I was reading an article in Wired on device addiction (“Breaking My Phone Addiction – Via My Phone“) when a phrase caught my eye.
Context: the last two months, professionally, have been unusual for me. Very good but far more chaotic than my norm. Which is already a bit chaotic, as any good freelancer will tell you.
I’m enjoying things like a solid night’s sleep, catching up on laundry, things like that. But I know I’m still low on brain-processing. I’m craving, in May, less stuff jammed into my head. Fewer multi-level to-do lists. I’m seeking calm and space around each thing I produce.
And so this phrase – “compulsive information gathering” – hit me hard. Because here I am, at a mental point where I need less, and yet – I’m checking all the blogs on my Feedly, working through dozens of books on my to-read shelf, and when I feel especially fried, skimming Buzzfeed and Reddit or Instagram.
* * *
Earlier this week I read an article called “On Monks and Email” by Cal Newport which made another point that gave me pause. Monks’ lives are designed to minimize distractions because they believe it’s worthwhile to focus entirely on God. And yet:
“…we still maintain positions in which the ability to concentrate is crucial to success… Except unlike our deep working medieval forebears, the modern knowledge work organization seems to care little about cultivating and supporting this fundamental activity.”
I’ve been completely overclocked. I want to produce, not consume. And yet what am I doing to self-medicate? Exactly the opposite.
* * *
The third thing I read this week that gave me a message on this was a copy of a children’s book I loved growing up: From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler. Some things from childhood that you come back to have lost something. If anything, this one meant more now. Particularly this:
“I think you should learn, of course, and some days you must learn a great deal. But you should also have days when you allow what is already in you to swell up inside of you until it touches everything. And you can feel it inside you. If you never take time out to let that happen, then you just accumulate facts, and they begin to rattle around inside of you. you can make noise with them, but never really feel anything with them. It’s hollow.”
It’s the first day of a new month, as I write this, and I think it’s time for a few changes. My information-gathering, word-consuming, is exhausting. (A word I’ve caught myself using a LOT lately.) I want to breathe and to appreciate all that I’ve got and to make more things I’m proud of…. not win a prize for getting to the end of the internet. Yes. It’s time for a few changes.