Tuesday, February 05, 2013

Flowgorrhea & Wordplay

We have arrived at Rule One: Learn at first concentration without effort; transform work into play; make every yoke that you have accepted easy and every burden that you carry light!

Tomberg says you can take it in several ways, so long as you take it seriously: clue, wise crack, advice, threat, etc. In any event, play is a very serious isness, fit only for amateurs (amo, of course, referring to the love that motivates the ama-teur).

The sentence may be broken down into three clauses, the first involving "effortless concentration." Tomberg provides a useful definition of the latter, which is "fixing the maximum attention on the minimum amount of space."

Imagine the concentration necessary to hit a little ball traveling at 100 mph. Or a wide receiver focusing on that ellipsoid flying object while knowing full well that he is going to endure great pain if he so much as touches it.

That sort of focussed attention "is the practical key to all success in every domain," and it is best accomplished by calmness and silence , or what we more or less symbolize (o) and (---).

(o) signifies a state of patient openness, while (---) is unhurried silence. These also happen to be the keys to allowing the softer voice of the right brain to speak, which is no coincidence, for the left brain is a loudmouthed know-it-all.

Just as not-knowing must precede knowing -- or emptiness fullness -- silence is anterior to (↓).

Tomberg then draws a critical distinction between interested and disinterested concentration. For example, it isn't difficult for most men to focus their attention on a Victoria's Secret catalogue. In a way, in order to practice disinterested concentration, we must liberate ourselves from the typical things that are always vying for our interested concentration.

This interested concentration arises from various planes of being, e.g., genetics, evolutionary psychology, mind parasites, cultural mimesis, cash and other valuable prizes, etc. As Tomberg says, gluttons and misers -- not to mention perverts and other activists -- are quite attentive to the objects of their interest, just as Obama has a laser-like focus on expanding state power and diminishing yours. He makes liberal fascism look so easy!

In fact a truly "liberal education" involves acquainting oneself with the entire domain of reality that exists outside necessity. Indeed, a key to happiness is doing things just for the hell of it -- i.e., for their intrinsic pleasure -- rather than for some identifiable payoff. Studies have even demonstrated that if you pay a person to do something he intrinsically enjoys, he will derive less enjoyment from it.

I found that last nugget in Charles Murray's In Pursuit of Happiness and Good Government, which I'm reading for some reason, apparently because it relates to this post. He highlights the "paradox" that Americans are no happier today (and probably less happy) despite a historical increase in wealth over the past 50-60 years. What gives?

There are a number of reasons, but one is surely that the accumulation of wealth involves a great deal of interested concentration, when we've already established that a key to happiness and fulfillment is a lot of disinterested concentration, i.e., play. Murray points out that for most of western history we implicitly agreed upon an Aristotelian definition of happiness, whereas today we have one that is more Lockean.

The former revolves around the idea that we derive the most happiness from exercising our most fully realized capacities; in the book I discussed this in terms of realizing our potential, but the point is the same. We all have some sort of gift(s), and happiness very much involves using and developing the gift. Importantly, the rewards from doing so are intrinsic, unrelated to any secondary payoff.

This is what we call slacktivity, because it is the essence of higher nondoodling. It is a way of simultaneously doing nothing and something. You could also call it multi-slacking, which is what I am doing at the moment: several types of passionate nothing all in the same timelessness.

And no, that last crack wasn't just superfluous, because real slacktivity results in temporal dilation. That is to say, the present moment "widens out," so to speak, so the garment of the now isn't so tight and binding. More like one of those pirate shirts with the billowy sleeves.

Murray brings in a discussion of the unfortunately named flow -- unfortunate, because the word makes it sound like something Deepak might have come up with, instead of being a serious concept. It was coined by a man with the unflowing name of Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, but his initial term sounded more serious: autotelic, meaning "self end," or an end that is both by and for the Self (not "ego," I might add).

