Age of Offlining

Another thought-provoking post from David Cain. Once again he perfectly articulates a feeling (can you articulate a feeling?) I’ve had for some time. Like his take on social media: The phrase “social media” itself has become mostly pejorative, code for time-wasting habits, superficial relationships, and the mob mentality.

It’s become too much. Way too much “online.” But I think a shift is happening. It’s becoming more obvious that always-on connectivity is having some serious side effects on our minds and our society. More of us want less internet. […] I think, or maybe just hope, we’re on the cusp of an “Age of Offlining,” an era characterized by a conscious mass departure from using the internet in such reflexive, uncontrolled ways.

Internet connectivity will always be a vital part of our infrastructure, but its services don’t need to be hyper-connected and endlessly distracting. […] I want to go down to the basement after work, put my messages and my writings into the box, take other people’s messages and writings out, and read them in my easy chair. And I want a big mechanical switch to shut it all off when I’m done with it.

I’ve been hearing versions of this from some of the most thoughtful people I know.

Heidegger and Modern Existentialism

I took a couple of philosophy courses in college (50 years ago) and enjoyed them far beyond my understanding of what I read. My (layman’s) interest in things philosophical has stuck with me but I never got around to reading any of the better known western philosophers. YouTube to the rescue.

For the last couple of weeks I’ve been watching a series of discussions about these brilliant and influential men (list below) while on the treadmill. Admittedly no substitute for reading their books but an easy way to get some understanding of their philosophies and why they’re important.

Additional programs: Kant, Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, Spinoza and Leibniz, Hegel & Marx, Hume, Heidegger, Aristotle, Wittgenstein

“Meditation is not about doing anything”

“Meditation is not about doing anything. It is simply paying attention.”

Not counting basic hygiene (brushing my teeth, etc), the only thing I do every day is meditate. I sit for 30 minutes, sometimes longer. Every day for the last 500 days. I keep track but I’m not sure that’s good idea. Too easy to get fixated on the streak, keeping the string going.

I’ve missed twice in the last 1,000+ days. Once when I was sick and again when out of town attending a high school reunion (#50). I’m not sure why I keep track of my practice. Maybe it’s for the same reason prisoners make marks on their cell walls (do they still do that?). They’re afraid they’ll forget how long the’ve been in prison? I’d rather think I keep track because it gives me a little added encouragement to sit, although I really don’t think I need that anymore. My daily meditation is the best half hour of my day. But why?

Steve Hagen says meditation is useless. The only reason to meditate is to mediate. Which sounds like something only those who meditate would say or understand. I’m sure when I started (10 years ago?) it was for stress management or relaxation or something but somewhere along the way it became an end in itself.

I find it simultaneously the simplest thing in the world and the most difficult. I’m sitting on a cushion on the floor, focused on my breath. What could be easier? And within seconds my mind has jumped to some random thought… I gently bring my awareness back to my breathing… and the cycle repeats, endlessly. Why would anyone invest half an hour every day doing this? Again, Steve Hagen: “At the heart of meditation is the intention to be awake.”

More excerpts from Meditation Now or Never by Steve Hagen.

Atheists

I have no idea how old I was when I first met an atheist. (“a person who disbelieves or lacks belief in the existence of God or gods”) I’m pretty sure I must have known people who “lacked belief” but that’s not quite the same thing.

I grew up in a small (population ~10,000) in southern Missouri, during the ‘50s and ‘60s. My mom grew up in a hard-corp Baptist belief system. Back then there were many flavors of Baptist. General Baptist, Southern Baptist, etc. (I don’t think my father’s family was much into religion.) Early on, and for reasons unknown to me, mom started taking us to the Methodist Church but religion was never a serious part of my upbringing. Everyone went to Sunday School and church because that’s just what people did in that place and time. If there was an atheist in our little town, they kept it to themselves. One would have been more likely to be openly gay (“homosexual” back then).

Even when I got to college and encountered people from larger cities and different cultures, I don’t recall anyone identifying as “atheist.” People just didn’t talk about religion back then. It was a private matter. It wasn’t until the evangelical/fundamentalist movement (whenever that started) that people started talking about religion, outside of their own church communities. Or so it seemed to me.

It wasn’t until the internet and social media came along that I started bumping into “avowed atheists.” They seemed a bit exotic to me. Daring. It was during this time I encountered the works of people like Christopher Hitchens, Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, and Sam Harris. Four of the more outspoken and prominent atheists of recent years. In the video below (2012) the four men discuss religion and atheism for two hours.

I’ve watched a number of debates and panel discussions featuring these four pitted against religious leaders of all stripes and persuasions. This was just four smart, well-read intellectuals kicking the topic around. Most interesting.