Tag Archives: reading

Solitude

From a lecture given by William Deresiewicz at West Point on Solitude and Leadership. (I’m not an anti-social Luddite, I swear. I’ve just been thinking about these things – technology, loneliness, solitude, self-reliance, true friendship – yadda, yadda, yadda…)

Solitude.

“Think about what the word means. It means gathering yourself together into a single point rather than letting yourself be dispersed everywhere into a cloud of electronic and social input. It seems to me that Facebook and Twitter and YouTube—and just so you don’t think this is a generational thing, TV and radio and magazines and even newspapers, too—are all ultimately just an elaborate excuse to run away from yourself. To avoid the difficult and troubling questions that being human throws in your way. Am I doing the right thing with my life? Do I believe the things I was taught as a child? What do the words I live by—words like dutyhonor, and country—really mean? Am I happy?”

“Your own reality—for yourself, not for others.” Thinking for yourself means finding yourself, finding your own reality. Here’s the other problem with Facebook and Twitter and even The New York Times. When you expose yourself to those things, especially in the constant way that people do now—older people as well as younger people—you are continuously bombarding yourself with a stream of other people’s thoughts. You are marinating yourself in the conventional wisdom. In other people’s reality: for others, not for yourself. You are creating a cacophony in which it is impossible to hear your own voice, whether it’s yourself you’re thinking about or anything else. That’s what Emerson meant when he said that “he who should inspire and lead his race must be defended from travelling with the souls of other men, from living, breathing, reading, and writing in the daily, time-worn yoke of their opinions.” Notice that he uses the word lead. Leadership means finding a new direction, not simply putting yourself at the front of the herd that’s heading toward the cliff.

Introspection means talking to yourself, and one of the best ways of talking to yourself is by talking to another person. One other person you can trust, one other person to whom you can unfold your soul. One other person you feel safe enough with to allow you to acknowledge things—to acknowledge things to yourself—that you otherwise can’t. Doubts you aren’t supposed to have, questions you aren’t supposed to ask. Feelings or opinions that would get you laughed at by the group or reprimanded by the authorities.

This is what we call thinking out loud, discovering what you believe in the course of articulating it. But it takes just as much time and just as much patience as solitude in the strict sense. And our new electronic world has disrupted it just as violently. Instead of having one or two true friends that we can sit and talk to for three hours at a time, we have 968 “friends” that we never actually talk to; instead we just bounce one-line messages off them a hundred times a day. This is not friendship, this is distraction.”

Read the whole article here: http://www.theamericanscholar.org/solitude-and-leadership/

Thanks to David for sending it my way.

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When the tweets come from beyond the grave…

Read a pretty interesting article in the NY Times Magazine on the train today about what happens to your online persona when you’re gone. You can read it here. It’s strange to think that historians will not be sifting through written documents but might actually be cataloguing and analyzing tweets and facebook updates? It’s kind of sad – I wonder how many are as truthful to themselves, in regards to themselves when writing online as opposed to on the page. The definition of privacy has changed and with it the definition of self. It seems so many people take in the way the world views them and the image they project to the world as much if not more than the way they personally take in the world. I guess, just a loss of deep self-reflection? Probably overblown but it keeps bouncing back and forth in my head.

From the article: “The Carnegie Mellon robotics expert Hans Moravec, the artificial-intelligence pioneer Marvin Minsky, the computer scientist Rudy Rucker and others articulated visions of a future in which technology might truly free us from “the bloody mess of organic matter,” to use a phrase of Minsky’s.”  – Doesn’t that sound fun?

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/09/magazine/09Immortality-t.html?_r=1&hpw

In other news, I am paying for some frustrating computer malfunctions – headaches galore and days of rescanning! Photos will have to wait.

Reading: Ingenious Pain by Andrew Miller

Just finished: Suite Française by Irène Némirovsky

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The Lost Art of Reading and Internet Escape

I came across this article by David Ulin of the Los Angeles Times by way of the NY Times Book Review. (The Times reviewed the book that he expanded this essay into.) The article is definitely worth a read, check it out here or the link below.  It’s one other read that builds onto my wariness of the internet, or rather (as I blog about this) my reluctance to let myself be chained to my computer, to fully embrace facebook and twitter. All things social media become an extension of ourselves and the quiet times, that are so vital to some, become increasingly hard to manage. The more time I spend on the internet, the less I feel able to do something worthwhile, such as pursue an idea or even open up a book and read; it becomes both uplifting and discouraging. My studio space does not have internet access which is a blessing. Of course if your workspace or just your alone space does have it you can always download, Freedom here (an internet blocking software).

I’m currently splitting my time between two books, Landscape & Memory by Simon Schama and The Black Book by Orhan Pamuk. Always looking for recommendations, if you need any let me know. I consider myself quite a bookworm.

“I am too susceptible, it turns out, to the tumult of the culture, the sound and fury signifying nothing.” David Ulin

http://articles.latimes.com/2009/aug/09/entertainment/ca-reading9

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