efficiency may be good for business and governments but does not always lead to mindfulness and sustainable, rewarding relationships
Unfortunately, all the noise and bluster actually obscures the danger. These people are as serious as a lynch mob, and have already taken the first steps toward becoming one. And they’re going to walk taller and louder and prouder now that their bumbling efforts at civil disobedience are being committed with the full sanction and support of the country’s most powerful people, who are cynically using them in a last-ditch effort to save their own places of profit and prestige.
This is the sign we were waiting for – the one that tells us that yes, kids: we are there now. America’s conservative elites have openly thrown in with the country’s legions of discontented far right thugs. They have explicitly deputized them and empowered them to act as their enforcement arm on America’s streets, sanctioning the physical harassment and intimidation of workers, liberals, and public officials who won’t do their political or economic bidding.
This is the catalyzing moment at which honest-to-Hitler fascism begins. It’s also our very last chance to stop it.
I imagine attention festivals: week-long multimedia, cross-industry carnivals of readings, installations, and performances, where you go from a tent with 30-second films, guitar solos, 10-minute video games, and haiku to the tent with only Andy Warhol movies, to a myriad of venues with other media forms and activities requiring other attention lengths. In the Nano Tent, you can hear ringtones and read tweets. A festival organized not by the forms of the commodities themselves but of the experience of interacting with them. Not organized by time elapsed, but by cognitive investment: a pop song, which goes by quickly, can resonate for days; a poem, which can go by more quickly, sticks through a season. A festival in which you can see images of your brain on knitting and on Twitter.
I imagine a retail sector for cultural products that’s organized around the attention span: not around “books” or “music” but around short stories and pop songs in one aisle, poems and arias in the other. In the long store: 5,000 piece jigsaw puzzles, big novels, beer brewing equipment, DVDs of The Wire. Clerks could suggest and build attentional menus. We would develop attentional connoisseurship: the right pairings of the short and long. We would understand, and promote, attentional health.
It’s very hard for me to accept that thinking time is actually a productive and necessary part of my process. Thinking, reading, straying around frowning, staring at the blank white page–all of these are actually writing. Somewhere (probably from reading Piers Anthony’s authors notes) I internalized the idea that only actually putting words on paper is working. And it’s true: if you don’t (sooner or later) get the words on paper, you’re not writing–you’re lying to yourself and your friends about being a writer.
But like so many things, it’s not an absolute. All of that stuff–long drives, manual work that frees my mind to think, new experiences and information–the words and narratives and the people who inhabit them have to come from somewhere. Books require ingredients and cooking, much as I’d like them to spring full-formed from my head. Preferably on a speedy and predictable schedule.