Archive | July 2012

The Busy Trap – Anxiety Times


If you live in America in the 21st century you’ve probably had to listen to a lot of people tell you how busy they are. It’s become the default response when you ask anyone how they’re doing: “Busy!” “So busy.” “Crazy busy.” It is, pretty obviously, a boast disguised as a complaint. And the stock response is a kind of congratulation: “That’s a good problem to have,” or “Better than the opposite.”

It’s not as if any of us wants to live like this; it’s something we collectively force one another to do.

 

Notice it isn’t generally people pulling back-to-back shifts in the I.C.U. or commuting by bus to three minimum-wage jobs  who tell you how busy they are; what those people are is not busy but tired. Exhausted. Dead on their feet. It’s almost always people whose lamented busyness is purely self-imposed: work and obligations they’ve taken on voluntarily, classes and activities they’ve “encouraged” their kids to participate in. They’re busy because of their own ambition or drive or anxiety, because they’re addicted to busyness and dread what they might have to face in its absence.

Almost everyone I know is busy. They feel anxious and guilty when they aren’t either working or doing something to promote their work. They schedule in time with friends the way students with 4.0 G.P.A.’s  make sure to sign up for community service because it looks good on their college applications. I recently wrote a friend to ask if he wanted to do something this week, and he answered that he didn’t have a lot of time but if something was going on to let him know and maybe he could ditch work for a few hours. I wanted to clarify that my question had not been a preliminary heads-up to some future invitation; thiswas the invitation. But his busyness was like some vast churning noise through which he was shouting out at me, and I gave up trying to shout back over it.

Brecht Vandenbroucke

Even children are busy now, scheduled down to the half-hour with classes and extracurricular activities. They come home at the end of the day as tired as grown-ups. I was a member of the latchkey generation and had three hours of totally unstructured, largely unsupervised time every afternoon, time I used to do everything from surfing the World Book Encyclopedia to making animated films to getting together with friends in the woods to chuck dirt clods directly into one another’s eyes, all of which provided me with important skills and insights that remain valuable to this day. Those free hours became the model for how I wanted to live the rest of my life.

The present hysteria is not a necessary or inevitable condition of life; it’s something we’ve chosen, if only by our acquiescence to it. Not long ago I  Skyped with a friend who was driven out of the city by high rent and now has an artist’s residency in a small town in the south of France. She described herself as happy and relaxed for the first time in years. She still gets her work done, but it doesn’t consume her entire day and brain. She says it feels like college — she has a big circle of friends who all go out to the cafe together every night. She has a boyfriend again. (She once ruefully summarized dating in New York: “Everyone’s too busy and everyone thinks they can do better.”) What she had mistakenly assumed was her personality — driven, cranky, anxious and sad — turned out to be a deformative effect of her environment. It’s not as if any of us wants to live like this, any more than any one person wants to be part of a traffic jam or stadium trampling or the hierarchy of cruelty in high school — it’s something we collectively force one another to do.

Our frantic days are really just a hedge against emptiness.

 

Busyness serves as a kind of existential reassurance, a hedge against emptiness; obviously your life cannot possibly be silly or trivial or meaningless if you are so busy, completely booked, in demand every hour of the day. I once knew a woman who interned at a magazine where she wasn’t allowed to take lunch hours out, lest she be urgently needed for some reason. This was an entertainment magazine whose raison d’être was obviated when “menu” buttons appeared on remotes, so it’s hard to see this pretense of indispensability as anything other than a form of institutional self-delusion. More and more people in this country no longer make or do anything tangible; if your job wasn’t performed by a cat or a boa constrictor in a Richard Scarry book I’m not sure I believe it’s necessary. I can’t help but wonder whether all this histrionic exhaustion isn’t a way of covering up the fact that most of what we do doesn’t matter.

I am not busy. I am the laziest ambitious person I know. Like most writers, I feel like a reprobate who does not deserve to live on any day that I do not write, but I also feel that four or five hours is enough to earn my stay on the planet for one more day. On the best ordinary days of my life, I write in the morning, go for a long bike ride and run errands in the afternoon, and in the evening I see friends, read or watch a movie. This, it seems to me, is a sane and pleasant pace for a day. And if you call me up and ask whether I won’t maybe blow off work and check out the new American Wing at the Met or ogle girls in Central Park or just drink chilled pink minty cocktails all day long, I will say, what time?

But just in the last few months, I’ve insidiously started, because of professional obligations, to become busy. For the first time I was able to tell people, with a straight face, that I was “too busy” to do this or that thing they wanted me to do. I could see why people enjoy this complaint; it makes you feel important, sought-after and put-upon. Except that I hate actually being busy. Every morning my in-box was full of e-mails asking me to do things I did not want to do or presenting me with problems that I now had to solve. It got more and more intolerable until finally I fled town to the Undisclosed Location from which I’m writing this.

