Wednesday, August 2, 2006

Too much information

Kaki was telling me yesterday about getting up every morning at 4:30 to go surfing, and how being in the ocean like that just puts everything in proper perspective. As I find myself getting more and more wound up by people and things that really don't matter or interest me, her words stuck with me the rest of the day. So I got up early this morning to do my yoga and meditation routine outside before it gets too hot, and then I sat down to read the news.

I learned that we're getting closer to being able to become invisible and that for all its weirdness, alchemy was also a "direct engagement with the political, economic, religious and intellectual realities of the early modern world." I read that Israel has expanded their ground offensive despite increasing human and environmental catastrophe, and Fidel Castro has temporarily passed state control to his brother, which has led to Cuban expatriates rejoicing that he may soon die.

And then I realised, much to my horror, that in less than 15 minutes I had effectively abolished all the positive effects of my earlier activities. I felt overwhelmed and tense and started thinking about those people and things that really shouldn't be upsetting me. And then - surprise surprise - I didn't feel like writing. So I'm going sailing this afternoon, and tomorrow I'll experiment with having only three applications - Word, iTunes and iChat - open until the day's writing is done.


Blogger institute.of.zombie.studies said...

There is too much focus on invisibility. Have we learned nothing from Kevin Bacon's sci-fi thriller Hollow Man? We should be focussing on Kevin Bacon's Footloose

Anonymous Rob said...

3 applications? Try 1:

Anonymous anne said...

institute.of.zombie.studies - but i'd love to have the power of invisibility! (and while we're on the topic on kevin bacon, i really enjoyed the woodsman...

rob - i tried that out, but the thesis has such strict formatting requirements, it's just easier to write in word. it goes full screen too, but granted it doesn't look as cool ;)

as for the other two apps - well, i work best to music, and IM is to keep me from getting lonely ;)

Blogger institute.of.zombie.studies said...

Invisibility would be a great power. However, I can't think of a single instance of an invisible person being of good moral character. (this is for people who have constant irreversible invisibility, so Inivisible Woman from the Fantastic Four does not count)

Anonymous jean said...

I've even tried turning Airport off. But so many of my ideas and examples are in my blog! Which is both symptomatic of the whole problem and represents the beginning of a slippery slope toward wrack and ruin - too late now to hole up in a cubicle with reams of creamy paper covered in scholarly handwriting.

PS I enjoyed The Woodsman too. But there is really nothing to compare to Footloose as an allegory. Dance around the abandoned warehouse of your mind, wielding a whisky bottle and leaping onto cars. Let your brain go footloose. Or something.

Blogger Phil said...

Another thumbs-up for The Woodsman. It's quite short, which (together with my own cynicism) threw me slightly - as it ended I was still waiting for the final twist. The lack of same left a surprisingly clean taste - both upbeat and open-ended. It's a sweet film (and Bacon's very good in it).

I got a bit lost just skimming that article about the alchemists, but this, I think, is worth hanging on to:

Pamela H. Smith, a history professor at Columbia, said alchemy “was the matter theory of its day” and was “incredibly multilayered and therefore a powerful way of viewing nature.”

"Multi-layered and therefore powerful" - a framework that's useful not because it's true but because it provides a lot of unanswered questions, a lot of jumping-off points. It's all about gaps...

Anonymous anne said...

institute.of.zombie.studies - wow, i'd never thought about that way, but i think you're probably right. damn those always-invisible people!

jean - i'm with you on the blog thing, but i can't seem to muster any sort of sympathy for footloose. all i can conjure is a movie that put me to sleep and years of being subjected to the heinous popularity of that bloody song.

phil - i really liked that bit too, but what stuck with me the most was this:

"'For a variety of practical and intellectual reasons,' Professor Moran said, 'the idea of transforming one thing into another was to be expected.' In everyday life, grapes were turned to wine and wheat to bread. A sour green apple grew into a sweet red one. It was in the nature of things to change, even metals. Miners and refiners already knew that lead ore almost always contains some silver, and silver ore almost always contains some gold. This implied that the metals changed one into the other over time."

Blogger e-tat said...

Loneliness may be necessary...

A former colleague said - in response to my own complaint about the isolation of doing a distance-learning degree - that she felt lonely at Cambridge. I still don't have much sympathy for her on that count, but it does underscore the extent to which loneliness is regarded as a central facet of the experience.

But being lonesome doesn't solve the problems of procrastination or displacement. I am not sure that anything does. In my case, the things that throw me off track are the external obligations (having to work, to sort out finances), the recurring domestic chores, and health problems. Sometimes I just can't muster the willpower or concentration.

The crucial factor is persistence in spite of the interruptions. You'll get there.

Blogger Phil said...

A former colleague said - in response to my own complaint about the isolation of doing a distance-learning degree - that she felt lonely at Cambridge.

I can identify with that - I also felt lonely at Cambridge. Some great teaching, but the social support left a great deal to be desired. (Some lousy teaching, too...)

But then, I felt lonely when I did my MA (evening course, nobody at work cared and most of my fellow students didn't know what it was like); I felt lonely when I did my PhD (sitting at home alone all day can do that); and even now, when I've actually got an academic job, I sometimes feel lonely (research can be a solitary business). Beyond a certain point I think loneliness is part of the academic package - if I weren't the kind of person who could stand feeling lonely I wouldn't have gone down this path.


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