September 2, 2010

"[C]ovetousness, schadenfreude, anxiety, dread, and on and on."

"It’s the frequent fruitlessness of such feelings that the Buddha is said to have pondered after he unplugged from the social grid of his day — that is, the people he lived around — and wandered off to reckon with the human predicament. Maybe his time off the grid gave him enough critical distance from these emotions to discover his formula for liberation from them. In any event, it’s because the underlying emotions haven’t changed, and because the grid conveys and elicits them with such power, that his formula holds appeal for many people even, and perhaps especially, today."

Robert Wright, writing in the NYT, on a theme that has been big in the NYT: how technology is hurting our brains.

42 comments:

Seven Machos said...

Technology is hurting the New York Times. People's brains are fine.

Fred4Pres said...

Live at Buddakan!

Seven Machos said...

Great album from the world's most underrated band.

Alex said...

Only bitter, old Luddites hate technology. I bet this guy would prefer rotary phones and the Edsel.

Irene said...

"Sustaining even modest mindfulness in the modern world is a challenge."

It's the challenge that is interesting.

The "grid" makes us better editors about the items on which we want to focus and what (Paris Hilton, for example) to ignore.

It sharpens the mind because it forces us to decide whether it's even intriguing to ponder something.

Retriever said...

Technology can be addictive, like anything else, and it can be good for us to go somewhere without internet or phone for awhile BUT...it's a Godsend to working mothers like me. I can be reached by my kids anywhere, send emails and check the net while waiting somewhere, manage my blog on my lunch hour, edit a book chapter in the wilds of the country and email it to my colleague, then go back to hoeing the veggie garden, etc. Because of tech, my kids could cheer up my dying parents in England with video conferences and hold up the cats and dog dressed up in costumes and talk to them.

I have no interest in celebrities, but I am happy to be able to do reseearch for a chapter from an iPad on a rural mountaintop rather than driving miles and miles to a library.

Methadras said...

I don't understand these presumptuous elitist urban pricks. Technology has unleashed a cavalcade of ideas and thoughts never described or implemented before. This man is a moron and better off becoming Amish.

Bruce Hayden said...

The problem I see here is that technology is likely changing us, but it isn't all to the bad, or even to the good.

I have always wondered how I would have survived a couple of hundred years ago with 20/200 vision. But part of the answer is that it probably wouldn't have been that bad. Why? Because it appears that reading seems to accentuate near sightedness. And most people back then just didn't read that much. Heck, most weren't literate, as we define that term now (though I think that my mother's father's family was, or at least was quite literate at least by the 1840s).

Maybe to some extent technology is hurting our brains. Yet, many of us are far more mentally stimulated than our grandparents were. And, technology has helped there greatly.

On the other hand, the younger generations seem less able to focus and concentrate, having grown up in a multimedia world.

In the end though, I think that we are still better off, mentally with where technology has taken us, than if it hadn't taken us there.

Of course, readers of the dead tree version of the NYT aren't profiting that much, nor are their employees. But that is progress - the old has to give way for the new, and the dinosaurs have to give it up to power our automobiles.

blake said...

Meh. Hurting our brains?

We're adapting.

When the apocalypse brings civilization back to the Stone Age, we'll adapt back. Not all of us, of course, but who said life was fair?

blake said...

Interesting that Buddha and the Yogic culture are intertwined these days. I thought Siddhartha broke with the tradition and in fact was rather critical of it.

The Crack Emcee said...

Robert Wright/Buddhism.

Figures.

The Crack Emcee said...

"Interesting that Buddha and the Yogic culture are intertwined these days. I thought Siddhartha broke with the tradition and in fact was rather critical of it."

Dude, it's NewAge culture that's yoked them together. Try figuring how Homeopathy fits in there and you'll get a headache.

deborah said...

Buddhism in a nutshell:

"At best we can hope to live in the moment whether it being doing hard work to feed the family, or hiking in France- both feed the soul if done with love and attention."

-roesch-voltaire

Seven Machos said...

Buddhism in America is a perfect example of oikophobia.

Michael said...

This dude has a girl friend who meditates. Sometimes she goes upstate for a "retreat." For the weekend,not for a week or a month. In the city after her meditation she sometimes buys a purse or a new pair of shoes.

Sixty Grit said...

Buddha didn't have a "grid". Wright doesn't have a clue.

edutcher said...

One of the more interesting theories, vindicated by Hollyweird at the drop of a plot line, is that it's the Lefties who are the ones that are really freaked out by technology and science, at least as far as when said technology and science are in the hands of the people and not controlled by the Ruling Class.

PS Why is it that Lefties have to couch everything that's supposed to be intellectually significant in verbose, self-consciously overblown drivel?

PS Agree with Seven about the Gray Lady.

Pogo said...

"My fellow yogis and I did about five hours of sitting meditation each day and five hours of walking meditation. Then each night we listened to a talk..."


Sinner that I am, it's likely my spot in hell will look very much like this.

Robert Burnham said...

It's simply projection, a psychological model Lefites are thoroughly at home with, coupled to a sense their world is passing.

See http://pajamasmedia.com/eddriscoll/2010/08/31/the-couric-rich-model-of-the-five-stages-of-msm-grief/

Earth Girl said...

I clicked through because I'm interested in those who dare live off the grid, which means the electric grid. Wright defines "off the grid — no World Wide Web, no e-mail, no cell phone, no landline..." Anyone can do that in their own home.

Scott M said...

Blogging causes cancer. I read it on the interwebz.

