Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Crazy Busy -- Shutting Down and Zoning Out.

I'm finding it easier to listen to Jewish music right now than any other, except maybe French music. I find that listening to music where the words are more or less sounds (in that, I can only understand bits and pieces) is easier on the heart and the mind. Plus, it's easier to get things done when you aren't listening to the words very carefully like I do. I think I put far too much weight on the words, anyhow. But I'm a sap, I can't help it.

I just saw this bit over on LifeHacker about how Modern Life Inhibits Creativity. I think this is sort of a given, but the tidbit features the book CrazyBusy by ADD expert Dr. Edward Hallowell. LifeHacker says:
"... Hallowell argues that Crackberry culture leads to ADD-like symptoms in people that don't officially have the disorder — a problem he calls Attention Deficit Trait (ADT). While Hallowell's fondness for making up words like "gigaguilt" and "screensucking" can be annoying, the overall message of CrazyBusy is that we all need to slow down and think in order to innovate instead of being constantly on the go in a frenzied (dumb) state of mind."
I'll admit that getting a BlackBerry probably hasn't helped my over-active state of mind, which plays into my inability to sleep, keep a single thought, or be calm for more than a few seconds. Is it ADT? Or ADD? Maybe I should read that book.

The more I think about it, the more I think that I'd be better off to REALLY turn my world off on Shabbat -- not just to not work (though this isn't a problem since I've been reassigned, I don't even check my work e-mail at night or on weekends), but to not check e-mail or use the computer at all. Of course the problem with this is that I have e-mail on my BlackBerry and while I could easily log out, would I also want to detach myself from my phone? Or rather, would I physically be able to?

I think everyone -- Jew or not -- needs a break. A chance to turn off and spend 24 hours un-clutched from the world of technology. One hundred years ago, even 50 years ago, people filled their time well enough, so why do we have so much STUFF and why do we feel like we need to be occupied 24/7? What happened to a good book, sitting, thinking, pondering?

In Shabbat in the Age of Technology, Menachem Wecker writes,
"Aish HaTorah’s Web site calls Shabbat the 'one final parcel of absolute and unconditional silence' in an 'era of Blackberries and Bluetooths,' where peace and quiet are 'basically extinct.' Chabad’s Web site compares Shabbat to 'an island of tranquility in the maelstrom of work, anxiety, struggle and tribulation that characterizes our daily lives for the other six days of the week.' "
In Wecker's article are comments from Carla Rolfe, a Christian blogger, who makes a poignant observation:
"When someone is afraid of silence, it’s often because it forces them to think about things they are normally able to avoid through external stimulation or distraction."
I'll admit that there is a 100 percent truth in this. But it's a chicken or the egg situation. My mind is a rumble, perhaps from the constant e-universe that I reside in, and the only way to quell such a neurotic existence is to take the time to turn it all off, but in turning it all off, I'm left with my thoughts. Is it a practice-makes-perfect situation? If I abstain from technology and the things that keep me tied up for well over 80 hours a week over an extended period, will I find calm, peace, and will my thoughts finally rest and settle? Or it is just a vicious cycle that all the Shabbating in the world cannot cure?

Of course with the idea of "shutting off" comes the need to contact everyone I know who calls me on Shabbat -- okay, maybe just my parents -- to say "listen, don't call." I could well enough leave the calls to my voicemail, and calls would go immediately there, but then my parents will get worried. They'll also forget. Luckily, my phone isn't heavily trafficked by callers. It seems a lot more difficult than it is. And then there's the Internet. To turn my computer completely off is, well, it hurts to think about it.

But so much of observance is taking things one step at a time. You can't just dive right in (or maybe you can, but I'm not willing to do this, it's too difficult and would probably shock my system and send me into some type of withdrawal). So maybe this week I'll turn off my phone, and we'll start there. Then maybe next week, I'll turn off the computer. And then the next week? Who knows. I think the hardest thing to cease and desist from would be writing -- I'm a constant note-taker. I'm sure there's a ruling against using sticky flags in books on Shabbat, as well, but I suppose that would aid a little bit in that problem (and I'm also a compulsive sticky-noter, too).

So now that I'm done rambling about rest, Shabbat, turning off and shutting down -- how do YOU break away? Is it just a few hours? A whole day? Have you achieved zen through ignoring the world? Tell me how you do it, folks. I'm in need of some help shutting off and zen-ing out.