Consider Murray's description of flow: it is action joined to awareness, such that "you know exactly what you're doing, but you are not thinking about the fact that you know." Like me right now. One thing I never do while blogging is look down, because if I do, I'll lose my balance and fall from the ground.

You could say that we are in flow when we are concentrating without effort, turning work into play, and multi-slacking. And flow has no purpose but to just keep flowin'. Which reminds me of Eckhart's notion of "living without a why."

I believe it is fair to say that Professor Cz%$^*&@yli's idea of flow, when applied to the spiritual dimension, illuminates what we call the "divine spiral" of (↓↑), as we are effortlessly pulled into the Great Attractor.

Now rhea means flow, and this pointless logorrhea must now cease its flow for the day.

25 Comments:

Blogger Magister said...

what a coincidence (?)

so this Csikszentmihalyi's "flow" was the mantra at a Suzuki music camp we took the kids to this past summer in Ypsilanti

the whole camp started (literally) with the director teaching the kids how to say the guy's name -- and in typical Suzuki fashion, it was broken down into manageable bits:

MEE-hi

CHEEK-sent-
mee-hi!

MEE-hi CHEEK-sent-mee-hi!

the kids were happily saying the name over and over again, laughing and squealing with delight

bateleurs one and all

it did the heart good, as it always does

2/05/2013 10:57:00 AM  
Blogger John Lien said...

Illuminating post (as usual).

For no reason other than I wanted to, I'm chipping away at a physics course I found online. Takes me hours to ponder and work a problem that should take minutes. To slow me up further, I use a slide rule because working a slide rule is a quasi-magical experience. It is a joyous bit of timelessness.

I used to complain about those who wasted time working puzzles but I think I see what they are up to now.

2/05/2013 11:02:00 AM  
Blogger mushroom said...

So I'm not the only person who still owns a slide rule.

Ypsilanti is enough of a challenge for me. With a few more vowels, Csikszentmihalyi could be an Indian software engineer.

2/05/2013 11:22:00 AM  
Blogger mushroom said...

The other thing that spoils play for me, besides getting paid for it, is when it is compulsory. I know I should be able to overcome that, but there is my rebel soul.

2/05/2013 11:28:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Play is better when you're stealing it.

2/05/2013 11:30:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

Magister - as an aside, my mom's family originally hailed from Ypsi and thereabouts. Small world!

John - funny thing about puzzles. My boy got two for Christmas, big ones with 48-pieces. He puts them together several times a day; usually the moment he's done he takes them apart. It's all about the solving, seeing how things fit together. Once he's reached the end, the ends have been reached and it's time to start all over again.

2/05/2013 12:32:00 PM  
Blogger John Lien said...

Mush, you mean forced corporate play for team building and such?

Oh man, that kind of activity... it's gotta be some sort of UN human rights violation.

2/05/2013 02:03:00 PM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Bob, you lost me when you saiod "victorias Secret catalogue."

Now hafta read yer post again.
Oh, I did get this:

"(o) signifies a state of patient openness, while (---) is unhurried silence. These also happen to be the keys to allowing the softer voice of the right brain to speak, which is no coincidence, for the left brain is a loudmouthed know-it-all."

Sort of like Cliff on Cheers. I'm always bemused as well as annoyed at all the loudmouthed know-it-alls I have met.

However, I guess it does make it a bit easier to find the ones who know a thing or two.
They're the quiet ones and patient.
And their words are tempered by wisdom or nous and humilty as you so illusterously illustrated. :^)

2/05/2013 04:05:00 PM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Gagdad Bob said...
Play is better when you're stealing it."

I'm always up for a heist!

2/05/2013 04:09:00 PM  
Blogger Jack said...

"And flow has no purpose but to just keep flowin'",

Reminds me of the book, "Finite and Infinite Games

Described thusly:

Finite games are the familiar contests of everyday life; they are played in order to be won, which is when they end. But infinite games are more mysterious. Their object is not winning, but ensuring the continuation of play. The rules may change, the boundaries may change, even the participants may change—as long as the game is never allowed to come to an end.