Scott M said...

Actually, that brings to mind a very funny story (IMHO anyway). Working in radio a few years back, we had a cranky old receptionist who was, at best, technologically retarded.

She was giving me some crap one day about my manner of dress (shorts, sandles, tshirt...I was a rock jock)I wrote a simple program that was tied to the clock on her computer. At 3pm that next day, a big red flashing window popped up and read, in big flashing letters;

THE RADIATION SCREEN ON YOUR MONITOR HAS FAILED. BACK AWAY QUICKLY AND CALL THE POLICE.

I was around the corner waiting when it happened...the scream and following ruckus as she nearly back-flipped out of her chair was well worth the bitch-out I got from the GM.

DADvocate said...

Reminds me of the dawn of the train and people thought traveling over 20 MPH would be harmful to you. It's just funny how the progressives are so unprogressive in so many ways. Almost all, actually.

My kids have grown up/are growing up with all this. They and their friends seem to be doing just fine.

DADvocate said...

This man is a moron and better off becoming Amish.

This is grossly unfair to the Amish.

I have always wondered how I would have survived a couple of hundred years ago...

Many of us wouldn't have. I had surgery twice at the age of 3 and probably wouldn't have survived without at least one of those.

Perhaps, the NYT's biggest problem is that we're much less dependent on them for news and opinion and have greater access to the truth rather than their version of it.

Pogo said...

With unemployment up to 9.6%, more and more people can look forward to getting off the technology grid, as they become unable to afford e-mail, cell phones, and landlines.

Whether they will experience mindfulness or anxiety and dread that goes on and on is uncertain, but they will have the time to meditate for 10 hours a day.

bagoh20 said...

If you are reading this, you chose the blue pill. Now let's get back to enjoying it.

Seven Machos said...

Bag -- Great point. How and why did Robert Wright's drivel find its way to the Internet? Shouldn't it be only on parchment? Practice what you preach and all that...

shoutingthomas said...

I like the "oikophobia" bit, but couldn't we call it "oinkophobia," just to get a pig reference in there?

chr1 said...

A bit of a fuddy-duddy. Go outside. Read a book and lament that few people read or think about it.


I disagree with Bob Wright because it seems not only does he have faith in reason, but faith in rational policy decisions (see, the Left) and the people who make them. I can see where he'd likely end up with this line of thought.

We can all just get along if we put right thinking before right action...or not...

The Crack Emcee said...

Michael,

"This dude has a girl friend who meditates. Sometimes she goes upstate for a "retreat." For the weekend,not for a week or a month."

What's wrong with her? Normal people don't have to do that. People engage in various forms of self-help because - duh - they need help for something. So I ask again:

What's wrong with her?

traditionalguy said...

Buddha is dead. Meditate until you die and you still will be dead. Christianity is the only religion based upon a man chosen by God as the Jewish Messiah who died, descended to hell, and was raised again on the third day after his death in order to give his believers a new covenant guarantee of righteousness and eternal life. You cannot meditate your way into that.

blake said...

Oikophobia really should be homophobia, shouldn't it? Fear of things that are the same?

We should use that. I don't think it has any other purpose at the moment.

t-man said...

Why go the Buddhism route? Wright could follow the Christian tradition of solitude, quiet and contemplation, but I guess that wouldn't get him far with the cool kids.

blake said...

I disagree with Crack on a lot of things, but he's dead on about the mishmash "New Age" makes of, well, everything.

If you look at Buddhism, you can see that the practice is not meditation in the yogic sense at all.

You can see the same hash everywhere in New Age. But in fairness, you can see the same hash everywhere period. Like people lumping in the hard sciences with the "soft sciences". (A dumb phrase if I've ever heard one. Science is science. "Soft" might as well be "not".)

Joe said...

These are the same type of idiots who were probably wringing their hands when someone drew the first cave painting (of a naked woman no doubt, which got the other bunch of self-righteous idiots whining as well.)

Go back and read the hand wringing about the car and the phone and just about every invention ever.

Inventor: I made this stick with a pointy end so we can throw it at the animal and kill it without getting trampled to death.

Whiner: Oh, but that would mean we wouldn't get close to the animal and truly understand our place in the cosmos.

(Whiner then gets very annoyed when the pointy stick catches on.)

Penny said...

"(Whiner then gets very annoyed when the pointy stick catches on.)"

None of us were around back then, but if I had been, and I knew then what I know now? I might have been one of those whiners you speak about.

As it is, I am left to whine about nuclear weapons "catching on"....whereupon, with any bad luck, our species can once again whine from our caves.

Penny said...

""[C]ovetousness, schadenfreude, anxiety, dread, and on and on.""

"On and on" is a worthy goal for whiners.

bagoh20 said...

So that's why nuclear missiles are pointy. I always thought they should look like a phallus, but traditions are sticky too.

Penny said...

"So that's why nuclear missiles are pointy. I always thought they should look like a phallus, but traditions are sticky too."

NICE "point", bago. ;)

So do I give you credit for that "missile fantasy" of yours, or should I patiently wait for the physicist who has off until Tuesday?

Penny said...

Surely there must be a Jewish or Arabian physicist out there who would take "pity" on one such as me.

Penny said...

Where are the Jew and Arab physicists when you need them?

AST said...

The NYTimes and Glenn Beck: Bring back religion!

Technology is the means to control the masses, as well as the means for the masses to fight for their freedoms.

It's also the fruit of intelligence and freedom to think. We might as well try to get rid of fire.