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)

 

 

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.”

Zigzagging b/w indulgence and denial, frenetic states and cleansing cures, busy selves and better selves

busy-rush-hurry-blur-multi-task-technology

There’s a lot of status anxiety going about these days. People live suspended between the anxiety of being deluged in communication and the agony of receiving none. They have always wanted to be liked, but now they must also be “liked.” They exist under the digital pressure of reciprocal judgment, a state that knows no repose. They are either on top of things, a momentary illusion, or overwhelmed, a permanent state intermittently denied. They look around wondering how it is possible to keep up. They have access to everything and certainty about nothing. They zigzag between indulgence and denial, frenetic states and cleansing cures, their busy selves and their better selves. They have nightmares about getting a thumbs-down. They ask themselves how the Day of Judgment became day-in, day-out judgment. They make resolutions that unravel. They amass to-do lists that cannot get done. They are not sure where they stand on the ratings scales, on the lists that proliferate, on the global grading of everything and everyone.

This state crept up on them. How such unease came about, who willed it and with what design, was not quite clear, but it must, they thought, have something to do with what is called progress. Where it was headed was equally murky but sometimes the destination looked unappealing, a place where peace had been crowded out by the pursuit of efficiencies.

~ Roger Cohen, The Great Unease


Image: themetapicture.com (Thank you Susan)

T.G.I.F.: It’s Been A Long Week

gif-funny-tracks-tgif-t.g.i.f.


Source: Tastefully Offensive

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

They bust you by being grateful for the day

woman-portrait-scar-charcoal-hands-shame

The worst possible thing you can do when you’re down in the dumps, tweaking, vaporous with victimized self-righteousness, or bored, is to take a walk with dying friends. They will ruin everything for you.

First of all, friends like this may not even think of themselves as dying, although they clearly are, according to recent scans and gentle doctors’ reports. But no, they see themselves as fully alive. They are living and doing as much as they can, as well as they can, for as long as they can.

They ruin your multitasking high, the bath of agitation, rumination, and judgment you wallow in, without the decency to come out and just say anything. They bust you by being grateful for the day, while you are obsessed with how thin your lashes have become and how wide your bottom.

~ Anne Lamott, “Prelude: Victory Lap“, Small Victories: Spotting Improbably Moments of Grace


Notes: Quote Source – Brainpickings. Portrait: Kamil Zacharski by Opaqueglitter


 

The Disease of Being Busy

omid-safi

The Disease of Being Busy by Omid Safi, recipient of the 2009 Teaching Award for Professor of the Year at Duke University:

I saw a dear friend a few days ago. I stopped by to ask her how she was doing, how her family was. She looked up, voice lowered, and just whimpered: “I’m so busy… I am so busy… have so much going on.” Almost immediately after, I ran into another friend and asked him how he was. Again, same tone, same response: “I’m just so busy… got so much to do.” The tone was exacerbated, tired, even overwhelmed.

…How did we end up living like this? Why do we do this to ourselves? Why do we do this to our children? When did we forget that we are human beings, not human doings?

…In many Muslim cultures, when you want to ask them how they’re doing, you ask: in Arabic, Kayf haal-ik? or, in Persian, Haal-e shomaa chetoreh? How is your haal? What is this haal that you inquire about? It is the transient state of one’s heart. In reality, we ask, “How is your heart doing at this very moment, at this breath?” When I ask, “How are you?” that is really what I want to know…

Don’t miss his entire post @ The Disease of Being Busy

or his follow-on post titled: The Thief of Intimacy, Busyness


Image Source: Duke University

 

Driving up I-95. With Gull.

seagull

It was three weeks ago, 6 p.m. and I’m on my evening commute home. I-95 is snarled in both directions. Heavy, slow-moving metal edging its way up, a car length at a time. I’m looking ahead to find a break. I see none. Waze flashes an update: “Your drive time is extended by 10 minutes. Accident ahead.”

But that’s not the story. No. That’s not what drifts in during my 7-mile run on Sunday. It’s not what emerges during a meeting late Monday afternoon. And it’s not what’s hanging around the edges, gently finding its place among the mental chatter of Work.

