I Wish I Were Far From the Madding Crowd

April 4, 2010

Are we too busybusybusy?

I reencountered a song a week or two ago that is absolutely hilarious.

“BusyBusyBusy” (sung by Kevin Kline, Song #13 in Philadelphia Chickens [1])

First verse and refrain (imagine this sung non-stop with almost every syllable being sung on an eighth note—and with no rests in each verse):

We’re
very, very busy
and we’ve got a lot to do
and we haven’t got a minute
to explain it all to you
for on SundayMondayTuesday
there are people we must see
and on WednesdayThursdayFriday
we’re as busy as can be
with our most important meetings
and our most important calls
and we have to do so many things
and post them on the walls.

Perhaps because of the song I pulled Jon Kabat-Zinn’s Coming to Our Senses[2] off the shelf it had sat on for a while and flipped through it.

A couple of chapters immediately caught my eye.  With chapter titles ranging from “A.D.D. Nation” and “24/7 Connectivity” to “The Infidelity of Busyness” and “Interrupting Ourselves” to “Overwhelmed” those alone sound what life is like nowadays.

Kabat-Zinn says that our entire society suffers from ADD and ADHD.

Learning how to refine our ability to pay attention and to sustain attention may no longer be a luxury but a lifeline back to what is most meaningful in our lives, what is most easily missed, ignored, denied, or run through so quickly that it could not possibly be noticed.

Kabat-Zinn notes that the combination of increasing processing speed and miniaturization and cheaper and cheaper electronics…

proffers a seduction in computer systems for work and home, consumer products, games, and portable electronic devices that can easily lead to outright addiction and the loss of all measure of direction as we respond willy-nilly to the increasing volumes of e-mail, voice mail, faxes, pages, and cell phone traffic coming in from all corners of the planet.

Hmm, makes me wonder whether he’s heard “BusyBusyBusy”:

we have to hurry far away
and then we hurry near
and we have to hurry everywhere
and be both there and here
and we have to send out messages
by e-mail, phone, and fax
and we’re talking every minute
and we really can’t relax
and we think there is a reason
to be running neck-and-neck
and it must be quite important
but we don’t have time to check.

I guess what I find most fascinating about this song is that while this might be what an adult’s life looks like to children at times, this is often how my life feels like to me.  Boynton (and Kevin Kline) capture that feeling perfectly.

And so Kabat-Zinn’s question resonates.  “But what about balance,” he asks, “and how do we regulate the pace of instant and ubiquitous connectivity, and the expectation of instantaneous responding?”  He notes that with our cellphones and wireless devices we can be in touch with anyone and everyone at any time.  “But,” he continues, “have you noticed that, in the process, we run the risk of never being in touch with ourselves?”

Saying that our primary connection to life is through experiencing our own bodies and our own senses, he says “we need moments that are not filled with anything, in which we do not jump to get in one more phone call or send one more e-mail, or plan one more event, or add to our to-do list, even if we can. Moments of reflection, of mulling, of thinking things over, of thoughtfulness.”  (Reminds me of Elaine Aron’s advice to Highly Sensitive Persons about what is needed to avoid becoming overwhelmed.  Everyone needs downtime.  Unfortunately with the world becoming increasingly frenetic, it seems that we are all less likely to get it and indeed burn ourselves out.)

Kabat-Zinn asks:

With all this talk of connectivity, what about connectivity to ourselves?  Are we becoming so connected to everybody else that we are never where we actually are?

As noted in “BusyBusyBusy”…

THEN
we have to hurry to the south
and then we hurry north
and we’re talking every minute
as we hurry back and forth
and we have to hurry to the east
and then we hurry west
and we’re talking every minute
and we don’t have time to rest
and we have to do it faster
or it never will be done
and we have no time for listening
or anything that’s fun.

In starting to read Coming to Our Senses I’ve realized how far I have to go.  (So is that why I’m sitting here at this computer typing another blog post? Ah, irony.)

References:
1. Philadelphia Chickens. [Book and CD] Music by Sandra Boynton & Michael Ford. Lyrics and Drawings by Sandra Boynton. New York: Workman Publishing, c2002.

