The Myth of Multitasking

October 25, 2009

To do two things at once is to do neither. ~Publilius Syrus

As I read Patti Digh’s Life is a Verb, try syncing my ipod once again (still can’t figure out what’s wrong with it), and check my Email, I run across today’s quote (p. 186 in Digh’s book) and am reminded that I often say that multitasking is a myth. Splitting our attention among tasks likely means that we are not fully present for any of them. But even if we are, it means that our energy and time leaks away during the shifts in our attention.

Edward Hallowell, in his book, Crazy Busy, says, “It is fine to believe that multitasking is a skill necessary in the modern world, but to believe it is an equivalent substitute for single-minded focus on one task is incorrect. It may be convenient or necessary to multitask…however, you will not be doing any of these tasks as effectively as you would if you were doing them one at a time.” Hah–now I have Crazy Busy perched on top of Life is A Verb, and I am blogging in addition to the rest…how easy it is to practice this way of living!

I am putting down Crazy Busy. I am unplugging my ipod to troubleshoot another day. I am closing out my blog entry. Now, I will sit back in my reading chair and finish Life is a Verb like the good unitasker I aspire to be.

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Reading, Not Writing

August 30, 2009

It’s easy, after all, not to be a writer. Most people aren’t writers, and very little harm comes to them. ~Julian Barnes, Flaubert’s Parrot

I have just finished Annie Dillard’s The Writing Life, from which this quote comes. I’m on a reading jag; I’ve read 3 books and 2 magazines this weekend!

The other quote I flagged in the book was from sculptor Anne Truitt: “The most demanding part of living a lifetime as an artist is the strict discipline of forcing oneself to work steadfastly along the nerve of one’s own most intimate sensitivity.” I can relate.

This week I will attend my writer’s group (for only the second time, since they took a summer break). There’s something about being in a group of creative people that makes the air vibrate with energy. I am hopeful that it will be an inspiration for me to write–that, and my new book of poetry by Jane Cooper. Here’s a short one of hers:

Praise

But I love this poor earth,
because I have not seen another….
~Osip Mandelstam

Between five and fifty
most people construct a little lifetime:
they fall in love, make kids, they suffer
and pitch the usual tents of understanding.
But I have built a few unexpected bridges.
Out of inert stone, with its longing to embrace inert stone,
I have sent a few vaults into stainless air.
Is this enough–when I love our poor sister earth?
Sister earth, I kneel and ask pardon.
A clod of turf is no less than inert stone.
Nothing is enough!
In this field set free for our play
who could have foretold
I would live to write at fifty?


Plain, Common Work

May 26, 2009

The best things in life are nearest; breath in your nostrils, light in your eyes, flowers at your feet, duties at your hand, the path of right just before you. Then do not grasp at the stars, but do life’s plain, common work as it comes, certain that daily duties and daily bread are the sweetest things in life. ~Robert Louis Stevenson

I can hardly believe it’s been 21 days since my last post. What happened? Busy-ness. Vacation at Fort Mountain State Park. The Evergreen (software) International Conference. Excitement about the idea of starting my own consulting business. Family caretaking. Not enough yoga. Out-of-town meetings. Business lunches (fortune cookie: “A bold and dashing adventure is in your future within the year.”). Blind Willie McTell Blues Festival. Too much Facebook. Lots of reading (Olive Kitteridge may take its place among my favorites.).

Daily duties, daily bread. Sweet.


Happy Wise

March 8, 2009

Be happy. It’s one way of being wise. ~Sidonie Gabrielle Colette

Thanks to Pat Wagner for this quote and the lovely photo of her bathtub full of catnip that accompanies it on her post card. In times of depression, of course, the exhortation to be happy can be a mockery. But I like the implication that for most of us, most of the time, if we have a few tools and techniques at our disposal, happiness is a choice, and a wise one.

This must be true, if we take into account the many who are in suffering and need much greater than our own, but are still able to maintain this state. Consider this quote: “Don’t be concerned about being disloyal to your pain by being joyous.” ~Pir Vilayat Inayat Khan

Here are some of the ways I encourage myself to be happy:
practice yoga
go outdoors, especially in the sunshine
pet my cat
make love
learn something new
keep a gratitude journal
share with others in a variety of ways
visit with close friends
blog
keep track of the good things I do for myself each day
read
write poetry
make a donation to a cause I believe in
meditate
draw
organize and simplify
crochet or knit
smile

What are the ways you practice being happy?


