Thursday, June 03, 2010

Dieting for the mind

 We are continuously challenged to discover new works of culture—and, in the process, we don’t allow any one of them to assume a weight in our minds.- Alain de Bottin "On Distraction" in City Journal
I actually read this article to take a break from reading an article on Haeccity, Pierce and Duns Scotus. Reading philosophy had the advantage of requiring less secondary reading than other disciplines. The relative depth of thought appealed more than reading repetitious papers that seemed to qoute each other. Now, of course, I can easily download more scholarly articles than I could possibly read each day.

Is this really learning, given the impossibility of knowing everything? A phd, they say, knows more and more about less and less. As their knowledge of a very narrow object grows- for example Galopagan sea snails, or a particular Shakespearean sonnet- they have less time to consider anything else. That is to say, anything else save it's relationship to their object of study.

My day is a steady stream of information- some scholarly, some journalistic, some personal- and on diverse topics. However, as my personal and professional relationships increasingly involve the academic disciplines of philosophy, art history and game studies(video, not strategic), my focus has begun to drift away from some issues. perhaps, in a decade or so, I will reemerge ready to reengage topics like freedom of expression without solely referring it to the phenomenological consideration of the visual culture/art history of digital games.

moreover, that stream of information is not merely cognitive. Affective information, feelings the heart also infuse my moments. Joy, pride at writing something good, frustration with administrative details, lust and love and gentle affection, not to mention the loneliness of a writer. Psycho- motor information also takes up my day. As a phenomenologist, how can I ignore the particular sensations of cool morning air blowing through the window, guided downwards by the curtain and spilling out across my legs? The pleasant stoicism of doing pull ups and dips on the apparatus i have scattered through my apartment, so i can do more than just sit at the computer, reading and writing.

Yet all this can distract from my work at hand? This balance between focus and obsession, between depth and narrowness.(These sentences without verbs:) each moment has its individual call for attention, specific, and necessary. My problem is to hear that call and respond to it appropriately. Perhaps, sometimes the correct response is not to hear it at all.

"If I had to choose between betraying my country and betraying my friend, I hope I should have the guts to betray my country."
-E.M. Forster