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visual artist and writer marisol diaz

i am a self-defined Nuyorican creative (that is a Puerto Rican who is from both the isles of Manhattan, NYC and the Caribbean). I share daily in the joy of education and live in a cute port town in New York, in a 'teensy-weensy' apartment with my two dogs and canary named Valentino. Check out my Etsy shop for purchasable pieces. Please do not reproduce imagery off of this site without explicit credit and no derivatives may be made of my original imagery- Thank You.

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Wednesday
Jun152011

Doing Nothing, Disconnecting and Why it's Important (Just in Time For Summer)

"Every now and then go away, have a little relaxation, for when you come back to your work your judgment will be surer. Go some distance away because then the work appears smaller and more of it can be taken in at a glance and a lack of harmony and proportion is more readily seen."- Leonardo DaVinci
The Sweetness of Doing Nothing by m.diaz

Not so long ago, I was not me. I was instead an inanimate object. To be clear, I was a rubber-band. I was stretched so thin from being pulled in so many directions that I was bound to snap, and I did. I snapped right in the face of some folks that I care deeply about. Folks who didn't even have a hand in stretching me to begin with, but unfortunately, they were close enough to feel my whiplash.

Now sometimes being stretched that thin is an aid in productivity. I successfully argue that point at every moment in which I accept a new task. In fact, I've just pitched the, "No Worries, I work better under pressure" tagline to myself and my co-workers, friends and students earlier today.

Come on lets face it, I have a superhero complex, ever since I saw that star-studded Chicana, Lynda Carter spin her brunette head into the Wonder Woman of my dreams.

So I'm super capable and yes I can, I can do it all... sound familiar??
But what I've been learning as I get older is not to ask, "Can I?", (because I probably can, but at what cost?) instead I need to ask, "Should I?"

So in lieu of this global race against time, productivity and efficiency, many of us have grown digital appendages that allow us to redefine multi-tasking: cell & smart phones, laptops, ipads, portable hotspots, apps, etc.

As a result, these appendages have become indispensable, and have us 'connected' indefinitely. Personally, if you ask me, the very thought of misplacing my iphone brings cold-sweats, chills and dizziness to mind instantaneously as though it equated a lost limb.

In the New York Times bestseller, Hamlet's Blackberry, William Powers does an astute job of reminding us that the goal of all of our highly efficient technological advances was to gain us more time. It is the 'spaces, gaps, the respites,and stopping places for the mind' that we gain from our ultra-efficiency that we are somehow losing. Despite all of our hyper-connectivity, we are less connected to authentic humanity by constantly being wired to a virtual one.

First I would like to define rest by including anything that alleviates action and restores absorption of the mental, physical, emotional and/or spiritual kind. If you’re like me, you’ll stress about making it to Yoga class on time, and well, that's just not ok.

Somehow we are all hearing ourselves say WE USED to have A LOT more time...

Now seeing as we now have all of these hyper-connective tools that allow us to do multiple tasks at once, we should have MORE time. Yet, instead if you're like me, you're most likely giving all that new found time away. Possibly that new time is being given away to being 'ON' and available in our digital personas/virtual worlds 24/7. If that's the case, well then I think it might be time to reassess our priorities.

Thoreau said that the man that goes back to the post office (substitute email in-box here) over and over is a man who hasn't heard from himself in a long while.

- From Hamlet's Blackberry

So why are these pauses, GAPS of Absorption and PROCESS, these 'moments' or if we dare, DAYS of rest in our busy lives so important?

Well we've all heard the cliché answers: relieving stress, recharging your battery, richer connection and self-reflection. These are indeed vital and incredibly important in gaining the depth/richness and quality of experience we need out of our daily lives (instead of being automatons of brainless routines).
But lets look at some of the rich reasons that I gleaned from Hamlet's Blackberry...

Creativity is defined by the ability to make mental associations ....

" When work is all about darting around screens, we're not doing something thats even more valuable than thinking quickly: thinking creatively.

Of the minds many aptitudes, the most remarkable is its power of association, the ability to see new relationships among things. The brain is the most amazing associative device ever created, with its roughly one hundred billion neurons connected in as many as a quadrillion different ways- more connections than there are stars in the known universe.

Digital devices are, in one sense, a tremendous gift to the associative process because they link us to so many sources of information. The potential they hold out for creative insights and synthesis is breathtaking. The best human creativity, however, happens only when we have the time and mental space to take a new thought and follow it wherever it leads. William James once contrasted 'the sustained attention of the genius, sticking to his subject for hours together,' with the 'commonplace mind' that flits from place to place. geniuses are rare, but by using screens as we do now, constantly jumping around we're ensuring that all of us have fewer ingenious moments and bring less associative creativity to whatever kind of work we do."


- William Powers From Hamlet's Blackberry

In working out and toning your body, muscles need states of strict rest in order to grow and develop. As an educator it is established that in order to learn we need to time to process. Within inter-personal relationships we need time for reflection. As humans we live dichotomously between an inward and outward states and that condition should be balanced. I personally feel we lose control when we do anything in excess and the only true form of satisfaction comes in a perpetual balanced state of moderation. It is how I have come to champion my body this year.

William Powers doesn't advocate disconnect and be a ludite. He advocates the notion that we need to learn to control the aspects of our lives that are controlling us- he advocates moderation and mitigation between you and the technologies that are inhibiting your ability to live a high quality, present, attentive and fully immersed experience of a life- learn when to turn your ON 'green' button OFF in order to truly be ON.

