Arielle Ford was in the air, heading towards Las Vegas while she read my book (and ‘highlighted much of it’ she said in an email – she likes it. She really likes it!). Her husband, sitting next to her, kept poking her in the side while he read a recent New York magazine article by Sam Anderson entitled “The Benefits of Distraction and Overstimulation”. She was amazed at the parallels in my book with his article. It was a funny moment of synchronicity as they soared the Western skies.
Naturally curious, I googled Sam’s article to see what similarities I might find. His article was distinctly hilarious, giving our collective worry about distraction a new spin. Never snarky (I hate snarky), always pithy (I love pithy), his article hits the nail on the head.
Maybe there is some neurological benefit to all this connectivity. (Grossly absent in his argumentation about the younger generation is the fact that, until around age twenty, people in general have higher cognitive abilities than our sagging middle-aged brains, but who am I to be a wet blanket at his party?) Perhaps, his article suggests, we can positively alter our brain’s wiring through technology after all.
My issue with our hyperconnected world is what gets lost in the translation. We text, ping, upload and download with abandon. But how much time do we waste in the process? Is a superhuman brain truly desirable? To what end?
His article is balanced (because he gives my camp ample play), yet critical of too much outcry over technological advances and their damage it might inflict on our tender brains. Technophobes have always dampened the spirits of those who enjoy its benefits. After all, he rightly paraphrases Socrates, the greatest orator who ever lived, as saying the written word was scandalous for its ‘memory-destroying properties’ because, well, it was a recording of wisdom and not the wisdom itself.
In my mind, writing is an organized system lending structure to thought, but it is not the thoughts themselves. Without drifting too far into epistimology, I would note that our pleasure systems have altered dramatically. We have moved from a visual society to an oral society to a visual one again. Before we could speak, we painted pictures on cave walls. Then came speech and the value of oration. We later developed a vastly distributed writing system with more visual stimuli (Greek statues, tablets and monuments come to mind). Auditory pleasures remained through music and a common delivery system called radio. Then, taking a leap through the centuries came the prominence of the visual medium again through television and now YouTube.
Each generation deals with its own level of distraction. Whatever triggers it is rather immaterial – what is important is how we manage the distractions as they come. I favor mindful living over filling the mind with senseless chatter.
What’s your take?
The power of slow is about our relationship with time and how we can live mindfully to have more of it. But what if your days were numbered, like Randy Pausch’s? What if you thought your time was up, then got a second chance?
For as long as I’ve known Larry Pontius, he has been a lung transplant listee. We corresponded for a few years via email before actually meeting at a lovely restaurant in Orlando, Florida, one June afternoon. He had enthralled me with his amazing writing ability (read Waking Walt. You will love it!). Larry carried his oxygen tank with grace. His lovely wife, Harriet, is a bicoastal commuter whose powerhouse job as the head of marketing for Universal studios puts her in the unique position of travelling to Los Angeles several weeks out of the month.
Then I read Larry’s blog post about his Whoopee moment. After years of waiting, he finally received a transplanted lung that allows him to awake with the most amazing sensation ever.
I am no longer sick.
My days are no longer perceivably finite.
I like it.
What whoopee moment have you had lately? Was it when you found that extra five bucks in your summer shorts you’d stored over the winter? Or when you saw your dreaded appointment was pushed back to another day, allowing you to head to the family BBQ after all?
Whoopee moments are what Larry defines as moments of joy. He writes:
Everyone has a chance to make a new start every day. You only have so much time to be happy. And it’s a bunch more fun than a Whoopee cushion.
Now that’s certainly something to make noise about.
“Oh no!” my friend’s email cyber-wailed. “I forgot your birthday…” Actually, she had not. She had remembered right on time.
I spent seven glorious days on a Spanish island with two of my favorite people in the world: my best friend and my husband (my other best friend). Completely offline, I wouldn’t have gotten my friend’s email any sooner. In fact, on my birthday itself I had a hard time capturing the moment. It was as if I tried to pay particular to that elusive something just beyond reason, tantamount to expression yet unutterable in itself. I decided the whole week would be my birthday. What’s in a day when it can be cherished in the hours or months or years you grant it?
My best friend and I have always been in synch (in fact, her birthday is two days after mine). Externally our lives look very different. She is a single professional with her own business just outside of Washington. I am a married work-from-home writer with two intensely challenging adorable kids. But we always seem to contact the other just in the moment we need it most.
There is something deeply pleasurable about living in the knowing that everything happens at the exact time it should. What would our lives be like if we were always ‘right on time’? Not in the clock-sense, but in the measurement of knowingness?
Pretty liberating, I’d say.
As I stared down at my camera battery gleefully soaking up more energy from its charger cradle, I realized we are a lot more like machines than we realize.
