, making a stable combination. By the next morning I had established the existence of a class of Fuchsian functions . . . “

Lightman feels we are in a “dire” situation:

Invisibly, almost without notice, we are losing ourselves. We are losing our ability to know who we are and what is important to us. We are creating a global machine in which each of us is a mindless and reflexive cog, relentless driven by the speed, noise, and artificial urgency of the wired world.

~ Anitra Pavlico, from “Alan Lightman On Wasting Time” (3quarksdaily, January 7, 2019)


Photo: Financial Times

Wisdom

I was racing back home from the computer store, busily doing my errands, trying to get things done. I noticed a restaurant and shopping center to my right, on the freeway. I’d been curious about this place for almost a year. Today, instead of driving by, I turned off the highway and pulled into the parking lot. I spent the next three hours browsing through the stores filled with antiques, trinkets, and gourmet foods. Then I enjoyed a leisurely dinner—a juicy hamburger and a chocolate malt—at the restaurant before returning home. The stores had always been there; I’d always driven past. Today I stopped, satisfied my curiosity, and enjoyed myself.

It’s easy to spend our lives working toward a goal, convinced that if we could only get there, we’d be truly happy then. Today is the only moment we have. If we wait until tomorrow to be happy, we’ll miss out on the beauty of today.

Have your plans. Set goals.

Let yourself be happy now.

~ Melody Beattie, from “Be Happy Now” & More Language of Letting Go


Photo Credit

Monday Morning Wake-Up Call

Let me begin again as a speck
of dust caught in the night winds
sweeping out to sea. Let me begin
this time knowing the world…
is grinding and sighing all night,
and dawn comes slowly…

Philip Levine, from “Let Me Begin Again,” 7 Years from Somewhere: Poems


Source: Mennyfox55

T.G.I.F.: When?


Source: Kelsey MacDonald @writeskelsey

Lightly Child, Lightly.

sun-light-portrait-peace

I have seen the sun break through to illuminate a small field
for a while, and gone my way
and forgotten it. But that was the pearl
of great price, the one field that had
treasure in it. I realize now
that I must give all that I have
to possess it. Life is not hurrying

on to a receding future, nor hankering after
an imagined past. It is the turning
aside like Moses to the miracle
of the lit bush, to a brightness
that seemed as transitory as your youth
once, but is the eternity that awaits you.

R. S. Thomas, “The Bright Field” in From Laboratories of the Spirit 


Notes:

  • Photo: Book Cover of The Program (by Suzanne Young) via Mennyfox55. Poem: Thank you Beth @ Alive on All Channels
  • 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.”

Each small accomplishment completed brings me closer to…what exactly? The finish line?

katrina-kenison.jpg

All month I’ve been making lists, crossing things off lists, making new lists – grocery lists, to-do lists, gift lists. Somehow the act of writing things down and crossing them out calms me, as if each small accomplishment or task completed brings me closer to…what exactly? The finish line?

Of course, the idea of completion is an illusion. There will be to-dos until the day when there aren’t, and I’m certainly not in any hurry to get there. Nor do I want to look at December 25 as the end of some silly holiday race.

So my challenge today, and every day this season, is to simply relax into the day’s doings, whatever they may be. One thing I’ve learned over the years is that the closer I stay to home and hearth during these short, dark days, the more peaceful I feel.

~ Katrina Kenison, from “Spicy Holiday Granola” (December 15, 2017)

Lightly Child, Lightly.


Wherever it was
I was supposed to be
this morning-
whatever it was I said

I would be doing-
I was standing
at the edge of the field –
I was hurrying

through my own soul,
opening its dark doors –
I was leaning out;
I was listening.

~ Mary Oliver, from “Mockingbirds” (The Atlantic, Febuary 1994)


Notes:

  • Photo: Patty Maher
  • 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.”

 

Monday Morning Wake-Up Call

For all matters having to do with that four chambered, fist-shaped muscle we carry – that carries us – with constancy. That beats – did you know? – more than one hundred thousand times a day. Imagine that. Even when we’re pressing snooze and rolling over in bed, folding ourselves into our covers and postponing the day’s bubbling over, and soon after notching cold butter on warm toast, or later coming to a halt as we bound up a flight of subway stairs only to stall behind an elderly woman whose left leg trails behind her right leg – one leaden step at a time – even then, when time decelerates and the relative importance of our lives, of our hurry, undergoes a sudden audit, even then, our heart never stops…My heart continues as ever, pulsing towards its daily quota. More than one hundred thousand times a day. Eighty beats per minute.

~ Durga Chew-Bose, from “Heart Museum” in Too Much and Not the Mood: Essays


Photo: Durga Chew-Bose @ Twitter

Morning Call

Today, if you’re confronting an issue for the ten thousandth time, or feeling that your life is going nowhere, or panicking over how little you’ve achieved, stop and breathe. You’re not falling behind on some linear race through time. You’re walking the labyrinth of life. Yes, you’re meant to move forward, but almost never in a straight line.

Martha Beck, from The Labyrinth of Life


Notes:

It’s been a long day

rest-fatigue-float 

I empty myself with light
Until I become morning.

— Charles Wright, from “33,” Littlefoot: A Poem


Notes:

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