He that can take rest is greater than he that can take cities. - Benjamin Franklin

So if I haven't convinced you yet to take a reading gander with Hamlet's Blackberry, let me add some previews of what's in store.
Powers takes on the challenging task of reviewing the philosophies of seven great thinkers throughout human history. He applies their thinking of what had once been the new technologies of their time and the concept of connectivity to today's surge of overwhelming digital data.
You might think this is a far reach, but I found it pleasantly surprising to see how relevant and applicable: Plato's notion of 'distance' is, Seneca's concept of Inner space, Gutenberg's manufacturing brilliance with technologies of Inwardness, Shakespeare's idea that old tools can ease overload, Ben Franklin's adaptation of positive rituals, Thoreau's Walden zones, McLuhan's lowering of the Inner thermostat and William Power's Internet Sabbath. These ideas can apply to you and me and help us moderate our on 24/7 consumption of digital juice.

Finally, if these thoughts don't stimulate your desire to ignite your spatial, tactile and physical awareness with the reality around you, here are some tech-saavy reasons that are not meant to be comical (though they may sound it) to self-moderate your digital connections.

TAKE YOUR REST AND LEARN TO SAY NO & shut off & time out & DISCONNECT every once in a while so you don't get things like:

  • INFORMATION OVERLOAD estimated to be responsible for economic losses (lowered productivity and throttled innovation) of 900billion dollars a year *(result of a 2009 study done by Basex a leading research firm)
  • ATTENTION DEFICIT TRAIT (ADT) symptoms include distractability, restlessness, a sense of gotta go gotta rush, gotta run around and impulsive decision making because you have so many things to do
  • CONTINUOUS PARTIAL ATTENTION defined as the state of mind in which most of ones attention is on a primary task, but where one is also monitoring several background tasks just in case something more important or interesting comes up
  • EMAIL APNEA a form of shallow breathing while checking email that in some extreme cases leads to an increase in stress related disease
  • INTERNET ADDICTION DISORDER self-explanatory damage...
  • NOMOPHOBIA Fear of being without mobile phone contact
Next, plan your day of rest. It can be any day of the week. Planning is essential to progress. Carve out time and you’ll commit. Practice turning down events, errands, chores, things you don’t truly need to get done under the gun. Plan meals in advance, turn off the iPhone, disconnect your computer, and stick your car keys in a drawer. Instead of being a slave to time, create it by accepting downtime. By taking time out, you’ll have more in the end.

Reader Comments (4)

Well its just a little ironic to use a blog to talk about disconnecting. lol
The issue is balance in all things and there is no substitute for real human contact.
But there are so many situations out there where this wonderful medium reaches out across endless miles to bring people together. Yes some loose sight and prefer the small window to life. This safe niche to view all that is important has built in limits and can be abused.
but lets not throw the baby out either.

June 18, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterbluedemon

Wow what an extensive post! You are te queenof the summer book report! I will be adding hamlets berry to my summer reading list and if I ever get off this phone I may actually read it! Loved the wonderwoman reference too.

June 19, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterStainboy

"Hamlet's Blackberry" has been on my "to-read" list for a while now. I think the author definitely has some important points.

I know I have at least two of the items bulleted in your post. When I'm online, I often have five or six Internet tabs open and I click between them. Plus sometimes I'm working in Photoshop at the same time!

Right now, I'm considering opening an Etsy shop, looking for a full-time job (I've been unemployed for two years and getting a job has now become a crisis), taking two online art classes, and taking a course on improving my blog. I find myself becoming anxious because I'm not blogging "enough" or "properly" to build a readership to promote my future business. I'm starting to wonder why I want to have an online craft business at all. I even feel guilty if I'm not working on my art all the time. On the other hand, I spend too much time online instead of actually making art.

What a conundrum. I hope I can find a solution to this.

P.S. I see you took the Indie Business course. I'm interested in knowing your thoughts about it. Did it help you? Is it worthwhile? Please e-mail me; I would love to "talk."

June 29, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSandra L.

Hi Marisol! This is my first time on your page and I am really impressed with your site!! It is overhwelming in a really great way! :-)
I love your work, but even more, I feel that the blog amplifies your work somehow, even though I haven't put my finger on exactly why that is. I enjoyed lots of the articles here, but this is the one that most resonated with me. Since I have been on assignment here in Mexico for about a year, I have become even more cognizant of what you bring up in your article. At first, I thought to myself, "isn't this great? I am going to get into the swing of the Mexican lifestyle and find a more relaxed, and balanced life". At first, I felt like I had finally found that freedom I was looking for. I had very few committments and a wide-open field to define within my new life, but the more time wore on the more I started to realize two important things 1) in the short term I live in 2 countries and commute between them and that actually increases my level of stress and 2) I am responsible to notice my level of burn out and balance that out somehow. A few months into my stay, I realized I was even more busy here in Mexico than I had been when I left the US and that felt wrong. I started with one small change. I vowed to myself to take my valuable "siesta" time to relax. I don't always make it, but on the days that I truly take a "siesta", even if I rarely sleep, I emerge from that two hours off feeling like a different person! Now, when I go back to visit my family in Portland, Oregon I try to bring the "siesta" idea with me. I take time to just hang out with friends, to be less "busy" and reduce my list of activities to allow myself time to enjoy spending time with the people I love. I know I will keep struggling with this balance, but I agree with your assertion in this article that it is vital that we try!!

July 25, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLynn de la Torre

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