It’s a white speck 75 car lengths ahead, hovering a steady five feet above the sea of car tops.  A white speck, moving against traffic. First the speck. Then Wings. Then the gull.

The bird’s line is a straight shot.

Seagulls that I know, float in wind tunnels, they surf, they lallygag on shorelines. Not this one. This Gull’s wings are flapping, beating fiercely and maintaining the rhythm of an Olympic rowing crew free of its coxswain:  I need to get there. Quickly. I need to get there. Now.

It’s 15 car lengths now. The bird is keeping its line, passing under a bridge without interruption. Jet Gull – – at low altitude and maintaining flight speed. I’m locked in.

I bend my head to see him. He doesn’t look down, or around or even shift his glance. Focus. Hurry. Get there. Now.

Blink. He’s in my rear view mirror. Gull. Wings. A Speck. Gone.

My gaze turns back to the sea of cars in front of me. Gull, where are you going? Why the Rush?

Its 4am. Today, Hump Day.  Weeks later. I’m flicking through my Reader and I come across This.

A seagull froze, motionless, in the sky – lost in thought. Then suddenly it remembered something important, perhaps that life is as short as a blink, and went dashing off a full pelt.

Mikhail Shishkin, from The Light and the Dark

Synchronicity? Coincidence? Serendipity?

Hmmmmmm.


Notes:

Riding Metro North. With Massenet.

42nd-new-york-city

I’m on the first train. I’m with my commuters deep into the morning papers. The silence is broken for three short intervals – the conductor collecting tickets and two stops on the Express. Otherwise, a library. 55 minutes of heaven.

Yet, the silence is thundering.

EBOLA. Mid-term elections. School shootings. Shooting rampage in the Canadian Parliament. Ukraine. Work-budget-goals. Man attacks NYC cops with a hatchet. Markets tumbling. Afghanistan. Iraq. Syria. Hong Kong protesters. Millions of air bag recalls. Stepfather Charged After 3-Year-Old Girl Beaten to Death at Brooklyn Shelter. OMG. Turn the page. Turn the page. Turn the page. Unable to find something Good, I put away the news, close my eyes, lean my head against the window and drift into Grand Central.

I twist in my ear buds, first right and then left. I exit the train to 42nd street with hundreds of early morning commuters.

Zibby introduces Jesse to classical music in Liberal Arts; DK had no such Muse. Yet, the impact is no less Divine. The biting winds of darkness and doubt whistling through the skull are placed on Pause. My 12-minute cross-town walk is filled with ethereal beauty, a peace, a calmness, a lightness. The delivery trucks. The yellow cabs, honey bees buzzing in and out. The shop owner opening the gate. A construction worker taking a long pull on his cigarette. A student sipping coffee in an empty Diner. The leaves on a lonely tree rustling from the gust of a passing bus. All of it, a symphony. [Read more…]

Morning Bell: Let’s Roll

social media,technology,


Source: oamul.com

(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

I’m convincing my brain through a constant firehose of content of one thing

firefighter-work-busy-multitasking

Excerpts from a post by Michael Lopp @ Rands in Repose titled “Busy is an Addiction. The Dubious Value of Being Busy:

After decades of following this protocol, I’m certain of what I’m doing – I’m building mental momentum. I’m convincing my brain through a constant firehose of content of one thing: We are going to be super busy today – it’s going to be awesome. How about a hit of the good stuff? Now, I can rationalize this morning preparation as gathering context and mentally preparing for the day but what I’m really doing is overclocking my brain. This is why I’m drinking coffee. I want to make sure by the time I hit the office, I’m working at 112%, I’m walking fast in the hallways of the office with a smile on my face, I am ready to fully crush this day. What I am really describing is a chemical addiction to the endorphins produced by my body that are supposed to reward productivity, but I have figured out how to force their creation via my advanced state of busy…

Admit it, if you’ve been a leader for while, it’s a source of pride that you’re booked all day – you’re important – you’re so… busy.

What I am describing is how I’ve lived years of my life. I’ve replaced the concrete act of building with a vast array of abstract tasks and acts that I believe are strategically important to the team, the product, and the company, but I’ve also learned to constantly question the motivation being the busy: Am I doing this because it’s actually important? Or because I like the rush with being busy?


