I am an app-aholic. I love getting on my iPhone and discovering what tasty new code candy will improve my life in some way shape or form. Generally, the applications are productivity based; helping me organize my thoughts or daily habits in ways that breed success. The overwhelming majority of the rest are aimed at improving my capacity for life consumption. By this I mean, anything that allows me to somehow make sense of all the books, movies, places, restaurants, recipes, thoughts, articles, and albums that I want to experience.
The habit is a consistent one. I am constantly looking to expand my realm of impression. I’ve always felt that by digging deep into the gold mine of culture that our world offers, I will somehow become a better person. So I create lists of books, rate old movies that I’ve seen, and delve into historical albums that influenced their generation. But certain apps don’t have the books I’m looking for. I’ll try this one. What movies did I watch in 2007? Better just sit down and knock that off in a weekend. This list of influential artists seems a bit biased toward one genre or another, so I’ll just listen to the lists from several different sources. But that’s gonna take time, I’ll have to listen to those while I’m reading NPR articles. You know I’ve always been interested in science, this new science blog seems like a good fit to my Google Reader account. I’ll have to remember to add that to my to do list…
The task of trying to take in, be, and do everything is a daunting one. I equate it to the image of a man carrying a tall stack of books, knees buckling under the weight, struggling to keep the stack from crushing him. The task has lead to persistent and sometimes debilitating anxiety in my life and I know now for certain, after quite a bit of reflection and professional advice, that making the trivial far more important than it really is, is the culprit.
Since the apex of my confrontation with anxiety, several things have changed. When I listen to an album, sometimes I will close my eyes and allow only one sense to partake in the experience. When I write posts, I minimize every other window and utilize a minimalistic text editor that cuts out distractions. In conversations, I minimize exterior annoyances and keep my mobile devices on silent so as not to interrupt my concentration and my colleague’s or friend’s thoughts. I’m doing my best to live simply, focusing on priorities, shoveling off what is unimportant.
It takes practice, but the benefit is palpable. Even after weeks of practice, Ijust had to re-listen to an NPR story about the social impact of Honey Boo Boo because I was too distracted by other things. I spend close to an hour a day (split into three installments) meditating and the result is a more calm, more coherent perception of the world. My journal is always at my side so that I may record my felt impressions on a moment’s notice and I no longer conflate emotional flare-ups with fictitious greater life issues.
Granted, my ideas and practices may not work for everyone, but the concept is universal: live simply. Consider the house pictured above. Imagine the peace the owner must feel, the connection they experience tied to the land, and the focus they feel devoid of traffic noise and obfuscation. Regardless of your practice, all of us can benefit mentally and physically from a simple life. Prioritize what is important in your life and get rid of the things that aren’t. I’m not saying go Spartan and shirk smiling because it wastes energy that could be spent studying astronomy, but we can all take a moment to look at the clutter in our lives, in all its forms, and do some cleaning.
The process is not easy. The tools to enable an over-saturated lifestyle are in our very pockets. But with a little effort, we too can become pioneers of our environment, cutting through the underbrush and constructing something truly awe-inspiring, learning about ourselves and providing the best for our loved ones in the process.
Photo from ISO50