Here I am largely unmolested by obligations. There is no TV. To check e-mail I have to drive to the library. I go a week at a time without seeing anyone I know. I’ve remembered about buttercups, stink bugs and the stars. I read. And I’m finally getting some real writing done for the first time in months. It’s hard to find anything to say about life without immersing yourself in the world, but it’s also just about impossible to figure out what it might be, or how best to say it, without getting the hell out of it again.

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More From Anxiety

Read previous contributions to this series.

Idleness is not just a vacation, an indulgence or a vice; it is as indispensable to the brain as vitamin D is to the body, and deprived of it we suffer a mental affliction as disfiguring as rickets. The space and quiet that idleness provides is a necessary condition for standing back from life and seeing it whole, for making unexpected connections and waiting for the wild summer lightning strikes of inspiration — it is, paradoxically, necessary to getting any work done. “Idle dreaming is often of the essence of what we do,” wrote Thomas Pynchon in his essay on sloth. Archimedes’ “Eureka” in the bath, Newton’s apple, Jekyll & Hyde and the benzene ring: history is full of stories of inspirations that come in idle moments and dreams. It almost makes you wonder whether loafers, goldbricks and no-accounts aren’t responsible for more of the world’s great ideas, inventions and masterpieces than the hardworking.

“The goal of the future is full unemployment, so we can play. That’s why we have to destroy the present politico-economic system.” This may sound like the pronouncement of some bong-smoking anarchist, but it was actually Arthur C. Clarke, who found time between scuba diving and pinball games to write “Childhood’s End” and think up communications satellites. My old colleague Ted Rall recently wrote a column proposing that we divorce income from work and give each citizen a guaranteed paycheck, which sounds like the kind of lunatic notion that’ll be considered a basic human right in about a century, like abolition, universal suffrage and eight-hour workdays. The Puritans turned work into a virtue, evidently forgetting that God invented it as a punishment.

Perhaps the world would soon slide to ruin if everyone behaved as I do. But I would suggest that an ideal human life lies somewhere between my own defiant indolence and the rest of the world’s endless frenetic hustle. My role is just to be a bad influence, the kid standing outside the classroom window making faces at you at your desk, urging you to just this once make some excuse and get out of there, come outside and play. My own resolute idleness has mostly been a luxury rather than a virtue, but I did make a conscious decision, a long time ago, to choose time over money, since I’ve always understood that the best investment of my limited time on earth was to spend it with people I love. I suppose it’s possible I’ll lie on my deathbed regretting that I didn’t work harder and say everything I had to say, but I think what I’ll really wish is that I could have one more beer with Chris, another long talk with Megan, one last good hard laugh with Boyd. Life is too short to be busy.

By Tim Kreider at anxiety@nytimes.com

Self Remembering – 24 Actual Excercises


Practicing exercises is the only way to experience the teaching. An exercise done with all your attention will bring you into ‘here and now’. Here are 24 exercises from Tom Campbell