We need to recharge our batteries like everything else. Taking time off is as important as breathing because it helps us do it better. It needn’t be just another item on your to-do list (unless lists are your thing). It can be a liberating experience to drop the cloak of responsibility and to step into a robe of relaxation.
If our cell phones, cameras, and hybrid cars need it, so do we!
A nugget to ponder as I depart the blogosphere for a week of fun in the sun.
The power of slow is a philosophy based on the strength of our choices. Do we want to run blindly through our days based on misconceptions of self, or do we desire to look more closely to see what truly matters to us?
Ayn Rand says it beautifully, I’d say. (Courtesy of Lissa Coffey’s fabulous daily wisdom newsletter).
“As a human being, you have no choice about the fact that you need a philosophy. Your only choice is whether you define your philosophy by a conscious, rational, disciplined process of thought and scrupulously logical deliberation – or let your subconscious accumulate a junk heap of unwarranted conclusions, false generalizations, undefined contradictions, undigested slogans, unidentified wishes, doubts and fears, thrown together by chance, but integrated by your subconscious into a kind of mongrel philosophy and fused into a single, solid weight: self-doubt, like a ball and chain in the place where your mind’s wings should have grown.””Philosophy is not a theory but an activity.” -Ayn Rand, 1982
Yesterday was the pinnacle. We traversed the Greater Munich area, enjoying the scenery and commenting on how beautiful Germany is. But last evening, soaking our sore hams in the bleeding sunlight, we agreed we would make today a ‘transition day’, a day in which we upload and download our vacation photos, stare at our suitcases in disbelief (we are leaving for Ibiza tomorrow), and reminisce about what a great time we had together while it lasted.
Those days of ‘not’ are so important to process all that which has come before us. Admittedly, I welcome the slowdown. No trains to catch, no appointments to remember ~ just one foot in front of the other at a plodding pace. Tomorrow is another day (and the beginning of our vacation), and it will indeed come at the same speed as every day before it.
We just returned from an all-day outing to Starnberg Lake in the south of Munich. Yesterday evening we tried to plan it, but somehow our minds were fogged after another day of sight-seeing and entertaining. I decided to leave it up to the power of slow to allow the next day to unfold.
And unfold it did.
After taking a one-hour train ride, we boarded a ferry that took us to another town, Tutzing. We meandered about, gravitating towards the large church in the center of town where we met a nice man who told us we should go to a lovely restaurant right on the lake.
It turned out to be the best meal we’ve had yet. Adorning the walls are pictures of the owner and famous people such as Jay Leno or Seal. We marveled at how things seemed to reveal themselves magically without our even trying. We found the train station by intuiting where it was (under the protest of some of the people in my party). “I see a train,” I calmly said. “But where’s the train station?” I heard a voice behind me say.
It is there, right where it should be.
And so it was!
I make a lousy tourist. For one thing I’d prefer to talk to the countrymen of the place I’m visiting than my fellow tourists with cameras strapped around their necks. My dad and his wife are visiting, and I’m finding I’m a much better tour guide, but not by much. I don’t know some of the relevant data associated with my country of residence. I can offer my prejudices (all Germans drink beer) and my affinities (they are super direct so you always know where you stand). But for the most part, I’m not on the up and up when it comes to tourist-y things.
Today we sat in two outdoor dining places – the first was an Italian café in which we had a leisurely (read: waitstaff woefully overwhelmed) breakfast. Then, a few hours later we went to a classic Bavarian beer garden. There was one waiter serving two hundred patrons. It took three hours to have lunch and dessert. I found I was fine with it, but I noticed the power of slow wasn’t everyone’s taste. I personally had nowhere to go, but my son was hungry so when he was the last to be served, I noticed the power of slow doesn’t fly with everyone, especially when you’re famished.
While I thought we might jet off to a castle, we decided the rest of the day should be a slow paced, sun-drenched afternoon.
Simply lovely and all-too-seldom!
In a special Work-Life Balance section, CNN reported yesterday about vacation time in the United States.
Are you fearful to take time off because you think you might get axed?
It has been proven that rested workers are more productive than those who work 16 hour days. The best thing to do is to communicate with your boss about quarterly goals. Ascertain how you might bring your own talent into the mix. Be clear about his or her expectations. Then exceed them.
That does not mean you have to pull all-nighters or weekend shifts. Be clear about your own limitations. Challenge yourself to apply your strengths, even if the job description does not require it. Always be your best. To do so, you have to unplug, take time off, and rest.
Contributing to the bottom line might mean splashing in the pool for a long weekend. Leisure time is as purposeful as work time.
Live it. Dream it. Be it. It is possible. Besides, you are only human and deserve a time-out.
In fact, everyone does.