Marsupial Kama SutraMay 24, 2015
Irrational but not IncompetentJuly 19, 2015
My latest column from Miami Today, published June 18, 2015
Cacophony; that’s it, this is what our lives have become. Instead of a melodious and carefully orchestrated sequence of planned events, our lives have turned into a random series of occurrences driven by immediate gratification and digital sounds, which is what the twenty first century will be remembered for. To say nothing of the fact that I always wanted to say cacophony, which gets in the way of any planning at all.
There was a time when you could isolate yourself and engage in some thinking or planning. You could set a goal and try to pursue it through a series of rational steps. Today, you are lucky if you get 30 seconds of peace and quiet before your telephone beeps, your email alert pops up, and your electronic calendar reminds you to check Facebook, lest your friend has diarrhea and you are the last one to know it.
Instead of thinking about our future and planning ways to achieve it, we spend countless hours searching for the miracle app that will replace our thinking. To improve your well-being you need to resist immediate gratification and cacophony. This means turning your phone off, not just airplane mode, but completely off. Go ahead. Try it. When you stop twitching from withdrawal you are ready to think about a goal you want to pursue. If you cannot keep your hands off your phone or tablet, you may need to join a Buddhist monastery in Bhutan, where there is definitely no internet connection.
Once you overcome your addiction to digital devices and your twitching subsides, you are ready for the next challenge: be by yourself. No talking. No selfying. If this is hard, you can say either ohm or cacophony a few times. Now you have to think. Let me tell you how thinking works. If no thoughts come to mind, check your pulse. If you still have a pulse, try to ask yourself questions: What do I want to accomplish in life? How can I help humanity? How often should I change my underwear? Try controlling your twitching.
It is possible that, despite your good intentions to enjoy peace and quiet, somebody near you is talking on the phone so loudly that you need to get a Bose noise cancelation device. Pretty soon everyone will have to walk around with one, just to avoid the cacophony of nonsense emitted by people who have nothing better to do than to broadcast to the whole world their inane whereabouts. Not to mention fights with their ex over the phone, in public spaces. Airplanes are the worst. No sooner the plane lands than 99% of passengers reach for their smart phones to continue sharing with their best friend scintillating details about their day: got up around 6 30 am, had my coffee, read the paper, passed gas.
The addiction to digital devices is so great that some folks are now taking their laptops to the gym with them. At our condo, where I usually can expect peace and quiet in the exercise room, there appeared a guest who was in the rather small exercise room with his three year old and a laptop. I could live with the kid walking around the fitness equipment, but his father’s laptop was playing a video of a fitness instructor yelling from the top of his lungs invocations such as: Does it hurt now? Do you want to be a man? Do it! Do it! Be a man! Lift, lift, lift! The father was following every word and every movement of the fitness guru. As the intruder saw me coming into the small gym he asked if I mind the noise from the laptop. I said yes. He told me that the video will motivate me and will be good for me. One of the last sanctuaries of peace and quiet, our condo gym, which is usually frequented only by senior citizens thirty years older than me, was transformed by some digitally addicted brainless creature into a high decibel motivational class by some equally brainless fitness addict.
But planning can be overdone. Speaking from experience, I have spent more time in my life planning than actually living. As an insecure, mildly paranoid, neurotic orphan, I spent considerable time over many years striving for certainty and security in my life. I spent so much time planning that I had barely any time to enjoy the fruits of my planning. But I had a plan to stop all that planning. Instead of planning, I started writing pointless stories. The fact that you are reading these stories shows two things: I’m succeeding at my plan to spend less time planning, and you have no plans whatsoever.