Words That Sing

August 29, 2008

In journalism, there is no music that does not conform to truth; in poetry, no truth that does not conform to music. If you can’t find truth that makes music, you must change truth to make music. ~Judson Mitcham

I’m sure that is not an exact quote, but it is the gist of an idea I heard Mitcham express in a writer’s conference in 1996. He asked, “Where does the poem sing?” At the same conference, Mike Fournier asked us to consider how a poem would sound to someone who doesn’t speak English. He said the sound of a poem is what makes it memorable.

The two books I remember from my earliest reading days were a cloth book and a Disney book. The cloth book began, “How big are you baby, why don’t you know? You’re only so big, and there’s still room to grow.” The Mickey Mouse book began, “Bang, bang went the hammers, and zzzzz went the saws. A new house was being built.” I remember these lines because they were music. As were the Cautionary Verses of Hilaire Belloc I memorized and recited as a child. (“The chief defect of Henry King/was chewing little bits of string…”) Verses may not be poetry, but they can teach us about words that sing.

Charles Olson talked about the poem as syllable + line: The head, by way of the ear, to the syllable. The heart, by way of the breath, to the line. Makes perfect sense to me. I don’t know if this one sings, but here’s a poem from 2004.

Wildflowers

The ones we saw: violets in profusion,
dwarf crested iris, trillium,
the ubiquitous cinquefoil.

We stooped to see the brilliant red stamens
on the tiny star chickweed
and exclaimed at acres of mayapple
umbrellas all along the trail.

The ones we didn’t see–
pink lady’s slipper, mountain laurel,
and the majestic rhododendron–
will come in their own time.

And the ones we overlooked
will keep their secrets, while we
will go on planting our huge feet
one in front of the other until
we must lie down with our sisters
among the leaves.


Deeper and Wider

August 19, 2008

You can’t do anything about the length of your life, but you can do something about its width and depth. ~Shira Tehrani

I have been considering death and dying a lot lately, as death’s shadow falls on members of my family. Of course, mortality and the knowledge of our mortality are conditions with which we all have to contend. As a young person, I remember thinking I had some sort of “edge” on understanding it because of losing a parent at 14. But midlife brings a new level, a new way, of understanding. Life is a spiral, after all.

Given that the length of my life is an unknown, I am cheered to think about having at least some measure of influence over the “width and breadth” of my existence. Learning every day is one of the most important ways I sustain myself and engage with the world. Writing is one way of learning, as I write into understanding, not from it. Today I am profoundly grateful for learning, for writing, and for you, the imagined reader.

Namaste. (All that is best and highest in me greets and honors all that is best and highest in you.)


10 Tips for Reading This Blog

August 5, 2008

We read to know we are not alone. ~C. S. Lewis

It seems fitting that as I approach the one-year anniversary of this blog, I am reflecting on what it means to me. Yesterday, I thought about why I write here. Today, I share a few ways of interacting with the blog. Let me know if you have others.

1.  Daily Meditation: Subscribe by e-mail and receive new posts in your inbox as a daily meditation. (OK, sometimes when I’m busy it’s every few days!)

2.  Tiptoe Through the Tag Cloud: Click a term on the tag cloud to find postings on a particular topic.

3.  Rockin’ Blogroll: Explore related blogs (also blogs I just like) by clicking on the links in the blogroll.

4.  Get a Feed: Subscribe in a reader so you are notified of new posts and can read or ignore them as you have interest or time.

5.  A Month in the Life: Pick a month in the last year and dip into the archives for a varied selection of posts.

6.  Express Yourself! Leave a comment, then subscribe to the comments for that post (click on the RSS 2.0 link), so you can see when others respond.

7.  Digg It! Share the blog with others. Forward posts you particularly like or want to share. (I will be adding a badge for Digg as soon as I figure out how to do that.)

8.  A Bundle of Bookmarks: Click to bookmark on your browser or on a social bookmarking site such as Delicious.

9.  The Pop Top: Check out the most recently-viewed posts in the Top Posts box.

10.  Link to Library Stuff: Visit the I Love Libraries site or my LinkedIn profile for professional connections, whether you’re a librarian or just care about libraries.

There you have it–ten ways to enjoy and interact with this blog. See you in the ether!