Slipping into Banality

Leave a comment

I sometimes wonder about me. I’m overloaded in school. I have little to no time outside of school because I’m preparing for school. And what do I do? I download and listen to lecture series on my commute that have nothing to do with what I’m learning in school. This semester, I’m drowning in physiology, struggling to keep up in performance enhancement, and relying almost completely on recall from class in program design. So I grab lecture series on Chaucer, the history of the English language, and reclaiming Europe’s lost literary tradition. I listen to these while traveling from one campus to another.

Why do I do this? I don’t know. Maybe I’m addicted to learning. I know that some of my other recent choice in audiobooks are: Slights of Mind (a book on the neuroscience of perception and stage magic), Freakonomics (a book which uses the statistical and analysis tools of economics on non-traditional subjects), and The Invisible Gorilla (a book which explores our often mistaken assumptions on how we perceive and recall the world around us).

Somebody described my activities to me as “creating a bigger net”. The analogy is the bigger the net, the easier it is to catch fish. Unfortunately, I may be heading towards an information overload. I fully expect, at some point this semester, to be found curled up in the corner of the library, giggling, and saying, “Here fishy, fishy, fishy.”

The Blessings of Traffic

Leave a comment

I’ve done my share of cursing at traffic. Who hasn’t? In doing so, however, I miss out on the blessings of traffic. That’s right. I said “blessings of traffic.” What do I mean?

Let’s start with “mindfulness”. Mindfulness is the ability to be in this moment, to focus on everything around you without concern for the meeting you’re about to miss. It is not only seeing the car in front of you, it is hearing the cars to either side and feeling the bridge vibrate under you. Mindfulness creates a web of connections you might not otherwise make. Traffic is an excellent place to practice mindfulness. You will certainly get immediate feedback if you fail.

If mindfulness doesn’t appeal to you, there are other things to bless traffic for. It is an opportunity to sing loudly without worrying about what others might think. I’ve belted out music, and was probably badly out of tune. No one knew at the time. Oh, I could probably be seen (none of my windows are tinted), but I got more “thumbs up” or “horns” than strange stares. More often, though, people ignored me.

Not into singing? Audiobooks. Learn something new, catch up on developments in your field, emerse yourself in a fictional world. More than once, I’ve changed into a slower lane during an exciting part of an audiobook so that I could be sure to finish the scene before arriving at my destination. Another good type of book to listen to? Self-help/self-improvement books. In the privacy of your car, no one is going to see a book cover and snicker at you.

If you have a passenger, talking is good. Just stay away from emotionally charged subjects. But talking about plans for the weekend, or the awesome weekend you just had, is a good way to keep a positive energy going.

Sometimes, I turn everything off and enjoy the quiet. No music, no books. I let the part of my mind not tied up with driving wander. This post is the result of one such incident. Other times I’ve come up with plot lines, or solutions to a dead-end in a story. Sometimes I’m able to resolve problems going on in real life, or at least reframe the problems so that they either are no longer problems, or a way to solve them becomes apparent.

Traffic can be a pain. It’s usually uncomfortable. And it often happens when you’re in a rush. Yet there are little easter eggs to be found. It’s merely a matter of stepping back from the frustration and consciously thinking of alternatives to swearing.