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Tuesday, March 21, 2006

The Madness of Multitasking and the Magic of Mindfulness 

Buddha told a parable in a sutra:
A man traveling across a field encountered a tiger. He fled, the tiger after him. Coming to a precipice, he caught hold of the root of a wild vine and swung himself down over the edge. The tiger sniffed at him from above. Trembling, the man looked down to where, far below, another tiger was waiting to eat him. Only the vine sustained him.

Two mice, one white and one black, little by little started to gnaw away the vine. The man saw a luscious strawberry near him. Grasping the vine with one hand, he plucked the strawberry with the other. How sweet it tasted!
Ours is a world aflood with temporal psychosis. We're plugged in, switched on, and linked up to the point where nothing is itself any longer. All things are necessarily tiny bits of other things, reassembled as befit the breakneck whim of the myriad users.

Our hallways are filled with students lost in iPods. DVD players come standard in new cars. I am consumed with infinite notions at every turn, distracted by my own amusements. The more I can do, the more I must do -- all at once, if possible. I play a video game while listening to WORT's A Public Affair; the game is "real-time strategy," which means I must track ten different types of activity at once.

A deep breath cannot be simple inspiration; I look around at my desk and the myriad creatures assail me: make-up quizzes (late slips); promises to students (V for Vendetta); lease renewal (lease renewal form); the impending end of the term (grade charts). Even with my eyes closed, I feel my belly rise and fall, and I think of how my metabolism has changed (and how unfit I feel).

This is not simple curio; free time becomes so precious that I grow frantic at its passing. For each spare minute available, I feel the need to satisfy multiple criteria at once:
  • What do I feel like doing?
  • What work needs to get done?
  • What would I like to have achieved at the end of the day?
  • What will help me be most prepared for tomorrow?
  • What time constraint must I be aware of?
These urges conflict and combat each other; I sometimes face a nebulous fury from the rush of demands I place upon my time (this past weekend, for example).

So I must stop.

Do what I am doing.

Wash my face.

Make photocopies.

Drive home.


My People

You may have heard about the recent elections in the Piotrowski homeland of Belarus, and the surrounding charges of fraud and repression from the president. What I only saw this morning, however -- buried deep (and by itself) in the list of Google articles -- was this article in The Guardian about how it's partly Lukashenko's unwillingness to abandon socialism which is causing Europe and the US to lambast him.
Belarus has an evolving market economy. But the market is orientated towards serving the needs of the bulk of the population, not a tiny class of nouveaux riches and their western advisers and money launderers. Unlike in Georgia or Ukraine, officials are not getting richer as ordinary folk get poorer. The absence of endemic corruption among civil servants and police is one reason why the wave of so-called "coloured revolutions" stopped before Minsk.
This reminds me of Chavez in Venezuela somewhat; I can't dismiss the charges of unjust governance, but I don't for a second believe that the US (noted supporter of past repressive regimes in Haiti and Indonesia) really cares so much about such matters.

And yet, I want to say: "Isn't there a way to Serve The People but also allow total freedom of speech and other liberties laid out in the UDHR?"

Et Cetera

Speaking of Zen, check out this cartoon version of a superb Bankei tale.

Have you seen Chaucer's blog?

Did you hear the one about the alleged slaughter of Iraqi civilians caught on videotape?

The Lego Suicides is amusing.


The Invisible Quest is stupid and annoying. Enjoy!

Today I'm listening to: Thievery Corporation!