Archive for January, 2011

Pace-Maker

Posted in All, Psychology, Science, Spirituality with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 9, 2011 by marushiadark

“Can you hear it?  Hear this rhythm?  It’s the rhythm of time … and life.” ~ Fatman, Metal Gear Solid 2.

A friend of mine recently sent me a link to this animated lecture called The Secret Powers of Time, by Philip Zimbardo.  I watched it, trying as best I could not to analyze it, but to just empty my cup and take it all in as new information and a different perspective.

The general gist of the lecture is that there are six different “time zones” that people live in and that this has a profound effect on the way those people view the world, conduct themselves, where they live, how their mind works, and so forth.  I won’t go into too much detail about that.  If you wanna know, you can just watch it yourself.  This post is mainly my reflections on it.

From my own experience, I can attest that cities in the southern portions of countries tend to have a much different experiences of time than people in the northern portions.

Let’s compare two such cities: Savannah, Georgia, and New York, New York.  Both are major cities, but the overall pace of Savannah is much slower, much calmer, much more relaxed.  Even the appearance of the city seems to reflect this difference.  Where New York is crammed and full of skyscrapers, Savannah is much more open, with the tallest buildings being scarcely above twelve floors.  The whole city of Savannah seems to shut down somewhere between 6PM and 10PM, with few exceptions, whereas some place like New York is still alive and active during that time; in fact, it’s often just beginning to wake up.

This is just one example taken in brief.  I’m sure if you’ve traveled at all in your life, you can think of many examples like this.  You could probably also notice the subtle differences in pace between some place like New York and Philadelphia, where the change in latitude is smaller, but the relative pace is still proportional.

So a general rule, what Philip Zimbardo said about north-south relations of time seems accurate.

It makes sense from a physical standpoint too, since as you go north, the distance between lines of longitude grows shorter.  You can cover more ground (in a polar sense) in the same amount of time, ergo you are more productive.

But one thing I noticed as Zimbardo was talking is that this is a relative value.  Time is a factor in pace, but so are other things like climate, population, and the availability of resources.  For instance, Santa’s Workshop at the North Pole is a highly efficient machine compared to New York, but the same can’t be said for Albany or Toronto.

Perhaps the most valuable insight in Zimbardo’s lecture is how he highlights the way in which younger generations are geared to think digitally and thus at a faster pace than their parents and grandparents, who are accustomed to analogue.  That every second is precious and waiting is a pain is something I think will only become worse (or better) as time goes by.  Soon, it won’t be seconds we’re counting, but microseconds, especially with the advancement of computer technology wherein computers begin to piece together complex patterns that only the human brain can do right now.

Technology doesn’t make things better, it just makes things faster.  Technology only makes things better where lack of speed and efficiency in accomplishing a task was the fundamental problem in the first place.

The same fundamental problems exist for humans everywhere.  The disparities between the pace of life in the north and south, I think, are ultimately largely a matter of differences in the way in which people have resolved these problems.  How they’ve assessed what their needs are and how to go about acquiring them.  The same can be said of the conservative vs. liberal model, or of the traditional vs. modern model.  Such extremes are only paths and we take a left or a right at any given fork based on what we want or need in any given moment.

I’m sure all of you reading this right now, if I asked you to, could come up with a list of values, beliefs, and practices that you agree with and those you disagree with, and in full assessment of said lists, you’d find that, more than anything, you probably aren’t fully to one side or the other in any of those models I just described.

Some of you may consider yourself pious, religious persons, for instance, yet you don’t dive into the deep end of the pool and live monastically in a convent, eating mush and practicing asceticism.  Do you?

Conversely, those of you who abhor religion probably see the value, either from a rational perspective, or otherwise through intuition, that certain rules and morals like “don’t hurt people on purpose without a good reason” are good and necessary and that, whether you’re aware of it or not, society is living and functioning because of such rules and principles.

All things in moderation, including moderation.  Your pace should change with the circumstances.  When you drive a car, you go one speed in a school zone and another on the highway, and somewhere in between all other times, right?  You adapt your pace with the changes in the road, and you adapt your pace of life, and your temporal focus in much the same way.

So which time zone should we live in?  Zimbardo seems to favor the future, but I think the present’s where it’s at.  When you look out, you see mostly just what is right in front of you in that moment, occasionally glancing to the left and right through your peripherals.  If you turn your head, you environment changes, but your anatomy hasn’t changed.  You’re still looking at what is directly in front of you in the immediate sense.  So I think it must be in life that we remain mostly in the present, while keeping the past and the future in our peripherals.

The past tells us where we came from and how we got to the state we’re in.  The future gives us a sense of where we are, or would like to go.  But the present just is.  And let it be.

10,000 Things

Posted in All, Miscellaneous, Spirituality with tags , , , , , , , , , on January 1, 2011 by marushiadark

“I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times.” ~ Bruce Lee

There once was a great and powerful emperor who adored cats more than anything in the world.  One day, he hired a very famous artist, the most skilled master painter in all the land.  He commissioned this artist to paint a picture of a cat, instructing him that it should be representative of everything that a cat is.  “It should be playful, mysterious, comforting, protective, cunning, soft, flexible, wise, mischievous, and all the various traits a cat would have,” explained the emperor.

The master painter bowed before his emperor and said that he would be able to paint such a painting, but that it would take time.  The emperor was so enthusiastic about his painting that he allowed the artist to take as much time as he needed to complete the task.

A week went by and the emperor grew anxious.  He went to see the artist and asked if his painting was finished yet.  The master artist said it was not ready yet, but that the emperor should come back in one month’s time.  A month passed and the emperor returned again to check on the artist’s progress.  “Still not ready,” said the artist, “Come back in another month.”

In this way, month after month had passed until months became years and years turned into ten whole years before the emperor finally returned one day, now becoming rather impatient.

“Yes,” said the artist, at last, “It is ready.”

The master artist then pulled out his brush and made several black strokes on a piece of rice paper, creating the perfect image of a cat.  The emperor was so elated by the image that he forgot his anger and began to showed the master painter with praises and accolades as he described how wonderful the piece was.  “It is everything that a cat is,” the emperor said, “From its whiskers to its ears to its eyes to its tail, it has all the qualities and traits a cat would have.  But why, pray tell, did it take you ten years when all you did was paint a few short strokes here?”

The artist then bade the emperor to walk with him to a large wooden closet.  The master painter opened the closet door and out poured thousands upon thousands of sheets of paper, each one a practice sheet of imperfect standard and quality.

This parable was first told to me by one of my mentors in college, who taught us that in order to be great at anything, it takes about 10,000 bad attempts before one good one finally emerges.  Likewise, to the ancient Chinese, if one knew 10,000 things, that person was said to be all-knowing.

As you make your New Year’s resolutions, keep this parables in mind.  For those who wish to get in better shape, consider what doing 10,000 sit-ups would do for you.  Or for those who wish to learn something new, like playing the piano, imagine what 10,000 hours of practice would accomplish.  Or what reading 10,000 pages would accomplish.

You don’t have to do them all at once, of course.  In fact, it’s better if you don’t.  Spread them out across the days and months and years, if need be.  But at least this gives you a visible and trackable goal.  Regardless of whether you ultimately become the person you want to be, you can be sure that if you do one thing 10,000 times, you will certainly be a master at something, especially if that something is yourself.