There seems to be an urban myth about people coming up with great ideas while they are in the toilet or in the bathroom.
Notice what is shared by both these places:
This person would be there ALONE.
I mean, usually you don’t take a shower with other people.
[Though if you do take showers with other people, I hope these are people you actually want to be there in the shower room with you. Sorry for you if you’re among that 1% of Americans].
The funny thing about modern men and women is that even in the toilet we’re not alone anymore because many people are starting to use these hand-held devices to connect with the outside world.
This means that anybody who owns an electronic device is nearly always keeping in touch with somebody else, even in moments which you think of as “moments of privacy”.
The interesting implication is that you’re no longer alone even in those rare instances when you’re in a physical space that used to preclude communication with others in bygone (=non-electronic) times.
What will happen when this privacy will disappear from the shower room as well? People have TV sets installed in their bathrooms nowadays, right?
How crazy is that? I suspect that the next big invention is going to be a smart-phone that you can use while you’re taking a bath, maybe with some headphones that you can keep on while you’re showering.
Will that even be possible, or are we going to have people electrocuting themselves in the shower?
There is a problem with this modern trend. Networking is very good and there is so much to know out there in the virtual world, but it also means that
we stop trying to interact with the inanimate reality around us (i.e., Nature), and with our own bodies.
Very few people nowadays have the luxury to spend time alone, and few people prize it.
Why is this happening? Is it because we feel that we might be missing on some vital information? Perhaps.
Think how crazy is this new phenomenon whereby
people are twittering, like a flock of birds, everybody is just tweeting: Tweet-tweet, tweet-tweet.
A couple of words about something, which can sometimes become a distinct cry, when you have somebody who says something
very smart, or very funny, or something that is very scary.
Notice how all of these connect to immediate emotions: It has to be pretty short, right?
Tweets, #tags, most Facebook messages as well, are all short.
Blogs are longer and this is why I post on a blog because, while I may have hit a couple of homers during these dialogues (Sun-Rooted Language, anybody?), I’m not that good and I’m not that interested in creating (just) buzz-words. Also, I think the more time we give to something, the more we can get; call it my bias towards giving more time to each other, and to our Selves.
Let’s remember that there was one person, a long time ago, who was taking a bath, and he noticed that his own body displaced a certain volume of water, and from this he came up with a law of physics. He was able to derive a formula for calculating mass from volume. Was this because of the pressure from the king? The king asked him:
Thinking about stuff while you’re working on it may help you sometimes, but notice how we need solitude to ponder things. Notice how (if this apocryphal account is true) Archimedes stumbled upon the answer while he was by himself, probably thinking about this problem he had to solve.
Even if he was vaguely thinking about that problem, notice that he was also paying attention to the Reality around him, in which he found himself submerged.
Does this mean that we are incapable of coming up with original ideas if we cannot find the time to be by ourselves (and be aware of what’s around us when we’re alone)? I don’t know.
However, I do know that it is important to pay attention to that voice inside your head when you’re alone
“Why is this thing like this? Oh, (maybe) it’s because of this”
When we are by ourselves, we can have a dialogue with our Selves.
Who are these Selves? The multiple Selves, including the I in the future or the I in the past
“Did I do this right? Did I put that item in my schedule for tomorrow? What time is my train leaving?”
There could also be a dialogue with an immovable, God-like I which is just asking
“Why am I here?”
Now, for those living within a 40-50 hours’ work-week, even if there is time for privacy (in your own cubicle), this is a private time in a given space, not necessarily a space of our own choosing, not a space of our everyday experience as (biological) human beings.
It’s a space customised to fit whatever working needs you might have; you could pay attention to that and try to improve it (e.g., put a flower pot on your desk), but you might not be able to improve much about that reality, as you’re not in contact with Reality in general.
What do I mean by “reality in general”? I mean “reality outside the walls”.
So few people nowadays are living outside that we actually forget our place in the world and this connectivity “helps” us to forget.
This ability to always be reached and to always be able to reach others, even in places which were formerly completely private.
I’m referring to people who use the kind of device you’re probably holding or looking at right now:
Do people still take a walk without wearing headphones?
Do people still ride a bicycle without wearing headphones?
Do people still get stuck in traffic without checking their phones? I suppose that nowadays you can watch TV even while you’re driving, though I assume it is not legal. Or, more importantly, safe.
How did we derive this huge need to tune in to what others are saying / have said?
It’s probably because of the huge complexity of things / spaces around us (that have been designed by others) which we want to be able to control better.
How do we control these things / spaces better? That’s the question we’re constantly asking ourselves.
How do we know more about how we can manage our lives?
How do we know more about how the outside world is doing?
By “outside world” we mean “other people” and not inanimate reality (=Nature).
We still think about Nature in terms of how the weather is going to be
“Do I need an umbrella today?”
but we don’t think about Nature because
“I’ll have to sleep outside”.
We all go back to a designed space where we are protected from most of what Nature is preparing for us. But it cannot protect us from all that Nature is brewing out there.
So how do we deal with what Nature is preparing for us right now?
Why do I say that Nature is preparing something else for us?
Why do I believe that Nature may be changing the “recipe”?
Because of all the designed space we’ve been thrusting upon Nature, because of all the materials which we had to build, extract, dig out, polish, burn, shape, mold, subject to chemical reactions in order to get the things (we think) we need.
What did all this result in? It resulted in a stupendous amount of discarded products and by-products, which are also piling up in Nature.
It’s not just the designed stuff, but also the products which are more like side-effects, things we didn’t plan, didn’t care about… (CO2, anybody?)
What do we do with all the “garbage”? We throw it away.
Away, where? In Nature.
Are we going to drown in garbage? No.
However, the sea is going to drown us and drive us away from many places, because we have displaced so much of it.
How did we do this? Like Archimedes, by taking a bath? Not really.
It was more through our willful ignorance. Voluntary mindlessness. Not paying attention.
Nature is coming back to bite us and that’s a dialogue that is best engaged in while you’re by yourself. Then you can come back and connect with the rest of us, who are also concerned and who have thought about solutions, after having the same dialogue.