After a couple of weeks with an irrational president and a reactive electorate, I found this Verge editorial encouraging. It suggests that technology CEOs have sufficient influence to exert pressures on the administration to recognize and take action to solve the real and critical problems confronting not just our nation but the world: climate change, sustainable energy, poverty, access to medical care are some examples.
In this month’s issue of Wired, there is a humorous article about the mainstreaming of geek culture and its effects on innovation. The writer (comedian Patton Oswalt) contends that the genesis of innovation is dissatisfaction, and that given the current penchant for instant gratification and diversion through such media as the Internet we threaten to lull ourselves into complacency.
How very unzen.
How very Orwellian.
Humor aside, there are some interesting points to consider.
If we reach the pinnacle of Mazlow’s pyramid, are our intellectual appetites doomed to atrophy?
Or is the implication that we will be trapped on a lower level, lacking the motivation to reach self-actualization?
Whatever the answers might be, I like Oswalt’s solution: make sure that pop culture sucks, so that counterculture may rise from the ashes. And, I suspect we’re pretty much already heading down that path.
It is tremendously challenging to be mindful and not become discouraged now and again.
The heroes of many novels are men of character, with iron wills and impeccable moral compasses. They are robust, infallable, pursuing justice with unwavering focus. But these are men of fantasy only. They lack dimension. They frequently lack passion. They are caricatures.
Willa Cather was a champion of capturing the small acts of intention that differentiated men and women from their neighbors. Her portraits of flawed and frail humanity are compassionate but unflinching, so that one can love the wild child thoroughly yet understand, and accept, her failings.
In these stories, somewhere between the unrealistic and the honest is a shared thread: isolation. The stalwart hero stands alone with his sense of honor. The wild child is an outsider because her passions are foreign to her community.
Is the message, then, that living a life of intention is isolating?
Isolation doesn’t reconcile with Connection, and most of us require connection of one form or another in order to both remain healthy and continue to discover our potential. And for some of us (including myself) connection is a source of the energy we require, in that we must give out some warmth and on fortunate occasions receive warmth in return.
Are we then condemned to half a life when we choose to live mindfully?
This question resonates with me this morning.
My iPhone is indispensable. It passes its idle hours in a studded pink leather case that clips to my belt or slips sinuously into my handbag. During meetings I consult the calendar or set up a reminder. During a lunch hour I make Facebook updates and add comments to my friends’ Facebook updates. I check personal emails, take odd snapshots, send ironic texts to friends, and add to my shopping list. Oh and occasionally I might telephone someone.
Most recently I have become enamoured of a role playing game, Quest. While my husband watches television I play the game. As a ‘reward’ for completing monotonous chores I play the game. When I need to escape from the vanilla reality of suburban life I play the game. I am new to rpgs, so this is a voyage of discovery.
My character is Analia, a Derth (but with nice hair, of course!), a mystic, an explorer, and a warrior. My ultimate quest is to rescue the Governor of Freymore, but I’ve barely progressed as along the way I have met people who needed help and have taken up their cause. I have slaughtered Orcs, evil Shaman, various skeletons, ghosts and ghouls. I have gathered plants and concocted potions, discovered booty and gambled at cards. I have collected amulets and armour, and found, bought and sold weapons and magic wands. Analia is known as a strong warrior woman, popular with townsfolk and only rarely in trouble with the local soldiers. She is a person who strives to maintain some integrity.
I started playing the game as an experiment in cognitive behavior modification. I wondered, Would the act of playing at being someone strong and independent cultivate some of those skills in my brick-and-mortar self? And strangely, somewhat surprisingly, the answer seems to be Yes.
As a childless adult, the biological imperative to reproduce occasionally grabs a bullhorn and shouts into my ears. There is no rational component of the longing, and as I am of an age when it is both unlikely that I would be able to carry a child, and unrealistic for my husband and I to start raising one, I am content to sit back quietly until the hormones settle down and cease their annoying antics.
Today after running several errands I dropped by a Subway sandwich shop to grab something quick and marginally healthy for dinner, as my husband and I were planning to stay at home to watch movies. And ahead of me in line was a woman, not much younger than I, with her son.
It was clear that the pair had been in the shop for some time. The child, who appeared to be about 10 years old, had laid his head on the counter in frustration as his mother hollered at him about whether he wanted bacon on his sandwich, then turned to bellow questions toward the young countergirl about the price of the sandwich. When the girl pointed out that bacon was 50 cents extra, the customer became irate and in rapid-fire language listed numerous alternatives – which soon seemed to cause the Subway employee some great confusion.
I almost left the shop, but for concern that the child’s mother might launch herself across the counter onto the countergirl, like a great white fighting rooster taking down a downy chick. All of a sudden I realized that my fear of watching The Exorcist was unreasonable; the reality of overwrought suburban moms is far, far scarier.
Later, I took comfort in my childlessness, as there but for the absence of God go I.