Don’t miss the entire post @ “Busy is an Addiction


Image Source: RAF

Leap around like panicky jackrabbits

rabbits-jumping-illustration-gif

Mark Morford nails it again in: The Tragic Death of a Good Read

…You are not alone. Researchers say our brains are getting so heavily iTrained to leap around like panicky jackrabbits, any sentence that dares to contain more than eight words, any paragraph that contains multiple clauses, any long-form work that offers deep background info or long-winded, roundabout verbiage – AKA “literature” – merely leaves you sighing heavily and wishing for Candy Crush Saga

…English profs are reporting that their students are struggling more than ever to make it through the classics, because Henry James and Nathaniel Hawthorne don’t read like Gawker.

…It might be a small problem. It might be just a little indicative of a disturbing shift, a wicked sea change in the way we navigate not just books, not just magazines and media, but love, time, each other, the world.

…Have our insta-everything devices beaten the gracefulness out of our hearts and the patience out of our brains? And also the depth? And the meaning? Maybe.

Don’t miss reading the full post @ The Tragic Death of a Good Read


Image Credit

Just Perfect

perfect-stone-quote

I’m on the train, returning home, and rifling through blog posts on my reader.
My index finger pauses. Then stops.
You are perfect.
I stare.
You are perfect.
I am Perfect.
I am Perfect?
Who believes this nonsense?

No breakfast: And 1 granola bar for lunch. (No calorie diet after weekend gorging.)

No 8 glasses of water a day: Try zero. Zero liquids. (A head scratcher. Is that even possible? Are you a camel? An Android?)

No waiting for Walk Signals: I jaywalk in a criss-crossing of Manhattan streets, sheets of freezing rain slapping my trench coat. Eye glasses wet and fogging. (March 31. Please, Please make it Be Spring.)

No shortage of stupidity. I rub the rain-splashed-grime off the toe caps of my shoes with my hands, and instinctively reach for my suit pants. Black shoe polish. (I look around to see if anyone is watching.  Just me.  Who does this?)

No breaks: No pauses. No eye rests. No at-your-desk toe and leg stretches. (An accomplished All-Pro Back at the sedentary position.)

No Enjoyment of the Warming Evening Sun: Head down, as the crow flies, walk-running cross-town to catch the 6:30 pm Metro North. (Aware of no one. Aware of nothing. But the shot clock. More March Madness.)

No Perfection: Just another Imperfect Manic Monday.

 


Image Credit

A Digital Detox Test: The 7 Day Digital Diet

Digital-detox-social-media

And, could I do it? Read the outcome of Patrick Leger’s test @ A Digital Detox Test: Unplug Twitter and Facebook. Put Off Email and Smartphone.

“So for one week in January… I unplugged…I disconnected during a regular workweek and, in lieu of tropical seclusion, enjoyed the subfreezing and proximal isle of Manhattan…I determined I would spend no more than 15 minutes in it each session and sign in just once over the weekend. I’d use the phone only from home and would wait until noon to turn it on. I would not initiate any text exchanges, and if I received a message, I would respond as tersely as possible or call the person back. I could not go on the Internet at all unless it was crucial, and certainly not on social media. No streaming or live TV, only DVDs. Handwritten calendar. And music only at home…”

I’ve never regretted anything so much

italo-calvino

“I would like this to signal the end of “wasted angst” in my life: I’ve never regretted anything so much as having particular individual worries, in a certain sense anachronistic ones, whereas general worries, worries about our time (or at any rate those that can be reduced to such: like your problem in paying the rent, for instance) are so many and so vast and so much “my own” that I feel they are enough to fill all my “worryability” and even my interest and enjoyment in living. So from now on I want to dedicate myself entirely to these latter (worries) — but I am already aware of the traps in this question and that’s why for some time now my first need has been to “de-journalistize” myself, to get myself out of the stranglehold that has dominated these last few years of my life, reading books to review immediately, commenting on something even before having to time to form an opinion on it. I want to build a new kind of daily program for myself where I can finally get into something, something definitive (within the limits of historical possibility), something not dishonest or insincere (unlike the way today’s journalist always behaves, more or less). For that reason I make several plans for myself: … to maintain my contacts with reality and the world, but being careful, of course, not to get lost in unnecessary activities; and also to set up my own individual work not as a “journalist” any more but as a “scholar,” with systematic readings, notes, comments, notebooks, a load of things I’ve never done; and also, eventually, to write a novel.”