  1. – Try to tolerate a characteristic of a person who annoys you immensely.
  2. – Be aware of the fact that those things that you find annoying about other people are the things you are still struggling with yourself. Things you have overcome will only result in compassion.
  3. – Taste the food you are eating with all your attention.
  4. – Listen to the sound of the voice of the person talking to you. Do not try to understand (catch) the words.
  5. – Listen to the silence, the intervals between the words or the notes of the music.
  6. – Direct all your attention at the work surface. The work surface is the surface between the instrument you are using and the object you work on, e.g. the surface between the sandpaper and the windowsill, or the space between the saw and the beam.
  7. – Listen to music and observe where in the body the music is heard. Observe the differences between the physical perceptions of rhythm, of melody and harmony.
  8. – See life as a game in which all roles are equal.
  9. – Observe one of your roles and try to unmask the identification.
  10. – Ban excessive arranging and fixing, and have faith that the right solution is always within reach.
  11. – As soon as you notice a prejudice coming up, let go of it immediately.
  12. – Really close activities by letting go of them / by completely coming to yourself. Practice with telephone calls. Start the next activity with a clean mind.
  13. – Stop unnecessary talking. If you notice the other person is not listening, stop immediately. If you catch yourself singing your standard tune, stop immediately.
  14. – Do not waste energy by excessive exertions: screwing the cap of the toothpaste too tight, ditto for the lid of the jar of peanut butter, slamming the door, a too heavy touch on your keyboard, etc., etc. In short, have a sense of measure!
  15. – Observe the functioning of the three centres in your daily work. What belongs to the head? What belongs to the heart? What belongs to the belly? Observe how each centre functions by seeing it while it happens. Everyone has to discover for himself his own way of functioning and his own falsity, so that this can be purified.
  16. – Watch your movements without intervening. Under an observing eye, which does not intervene, we can discern the right measure, and our movements and actions will become more precise, more correct, and consequently clearer and more distinct. Excessive movement will disappear and so a lack of effort. Start with observing the hands at work, without intervening.
  17. – Observe your thinking and the circling thoughts in your head while they are ‘circling’. Remembering this afterwards is not much use or no use at all, because what is done cannot be undone. We have to manage to stop such a stream of thoughts when it is in full swing. Only then something will change, in actual practice in other words. Under this observing eye, circling thoughts will have less chance to go their way. The same applies to associative thinking, inner conversations and imagination.
  18. – Consider: love starts where nothing is demanded in return. Explanation: In your relationship with your partner, or relationship with whomever, see whether you are behaving with love, with this text as a touchstone.
  19. – Practice: give someone what you think you are without. Explanation: sometimes you may feel that someone should pay you attention, listen to you or respect you. When you are stuck in this, switch the situation round and put that which you think you are without at the disposal of the person of whom you expect, demand or are trying to enforce something like this.
  20. – Practice: Take the position of the Objective Observer for 15 minutes. Explanation: This is the easiest exercise in the world, which is the least easy to put into practice. It is the exercise for filling so-called empty moments when waiting for the train, bus or people. The exercise is like this: resolve to just watch, listen, feel, smell and/or taste (these are the sensory functions) for 15 minutes. To optimize this exercise, the advice is to go to a busy environment, such as a park, a train station or busy shopping street. Naturally, you will notice that in no time, your consciousness will be stuck in one or other thought, association or judgement. When you see this, you open your consciousness again as wide as possible, and make sure you do not forget that consciousness is a fact. Every attempt at ‘doing things yourself’ will not work.
  21. – Observe how we continuously consider our world in opposites. Black-and-white thinking is a cultural pattern and is an invitation to discord.
  22. – Observe where you lose your attention and have fallen asleep.
  23. – Come to yourself regularly by, for instance, listening to the farthest sound. Enjoy the silence.
  24. – Listen to the sound of your own voice without wanting to do anything about this sound (without criticising it either).

Found and abridged from http://tomcampbell.tumblr.com/post/54399874/gurdjieff-self-remembering-exercises

Breath With Others – Universal Breathing Room


One billion people will breathe together synchronously by November 11,2012.

For a moment, think of what will happen when one billion people breathe in and out in perfect unison, creating one universal breath flow. The impact this will have on humanity is yet to be experienced We invite you to be one of the billion. Join others with online guided breathing, you can choose various types of meditative styles and different intentions.

Universal Breathing Room

Reasons to Breath:

Here are a few things you will experience when you join us:

  • Awaken the most powerful anti-oxidant you own and detox using breathing
  • Alkalinize the body and remove acidic patterns that can cause dis-ease
  • Empower the natural healing abilities that lie within conscious breathing
  • Heighten your knowledge of breathing as the ancient yogis did
  • Learn to love yourself by resting into your Self
  • Create mindfulness for use in parenting, partnering and decision making
  • Enliven your existing meditation and/or yoga practice
  • Learn a technique used by Olympic athletes & World-Class Record holders
  • Learn the peace-making tool that will unite one billion people this year
  • Learn exercises that reduce and eliminate stress and anxiety
  • Cultivate joy and connect with peace instantly from within your being


12 Piano notes made visible for the first time


For the first time in history individual piano notes have been made visible using the CymaScope instrument. 
The piano notes were painstakingly recorded by Evy King and then fed into the CymaScope one by one 
and the results recorded in high definition video.

Music, in the absolute sense, is the invisible geometry of the cosmos, a delicate tracery of frequencies that harmonise with each other and from which all matter manifests. 

The conductor of this sublime symphony is the Creative Force of the cosmos, some people prefer to say: God.

Music, as sensed by humans, is a delicate tracery of audible frequencies that harmonise with each other and  generally please our emotions.

What is not commonly known is that music has the almost magical power to create form from formlessness…

 

God – Concept Map


It was a revelation to see this: God – Inforapid Map . The beauty Of InfoRapid, is the ‘Concept Maping Engine’. The Concept maps are generated by linking Wikipedia enteries and used to stimulate the generation of ideas. 

Take a look at Info Rapid, enter a word, any word, in no time a fluid diagram appears, revealing connections and related ideas allowing you to  see how individual ideas form part of a larger whole. I chose ‘God’, as the idea of interconnectedness and unity of knowledge is shared by this software.

