Just one more thing I wanted to read before I actually get something done

 

IMG_4269
Sometimes just want to wasch your brain and start back at zero, don’t you?

Rarely do I want to repost something word for word in its entirety here on the old Miscellaneous Blog, but today I desperately want to do exactly that.

I’ve got tabs open on my laptop with articles I’d like to read and blogposts on which I’d like to comment. I’ve been devouring pieces about time management since the new year began, and I’m knee-deep into various Thirty Day Challenges.

It’s too much. I give up.

No, I mean it.

Here’s one of the many things that really spoke to me in my daily attempt not to get bogged down:

Addicted to Distraction

I know it’s from waaaay back a few months ago. That’s an eternity in the online world. Do you know how many hours of content have been uploaded to YouTube since this Opinion Piece was published in The New York Times? A lot, I tell you.

I could make a rough estimate if I looked up the data and did a bit of calculation, but what’d the point of that be? Why am I so obsessed beyond reason to know that specific piece of information? Does it benefit me or anyone?

Don’t get me wrong. If I’m making an argument and want my point to be convincing, of course I want to employ facts in said reasoning. Come on. There’s plenty of knee-jerk palaver floating around. I’d prefer not adding to the noise, I promise.

Yet I’d like to cut down on the barrage of information. Tony Schwartz the author of the above mentioned article, makes the point so well that I’ll just give you a taste of how he phrases it:

‘Endless access to new information also easily overloads our working memory. When we reach cognitive overload, our ability to transfer learning to long-term memory significantly deteriorates. It’s as if our brain has become a full cup of water and anything more poured into it starts to spill out.’

I like that simile, so I’ll just leave that with you as I move on to the next thing.

I’d like to believe all of this has cured me from my time-wasting habits. Wouldn’t that be lovely. Instead there’s just one more thing I wanted to read before I actually get something done.

Simply staring out the window

 

Staring out the window one day long ago in Hamburg
Staring out the window one day long ago in Hamburg

Stumbling round the web today, I happened upon a New York Times article that was talking about how our brains work. The whole thing is worth reading, so I’ll link to it here:

Hit the Reset Button in Your Brain

However, you don’t need to read the whole thing to get what I thought was the best part. Never hurts if you can slide the word stick-to-itiveness into a sentence…here, enjoy:

This two-part attentional system is one of the crowning achievements of the human brain, and the focus it enables allowed us to harness fire, build the pyramids, discover penicillin and decode the entire human genome. Those projects required some plain old-fashioned stick-to-itiveness.

But the insight that led to them probably came from the daydreaming mode. This brain state, marked by the flow of connections among disparate ideas and thoughts, is responsible for our moments of greatest creativity and insight, when we’re able to solve problems that previously seemed unsolvable. You might be going for a walk or grocery shopping or doing something that doesn’t require sustained attention and suddenly — boom — the answer to a problem that had been vexing you suddenly appears. This is the mind-wandering mode, making connections among things that we didn’t previously see as connected.

Did you read that? Daydreaming mode. That’s the best mode. I excel at that one.

Have had some long meandering conversations this summer with some of my favourite people, and quite an unlucky few have difficulty with down time. Time when they don’t actually have to be doing something. It’s a topic I find myself coming back to again and again.

Writing and playing music and teaching are all things that I enjoy. They bring me untold pleasure, and I shine when I’m in my element. Yet, if there’s one thing I’m exceptionally good at, it’s idling. Doing as little as possible.

You don’t put much value in such a thing? Yes, I suppose I get that. Probably not going to change your mind on this one, anyway, which is why I was so thrilled to see the above-mentioned article. Don’t take my word for it.

The creative answers that make the breakthroughs? They don’t necessarily come when you buckle down and try harder. They just might materialise while walking the dogs or catching a street car. Or the one of the best scenarios for daydreaming?

Simply staring out the window.

Go ahead and try it. You’ll be glad you did.

 

self-care of a political dissident

a cup of tea anytime I want

This is the first time I’ve pulled something from my teablog (lahikmajoe drinks tea) over here, but I think you’ll appreciate it. Here’s what Václav Havel had to say about drinking tea in prison:

‘When I was outside, I didn’t understand the cult of tea that exists in prison, but I wasn’t here long before grasping its significance and succumbing to it myself. . . . Tea, it seems to me, becomes a kind of material symbol of freedom here: (a) it is in effect the only fare that one can prepare oneself, and thus freely: when and how I make it is entirely up to me. In the preparation of it, I realize myself as a free being, as it were, capable of looking after myself. (b) Tea – as a sign of private relaxation, of a brief pause in the midst of the hubbub, of rumination and private contemplation – functions as the external, material attribute of a certain unbridling of the spirit and thus as a companion in moments of focused inner freedom. (c) The world of freedom considered as leisure time is represented by tea in the opposite – in the extroverted and therefore the social – sense: sitting down to a cup of tea here is a substitute for the world of bars, wine rooms, parties, binges, social life, in other words again, something you choose yourself and in which you realize your freedom in social terms. . . . I drink it every day. . . . I look forward to it, and consuming it (which I schedule carefully, so it does not become a formless and random activity) is an extremely important component in my daily ”self-care” program. From ”Letters to Olga.” ‘

(source: The New York Times 8 May 1998 from an article by Michael Scammel called The Prison and the Cult of Tea)

Why on earth would you even care about that? Well, think about it for just a minute. You’ve lost your freedom, you have very little control over the smallest choices you have to make, and here’s something you can really focus all of your attention on. Possibly the single thing, other than your own thoughts, that you have complete control over.

Over the years I’ve heard several people say that living in modern society is like living in a prison of a kind. That the information overload of the internet and the mindless political cable television shows are a sort of existential jail. If you’ve ever spoken to someone who’s actually been locked up, this is laughably ridiculous.

There’s nothing like losing one’s fredom. Nothing.

Can you even begin to fathom what life would be like when the highpoint of your day is to hole up in your cell, and brew a little tea?

As I stand here in my kitchen with more selection than I honestly know what to do with, as I read about the madness of the outside world swirling round, as I think about all the people being held against their will (whether justly or not), I’m immensely aware of how fortunate I truly am.