The Conviction of Joyful Things

David Scott Hay
Published on: November 2012 article redacted.

I look at a 500 word CNN article and for my convenience I see just to the left there is a 300 redacted word summary. I can just read the bullet news. Why would I do this? Because I'm busy, I don't have enough time and the other 200 words of facts or quotes or context just might slow me down? Perhaps. Is our information hunger so voracious that bullet points are enough for me to digress and move onto the next stream? Perhaps. But I do know this: we can't keep up, even refreshing our browser every minute, every hour, skim-ming headlines. How many times have you clicked to go to a website you are already on? Think about it. I bet you have. I certainly have. There is no way to keep up, no matter how much we redact the information in those streams. The bottom line is that information consumption is a sum zero game. Digital content doubles every 18 months - circa 2009.

Why is this? To save us time. And what are we spending that time on? More redacted articles.

And with this time saved by reading redacted news or articles, what do we do with it? Become frustrated and angry at the world because of the 15 second ad before a "newsworthy" kitten video? (true story). And then take the time to register and leave a comment expressing said anger? Sad.

And the other extreme is business executives who are too busy to read the latest book on business theory or leadership. But don't fret, they now have the option of a service which will distill the thesis of the book to a 2 page synopsis and a list of bullet points. Makes you wonder if the author couldn't have just written that redacted version to begin with. But then you say who would buy a book of bullet notes? Well, it seems the CEOs are buying the book and a service to do this very thing. I wonder if the service is a sub-sidiary of the publisher. If not, I bet they wish they were.

It seems to me we're allotting the mortar of our precious time, when it we should be using bricks.

And suddenly we're a stream of facts without context. Memes and blips and sound bites etc without context. Everything becomes an advert's tag line. Can we sell something in three words, two words, one?

I used to see almost a hundred movies a year back in the day. Now it's less. Quite a few. But make no mistake. I read the reviews, I read the credits. I can have a conversation about the movie, and if not about the nuances or key moments, I can say, "oh yeah, so and so did that," or "didn't she do this other movie" and go from there. For some reason I retain that kind of information and it has served me well in many movie meetings. But for everyday life...

And we seem to be headed to a more and more redacted time in America. Youtube clips, texts messages. FB statuses. Memes. LOL. BRB. U R. Luv.

Just writing this short essay I stopped to check out Just what is going on that I might have missed in the last several hours, scratch that, last hour. Honestly, last ten minutes. We're conditioned to push that lever (refresh) in hopes of being rewarded with a new nugget. It's called random reinforcement. It's what keeps tourist and residents alike feeding slot machines. Or in my case Amazon books sales, FB, WWF, email. And yet when I read a book I can only manage a chapter at a time because there is the urge to do that cycle like checking your mirrors and gauges in a car when driving. I get anxious I am missing out on something I know is mundane.

We have redacted ourselves out of authentic experiences.

You get to pick the things you can enjoy, but it seems we are enjoying life less and less. We're impatient and ready to move on to the next thing. And what are we hoping the next thing will do for us? Give us a chuckle a cry, an aha moment? Think back to your last aha moment, that last religious experience you had. You know the kind, at least I hope you do, that unexpected opening band that made you believe that yes I am a part of things and they are singing my soul - yes, there will be sprit speak like this in here so check your non-funny cynical cliché ridden sarcasm at the door. Done, ok? Or read the last chapter of a book and was affected. It stuck with you for days. Or weeks. Perhaps a year later you went back and reread it. You wanted to share it with the world.

When was the last time you had an experience like that skimming something? You may have missed these moments because of that redaction. Or failed to grasp the nuance. Maybe you should make a list of these things that gave you such an experience. I have. The things that give me joy. The first time I wrote such a list, I thought to myself, why don't I do these things more? And the initial thought was: I don't have time.
But that is the lie of the lazy, isn't?
The Busy Trap - NY TIMES

Writers are generally taught that we should write every day. Flex that muscle. But any trainer or physical therapist will tell you one of the keys getting into shape and building lean muscle is rest and recovery.

And to that I add: guilt free rest and recovery. And yet, when I pause long enough there was a five month period in my life, when I remember being-- what is that elusive term? Oh right, Happy. On the heels of a collapsed labor of love project, I quit writing. For about five months. And you know what? The world did not miss me. Newspapers and magazines and Facebook and the internet did not call asking what I've been up to. The news I missed was just a vari-ation of the news I'd read five months prior.

But here's what I did on this break: I enjoyed the world. I planted a garden. I made my own BBQ sauce (two styles - Red Eye Jack and Smoky Bee). I learned to play bass guitar. I joined a cover band - our only gig a backyard block party. The cops were called. Which was a huge blow to me because we were getting ready to launch into Lenny Kravis' Are You Gonna Go My Way, which is not only a rockin song, but lets the bass player run a little apeshit. And I had spent many hours woodshedding that little ditty. So there it goes. Oh well. (Man, us forty somethings got the cops called on us. How old school... heh.)

But then the cops said, no, no. Play one more. That's right the cops said: Play. One. More.
And we did.
And it was glorious.
Are You Gonna Go My Way?

On this hiatus, I enriched my life with activities that required me be-ing present and active and thinking. It did not drain me, it recharged me. I pledged that I would do this every year. And perhaps add a new hobby - going back to photography -- a creative outlet with instant results and rewards. And quick to share.

But instead for some inexplicable reason I doubled down and went to grad school. I have not gotten back to that hiatus yet. Oh I've taken some time off, said no to a few projects, but I really have not done it guilt free.

And yet, I often look back on those five months or so as if they were a great Renaissance period in my life. And yet maybe they were. I felt fulfilled. Less stressed. I enjoyed my time on this planet. I wasn't looking for an endless stream of nuggets of redacted information or vicarious experiences. I enjoyed life whole and without redaction.

But the good thing is we can still pick our own adventure.

Louis CK - "Bored" is a Useless Thing To Say
The amazing thing with life is you get to pick your own adventure. Our lives are unique. Strive to make them even more so.

It's ok. Turn off the TV. Turn off the internet. Pick up that magazine, the one without the celebrities, that book. Read. On your porch, your stoop. The park. Slow your brain down. Chew your food. Digest it. You're not missing anything. It will be there on the internet waiting for you. Or out on DVD in a few months. But that time, quality time, that quality adventure time to follow your bliss will not be.

The response to this from some colleagues is the classic Tyranny of the Should. I really should, I can't, I have to.. and as a play-wright friend of mine once said, "people just don't like to be reminded that bold choices are still possible." And when our friends or colleagues make those bold choices aren't we a touch jealous, a bit in awe, if not outwardly, then deep down inside?

And you might just discover something worthy. So go ahead pick your own adventure. Plant a garden. Write a poem. Cook dinner with a friend. Take a train ride. Take ukulele lessons. Write about the funniest moments in your life. That idea you have, that idea, that simple million dollar idea. Explore it. Research it. Sketch it. Or just listen to a record. Side A. Side B. With a friend. (I recommend RUMOURS). Enjoy these rituals. Commit to the conviction of joyful things.

Now please, excuse me, while I make my adventure list for autumn, and suggest you do the same. Experience something from beginning to end and enjoy the middle. That's where they hide the cream.
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