One of the interesting things about this book and CD is that among the singers and performers were the Bacon Brothers (one of whom is, yes, Kevin Bacon), Meryl Streep, Scott Bakula, and the late Natasha Richardson.  If you have young kids (or nieces or nephews) it would make a great gift.  (I have not checked to see if “BusyBusyBusy” is available for listening anywhere on the Web, but perhaps you can find it somewhere.)

Note: A portion of the proceeds from the book goes to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation and the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation on behalf of all the artists who performed on the album.

2. Jon Kabat-Zinn. Coming to Our Senses: Healing Ourselves and the World Through Mindfulness. New York: Hyperion, c2005.

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March 4, 2010

Small steps

Have started reading

One Small Step Can Change Your Life: The Kaizen Way by Robert Maurer.  Workman Publishing, 2004.

Contrasts kaizen (small, comfortable steps) with innovation (a drastic process of change).  Interestingly enough, Maurer’s explanation of why small steps can actually help you accomplish more than drastic change ties in with some of Aron’s writing on Highly Sensitive Persons.

The chapters flow from “Ask small questions” to “Think small thoughts” to “Take small actions.”

Maurer says that one of the reasons drastic change often does not work is because thinking about what it would take to make such a change can cause fear, which triggers the fight-or-flight response of the amygdala.  The small steps taken in kaizen, on the other hand, do not trigger such a fear response.  So is there some sort of strong connection between the system Aron calls the “automatic pause-to-check” system and the amygdala?

I’m also intrigued by Maurer’s description of “mind sculpture” (from a book of the same name by Ian Robertson (which I will now have to track down at the library).  Mind sculpture apparently is going a step beyond visualization.

Malcolm Gladwell’s The Tipping Point (see below) would also appear to indicate how small steps can make a big difference.

Responses to “ How Is the Internet Changing the Way You Think?” (Edge Question of 2010)

Included information from a couple of the answers in my previous post.  Now I only have about 170 answers to go.  :)

Nexus: Small Worlds and the Groundbreaking Theory of Networks by Mark Buchanan, c2002.

A fairly basic explanation of network theory and complexity theory.  I had become aware of Granovetter’s “The Strength of Weak Ties” from reading Andrew McAfee’s Enterprise 2.0 (listed below).

Buchanan explains some of the mathematics behind that, as well as the “Six Degrees of Separation,” which many people are probably aware of because of the connection with Kevin Bacon.  (If one expands that beyond movies and into books and music, many more people get drawn into his network.  More on that in another post.)

I’ve listed some other books I’ve recently finished, but following Maurer’s suggestions re small steps I’m going to stop for now and touch upon those in later posts, too.

Though I would highly recommend that everyone read Cradle to Cradle (see below) to find out what we’re doing to our environment—and ourselves and our health and our kids’ health—and why we need to stop making many of the industrial toxins we’re making and move toward a lifecycle approach to chemicals, rather than making things that just end up in landfills.

Recently read

Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World by Jack Weatherford. Three Rivers Press, 2004.

Elaine Aron.  The Highly Sensitive Person, c1996, and The Highly Sensitive Child, c2002.

Andrew McAfee.  Enterprise 2.0: New Collaborative Tools for Your Organization’s Toughest Challenges.  Harvard Business Press, c2009.

William McDonough and Michael Braungart.  Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things.  North Point Press, 2002.

Not so recently (but still thought-provoking)

Malcolm Gladwell. The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference.  Back Bay paperback edition, 2002.

Social epidemics; word of mouth; Mavens, Collectors, and Salesmen; “Ideas” (memes? viral ideas?); E-mail (discusses “immunity” to e-mail)

March 1, 2010

Coping strategies for living in an overstimulating world

Filed under: Coping strategies — Myles Tougeau @ 9:44 pm
Tags: , ,

Dr. Ted Zeff, author of The Highly Sensitive Person’s Survival Guide, offers some coping strategies at http://drtedzeff.com/tips/coping/.  Most of the ones listed there are also listed included in the book.

Dr. Aron’s website contains more information about her and her research.  http://www.hsperson.com/index.html

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