I’m increasingly glad that the internet and social media wasn’t really a thing when I was growing up.
Sure, we had email and newsgroups and chatrooms and simple search engines when I was a teenager, but there wasn’t much online beyond that.
(I still remember going to the doctors in the early 2000s and explaining to the nurse how to use Google so she could look up which vaccinations I needed for my holiday).
These days, certain corners of the internet seem to have descended into a parody of themselves.
We’re relentlessly bombarded with the message that we need more focus, more hustle, more productivity.
It doesn’t make sense though…
How can we get any real work done, if first we have to master the 21 Things You Should Do Before Breakfast To Be Insanely Successful?
It feels like we’re trying to compress so much knowledge into such a tiny space that it no longer makes any sense.
So I’ve devised a productivity antidote.
And it goes like this…
Whenever I fall into the trap of reading an article on productivity, I make sure to read an equivalent amount of “From Time to Eternity” by Alan Watts.
I’ve taken the liberty of reformatting a chunk of it below, because the original is transcribed intro a single block, and hard work to read as a result.
An excerpt from Alan Watt’s “From Time to Eternity”
I want you to think about clocks and watches for a moment. We are of course slaves to them. And you will notice that your watch is a circle, and that it is calibrated, and that each minute, or second, is marked by a hairline which is made as narrow as possible, as yet to be consistent with being visible.
And when we think of a moment of time when we think what we mean by the word “now,” we think of the shortest possible instant that is here and gone, because that corresponds with the hairline on the watch. And as a result of this fabulous idea, we are a people who feel that we don’t have any present, because the present is instantly vanishing - it goes so quickly.
It is always becoming past. And we have the sensation, therefore, of our lives as something that is constantly flowing away from us. We are constantly losing time. And so we have a sense of urgency.
Time is not to wasted.
Time is money.
And so because of the tyranny of this thing, we feel that we have a past, and we know who we are in terms of our past.
Nobody can ever tell you who they are, they can only tell you who they were.
And we think we also have a future. And that is terribly important, because we have a naive hope that the future is somehow going to supply what we are looking for.
You see, if you live in a present that is so short that it is not really here at all, you will always feel vaguely frustrated. And also, when you ask a person “What did you do yesterday?” they will give you a historical account of the sequence of events.
They will say “Well, I woke up at about seven o’clock in the morning. I got up and made myself some coffee, and then I brushed my teeth and took a shower, got dressed, had some breakfast and went down to the office and did this and that,” and so on. And they give you a historical outline of a course of events. And people really think that is what they did.
But actually that is only the very skeleton account of what you did. You lived a much richer life than that, except you did not notice it. You only paid attention to a very small part of the information received through your five senses. You forgot to say that when you got up first thing in the morning and made some coffee, that your eyes slid across the birds outside your window. And the light on the leaves of the tree. And that your nose played games with the scent of the boiling coffee.
You didn’t even mention it because you were not aware of it. Because you were not aware of it you were in a hurry. You were engaged on getting rid of that coffee as fast as possible so that you could get to your office to do something that you thought was terribly important. And maybe it was in a certain way - it made you some money. But you, because you were so absorbed with the future, had no use for the money that you made. You did not know how to enjoy it. Maybe you invested it so that you would be sure that you would have a future in which something finally might happen to you, that you were looking for all along. But of course it never will because tomorrow never comes.
The truth of the matter being that there is no such thing as time.
Time is a hallucination. There is only today. There never will be anything except today. And if you do not know how to live today, you are demented.
This is the great problem of Western civilization, not only of Western civilization, but really all civilization, because what civilization is, is a very complex arrangement in which we have used symbols - that is to say words, numbers, figures, concepts to represent the real world of nature, like we use money to represent wealth, and like we measure energy with the clock. Or like we measure with yards or with inches. These are very useful measures.
But you can always have too much of a good thing, and can so easily confuse the measure with what you are measuring; the money with the wealth; or even the menu with the dinner.
And at a certain point, you can become so enchanted with the symbols that you entirely confuse them with the reality. This is the disease from which almost all civilized people are suffering.
We are therefore in the position of eating the menu instead of the dinner.
Posted to life in 2017.