Derik Badman's Journal

2020-12-10 08:10

As we creep towards the euquinox I feel the darkness and cold dragging on me. Dark when I wake up; dark by the time I finish work. Frost in the morning when I look out onto the yard; still frost on the roof of the garage as I look out my office window. We even had some light snow yesterday. More cold means I am less motivated to take a morning walk. Guess I need to get out my warm coat and just get outside.

I've been reading Jenny Odell's How to Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy (2019) which sounds like a crappy self-help book but is not: the title catchy but misleading, the subtitle drier but more accurate. It's not really about doing nothing or an investigation about what "doing nothing" really would mean (one could see that as a treatise on everyday life and how much "What did you do this weekend? Nothing." really overwrites a slew of activities we consider unworthy of mention). Her real subject is attention, distraction, focus. I'm finding (not finished yet) it intersects a lot with other topics I've run across recently or in the past. When she talks about our attention and noticing/seeing or not noticing/seeing things in our environment it reminds me of David Milch's commentary I noted the other day about senses and attention; ditto when she talks about stereotyping and seeing what we want to see. Her discussion of relating to other people and objects (especially nature) really fits in with Buddhist philosophy on the illusion of the self. In one section she talks about Spotify and how the more she likes certain types of music the more the app gives her that type of music, until it kind of generates a very limited profile of her likes, creating a kind of feedback loop that gets her stuck with a certain style of music. That seems very relevant to the idea of how we construct a sense of our self and then feel the need to maintain and abide by that self we have constructed. She brings in a good range of references in a way that makes me interested in digging more into some of the thinkers/subjects. Her discussion of David Hockney's photographic work (which I am only vaguely fairly with) makes me want to look up more of them.

There is also a political element to the book that has, as far as I've read, yet to come full circle, but an interesting chapter is devoted to communes and attempts to drop out of society (which she is not advocating for).