Archive of April 2015

Apr 27, 2015

One of the phrases that pops up on the interwebs for this type of subject is the Bright Shiny Object syndrome. That page, that link, that YouTube video — each is a siren’s call to click, watch, read, listen, absorb, engage automatically, without even thinking. It’s a common experience that someone begins a web session searching for a specific piece of information and then looks up an hour later blinking like they’ve just emerged into daylight from a dark movie theatre.

I want to draw a line (however crooked) between the fascination I have for the web’s bright shiny objects and meditation. Meditation is defined as many things, but one of its purposes is to demonstrate to you – through experience – that you will always have bright shiny objects flashing through your consciousness: memories, ideas, conversations, voices, songs, desires, hunger, images, an itch on your knee, the dog barking next door, etc. One of meditation’s goals is to show you that you can detach yourself from that parade of imagery and noise — that you are not that parade — and that you will be OK if you let the parade pass by without comment, without attachment, without engagement.
When I was younger I used to diligently catalog my video tapes, LPs, books etc. I had all sorts of card file systems for recording all sorts of, well, crap but at the time it seemed vitally important. Then when I got into computers, I started to keep multiple backups of everything, later on CDRs got duplicated, emails got archived etc. etc. Then suddenly I found myself married, with family and suddenly found 99% of that stuff mattered not a jot. Best of all, apart from massively less stress and time spent keeping on top of it all, actually letting it go has been cathartic. Going through hundreds of VHS tapes I kept 'just in case this was the last copy anywhere' turned into 'can I be arsed to stick this on a DVDR? No'. All those HDs on the shelf and CD/DVD backups that I never look at from one year to the next have been heaved out.
Are all hoarders collectors or are all collectors hoarders? One might be tempted to argue that it's either the one or the other, but I would like to resist that temptation. I would want to argue that a hoarder "collector" in the relevant sense. "Collection" has many meanings, of course. Just think of the "garbage collector," or of the coffee grimes "collecting" in the drain. A "hoarder" is collecting things in that way, but a "collector" of books (or pencils) is discriminating. He selects according to some principle(s) what will become part of his collection and what won't. That this principle is not always conscious presents a problem, and it may lead to the collector becoming a hoarder, but it does not negate the difference. The collector is not a hoarder.

Apr 20, 2015

There often is
an answer beyond
the oftener answer
of which we are fond.
— Kommentar von Anonymous (via Orange Crate Art: A joke in the traditional manner)
Sendungen wie “Newtopia” führen dem Publikum neoliberale Denkmuster und Verhaltensweisen als normal und angemessen vor. Es sind Denkmuster und Verhaltensweisen, die im Zeitalter des Neoliberalismus von jedem und jeder erwartet werden: Bewähre dich, thematisiere dich, optimiere dich und zeige dies den anderen. Sei von dir überzeugt, diszipliniere dich, nimm die Herausforderungen des Marktes an. Das menschliche Leben wird im Neoliberalismus genauso wie in “Newtopia” zu einer Abfolge von Handlungen, die dem Erhalt und der Verbesserung des eigenen sozialen Status dienen sollen. Die menschliche Biografie wird zu einer Art unternehmerischem Projekt. Und wer bei alldem versagt, gilt als selbst schuld – hätte er sich doch einfach intensiver thematisieren, radikaler optimieren und besser darstellen sollen.

Apr 17, 2015

It may be true that nobody understands you, but when they all don’t understand you in exactly the same way, there’s probably a lesson lurking there.

Apr 3, 2015

In fact, “becoming more efficient” is part of the problem. Thinking of time as a resource to be maximised means you approach it instrumentally, judging any given moment as well spent only in so far as it advances progress toward some goal. Immersive reading, by contrast, depends on being willing to risk inefficiency, goallessness, even time-wasting. Try to slot it in as a to-do list item and you’ll manage only goal-focused reading – useful, sometimes, but not the most fulfilling kind. “The future comes at us like empty bottles along an unstoppable and nearly infinite conveyor belt,” writes Gary Eberle in his book Sacred Time, and “we feel a pressure to fill these different-sized bottles (days, hours, minutes) as they pass, for if they get by without being filled, we will have wasted them.” No mind-set could be worse for losing yourself in a book.