2/05/2013 04:57:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

My son used to invent games like that. Lots of rules but no real point except to keep on playing.

So much of life can be dominated to the want --> get --> want cycle that it displaces higher pointlessness. Rarely does finite meaning pay off.

2/05/2013 05:06:00 PM  
Blogger mushroom said...

Team-building. I guess the HR people have to have something to keep them busy.

John, if you haven't seen Lileks' Bleat today, it will probably sound too familiar.

2/05/2013 05:08:00 PM  
Blogger mushroom said...

It's true that stealing watermelons is more fun than growing them.

Chambers Brothers cover of the Elvin Bishop classic.

2/05/2013 05:17:00 PM  
Blogger Jack said...

"My son used to invent games like that. Lots of rules but no real point except to keep on playing."

Of course there is this:

“Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven."

2/05/2013 05:46:00 PM  
Blogger Jack said...

Perhaps that is why one often feels far from the Kingdom when ensconced in the daily grind. Everything becomes a finite game that one seems gradually to be losing. Possibly because one is.

Instead we reach out for an Infinite game at larger and larger scales of play. Maybe we all get glimpses from time to time. I hope so.

2/05/2013 05:49:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

Jack, I like that idea. Thanks.

2/05/2013 06:58:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

Instead we reach out for an Infinite game at larger and larger scales of play.

Of course, there is also a shadow side of this truth. The first comment at that link (via Ace's ONT):

"There are certain people, Dianne Abbott being a good enough example, whose existence is only validated by telling people to do something different from what they are.

The revolution has to go on forever, David. Eternal progress!"

2/05/2013 07:25:00 PM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Jack said...
Perhaps that is why one often feels far from the Kingdom when ensconced in the daily grind. Everything becomes a finite game that one seems gradually to be losing. Possibly because one is."

Good point, Jack.
The House always win. So it's best not to play their games. Plus, finite games are rigged and eventuall, devoid of fun or any kind of fullfillment.

2/05/2013 07:35:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

off topic, but also via the ONT, Bill Murray was a student of Gurdjieff. Who knew?

2/05/2013 07:40:00 PM  
Blogger Jack said...

Of course, there is also a shadow side of this truth.

Julie-

I have wondered about that. What separates the Divine Infinite Game from the "bad infinity" of nihilism? Or is it simply that the Left, for example, tries to make *their* finite game the only game in town?

They seek to project their finite power game onto the screen of infinity, in an attempt to legitimize it. With predictably disastrous results. They are trying to decisively "win" the infinite game, thus ending it. Which can't be done.

Anyway, it's a good question. Maybe it just comes back to:

Learn at first concentration without effort; transform work into play; make every yoke that you have accepted easy and every burden that you carry light!



2/05/2013 09:54:00 PM  
Blogger ge said...

re 'Play'-- i caught a quote re Bob Marley not long ago: on tour he had one outfit for daytime: a track suit, and the boys'd play soccer for hours in downtime----and he had one same outfit he played in each show! [denim, not the tracksuit!]
--ie a life devoted to:
el P-L-A-Y-o

Ballplay

2/06/2013 05:09:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

As an alternative, you can always transform work into cyberloafing.

2/06/2013 07:12:00 AM  
Blogger John Lien said...

Ran across this passage this morning. Note that I don't regularly read the Bible and that I just opened the book randomly. (This was near the center of the book so it wasn't truly random)

Ecclesiasticus, starting at 38:24

Leisure gives the scribe the chance to aquire wisdom;
a man with few commitments can grow wise.

How can the ploughman become wise,
whose sole ambition is to wield the goad, driving his oxen, engrossed in their work. his conversation limited to bullocks,

2/06/2013 07:39:00 AM  
Blogger James Sheives said...

Flow = Stevie Ray Vaughn playing guitar http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B8YjmjKCWuM

2/10/2013 06:04:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

That's the first thing I noticed about him: that the music flows right down into his body, out of his hands, and then out through the guitar.

2/10/2013 08:24:00 AM  

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