Friday, March 28, 2008

Flowing into the weekend

'been a long week: lots of tension, lots of progress, lots of uncertainty. The temperature is up to a hopeful 10 C, though, and the weekend is at hand. My daughter arrives on Thursday for ten days: I'm really looking forward to her visit and to sharing some time together. 'funny how much family time seems to matter right now.

I watched the
Geert Wilders' film: I was underwhelmed. So many of the images are familiar stock footage or provocative stereotypes, and were so closely coupled to terrorists in particular. As such, it didn't carry the emotional power against Islam that he probably intended. Instead, I found it a sad and angering testimony against those who hate an institution but strike out, instead, at innocents.

On a weary Friday night, instead, I turn to personal pleasures that are creative and immersive.

I'm always one who carries a hip-pocket time-filler with me when I travel: a book, art supplies, an iPod. If there is empty time, I've always been able to settle into a quiet corner and sink into the activity, happily oblivious to the delays and turmoil (or ennui) around me. I was reading an article on Flow States the other day:
Wikipedia defines them as periods of heightened concentration and creativity, characterized by:
1. Clear goals (expectations and rules are discernible and goals are attainable and align appropriately with one's skill set and abilities).
2. Concentrating and focusing, a high degree of concentration on a limited field of attention (a person engaged in the activity will have the opportunity to focus and to delve deeply into it).
3. A loss of the feeling of self-consciousness, the merging of action and awareness.
4. Distorted sense of time, one's subjective experience of time is altered.
5. Direct and immediate feedback (successes and failures in the course of the activity are apparent, so that behavior can be adjusted as needed).
6. Balance between ability level and challenge (the activity is neither too easy nor too difficult).
7. A sense of personal control over the situation or activity.
8. The activity is intrinsically rewarding, so there is an effortlessness of action.
9. People become absorbed in their activity, and focus of awareness is narrowed down to the activity itself, action awareness merging.
I think that only 2,3,4,8, and 9 characterize it for me. Activities that I become absorbed in to this degree include reading, programming, life drawing, exercise, baseball games. Life drawing, in particular, became a very intense point of awareness between the paper and the subject, translating small details into a proportionate whole through the charcoal. I would sketch, adjust, look, correct, squint, shade, over and over, and three hours would pass like a blink. The intensity of the experience always surprised me. Similarly when doing programming or analysis: there is a point where you hold it all in your mind and jump back and forth within the work, seeing, adding, building. Insight would flow from the work, not from contemplation about it.

These days, living alone, the experiences come less frequently: time is more broken up and attention is more distracted.

Curious that life should be more scattered when nobody is competing for a piece of it.

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