~ Italo Calvino


Italo Calvino (1923 – 1985) was an Italian journalist and writer of short stories and novels. His best known works include the Our Ancestors trilogy (1952–1959), the Cosmicomics collection of short stories (1965), and the novels Invisible Cities (1972) and If on a winter’s night a traveler (1979). Lionised in Britain and the United States, he was the most-translated contemporary Italian writer at the time of his death, and a noted contender for the Nobel Prize for Literature.


Image: abebooks. Bio: Wiki

Note from Simba: Break the Circle

hurry, multitasking, treadmill, on a treadmill, racing,work
Note to Self / Note from Simba:
Break the Chain.
Break the Circle of (work) Life.

Take a new route to work.
Invite a colleague to breakfast.
Schedule 5 minute breaks.
Whisper Good Enough.
Then let it go.
Let your emails pile up.
Just let them go.
Take a walk.
Leave your smartphone behind.
Steal 10 minutes to read.
Try Human.
Call a friend.
Try gratitude.
Send a thank you note.
Interrupt the pace.
No. STOP.
Stop the frenzy.
Push your chair away from your desk.
Pause.
Slow.It.Down.
Close your eyes.
Drift.
You are now walking barefoot.
Surf and sand rushing between your toes.
Breathe.
Inhale.
Deeply.
Say the words:
Peace be with you.

Today.
Break the chain.
Do it.
Do one thing.
Do Something.

Enjoy yourself. It’s later than you think.


Circle of Life (Lion King)

From the day we arrive on the planet
And blinking, step into the sun
There’s more to see than can ever be seen
More to do than can ever be done
There’s far too much to take in here
More to find than can ever be found
But the sun rolling high
Through the sapphire sky
Keeps great and small on the endless round

It’s the circle of life
And it moves us all
Through despair and hope
Through faith and love
Till we find our place
On the path unwinding
In the circle
The circle of life


Image Source: Themetapicture.com. Inspired by Michael Brown @ Real Learning For A Change. Chinese Proverb: “Enjoy Yourself…” via wasbella102.

Pause and you get eaten. The sheer terror of sitting still.

Mark Morford Yoga

The Sheer Terror of Sitting Still by Mark Morford @ SFGate, Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Pause and you get eaten…Ruthlessly forward is the only perspective, the only direction, the only proper attitude.  Self reflection and mindful presence? Calm and OM and inner stillness? Sounds adorable, but holy hell have you seen the pace of the world today? Who has the time? Who has the energy? Who has the patience? And really, does meditation even work? All the hoopla, all the supposed health benefits, all the ancient Buddha wisdom, even modern science slowly coming around to the idea that clearing your mind and working the “attention muscle” is beneficial for reducing all sort of toxic things, like stress, anger, road rage…But come on. There’s so much to do! Money to make. Empires to build. Spines to slouch and hoodies to wear and souls to crush. This is America. Work is all there is. Well, work, and the Internet…Eat or get eaten, sucker…for most Americans, stillness is… how to put this honestly? Terrifying. Deep, even momentary quiet freaks people out. The hardest thing anyone can ever do in our culture is sit still for a moment. The demons! The memories! Voices! Kids! Video games! The guilt and the doubts and the FOMO, all hammering down on you like a cold rain made of fear and capitalism and shame. And it’s only been… 27 seconds. Meditation is hard.  We are addicted! White noise and activity filler and lists. Do you know how many apps there are for making To-Do lists, setting alarms, organizing schedules, keeping track of appointments and tasks and urgent needs? I don’t know, either; I’m far too busy writing this column to count them all…

READ MORE including his conclusion.  Worth your time.  Excellent.


Image: Mark Morford Yoga. Article: SFGate – The Sheer Terror of Sitting Still.  Mark Morford bio.

Who says Multitasking Doesn’t Work?

Here’s Mnozil with their rendition of Paul Anka’s Lonely Boy…


Source: Thank you Rolly

This. Or that?

chart


Simple illustration.  Various applications.


Source: Carl Richards

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