10 Most Meaningful passages – Atlas Shrugged


You must be prepared, when you read this novel, to check every premise at the root of your convictions. This is a mystery story, not about the murder—and rebirth—of man’s spirit. It is a philosophical revolution, told in the form of an action thriller of violent events, a ruthlessly brilliant plot structure and an irresistible suspense. Do you say this is impossible? Well, that is the first of your premises to check. Here are 10 of the most highlighted sections from Amazons Xray feature.
An honest man is one who knows that he can’t consume more than he has produced.
Highlighted by 1441 Kindle users
“if you saw Atlas, the giant who holds the world on his shoulders, if you saw that he stood, blood running down his chest, his knees buckling, his arms trembling but still trying to hold the world aloft with the last of his strength, and the greater his effort the heavier the world bore down on his shoulders—what would you tell him to do?” “I . . . don’t know. What . . . could he do? What would you tell him?” “To shrug.”
Highlighted by 1402 Kindle users
“Francisco, what’s the most depraved type of human being?” “The man without a purpose.”
Highlighted by 1191 Kindle users
“Let me give you a tip on a clue to men’s characters: the man who damns money has obtained it dishonorably; the man who respects it has earned it.
Highlighted by 1190 Kindle users
“Dagny, there’s nothing of any importance in life—except how well you do your work. Nothing. Only that. Whatever else you are, will come from that. It’s the only measure of human value. All the codes of ethics they’ll try to ram down your throat are just so much paper money put out by swindlers to fleece people of their virtues. The code of competence is the only system of morality that’s on a gold standard.
Highlighted by 1088 Kindle users
I SWEAR BY MY LIFE AND MY LOVE OF IT THAT I WILL NEVER LIVE FOR THE SAKE OF ANOTHER MAN, NOR ASK ANOTHER MAN TO LIVE FOR MINE.
Highlighted by 1016 Kindle users
“It is not advisable, James, to venture unsolicited opinions. You should spare yourself the embarrassing discovery of their exact value to your listener.”
Highlighted by 981 Kindle users
“So you think that money is the root of all evil?” said Francisco d’Anconia. “Have you ever asked what is the root of money? Money is a tool of exchange, which can’t exist unless there are goods produced and men able to produce them. Money is the material shape of the principle that men who wish to deal with one another must deal by trade and give value for value. Money is not the tool of the moochers, who claim your product by tears, or of the looters, who take it from you by force. Money is made possible only by the men who produce. Is this what you consider evil?
Highlighted by 974 Kindle users
They professed to love him for some unknown reason and they ignored all the things for which he could wish to be loved.
Highlighted by 705 Kindle users

The adversary she found herself forced to fight was not worth matching or beating; it was not a superior ability which she would have found honor in challenging; it was ineptitude—a gray spread of cotton that seemed soft and shapeless, that could offer no resistance to anything or anybody, yet managed to be a barrier in her way.

Highlighted by 663 Kindle users

10 Most Meaningful passages – Walden – H.D. Thoreau


“Walden” brings together a rather prescriptive series of reflections, covering society, human nature, self-reliance and mankind’s relationship to each other and to nature. Widely considered a countercultural manifesto, Walden, nonetheless offers a glimpse into the thickset, austere and escapist attitude, prevalent at the time. I hope these 10 passages save you from the “Quiet desperation” inherent in reading this overly morose text.
Confucius said, “To know that we know what we know, and that we do not know what we do not know, that is true knowledge.”
Highlighted by 9 Kindle users
The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation. What is called resignation is confirmed desperation.
Highlighted by 8 Kindle users
Public opinion is a weak tyrant compared with our own private opinion. What a man thinks of himself, that it is which determines, or rather indicates, his fate.
Highlighted by 7 Kindle users
For the improvements of ages have had but little influence on the essential laws of man’s existence; as our skeletons, probably, are not to be distinguished from those of our ancestors.
Highlighted by 6 Kindle users
One may almost doubt if the wisest man has learned anything of absolute value by living.
Highlighted by 6 Kindle users
Most of the luxuries, and many of the so-called comforts of life, are not only not indispensable, but positive hindrances to the elevation of mankind.
Highlighted by 5 Kindle users
Perhaps we should never procure a new suit, however ragged or dirty the old, until we have so conducted, so enterprised or sailed in some way, that we feel like new men in the old, and that to retain it would be like keeping new wine in old bottles.
Highlighted by 5 Kindle users
Every generation laughs at the old fashions, but follows religiously the new.
Highlighted by 5 Kindle users
This spending of the best part of one’s life earning money in order to enjoy a questionable liberty during the least valuable part of it reminds me of the Englishman who went to India to make a fortune first, in order that he might return to England and live the life of a poet.
Highlighted by 4 Kindle users
In the long run men hit only what they aim at. Therefore, though they should fail immediately, they had better aim at something high.
Highlighted by 4 Kindle users