I recently finished Jenny Odell’s book How to do Nothing – Resisting the Attention Economy. I found it enormously valuable, offering some concrete ways to participate in the Resistance. It definitely got my attention.
I believed I was paying attention, when I faithfully clicked out likes on my social media platforms. I thought all this clicking was useful (at least my friends knew I was paying attention). Those same clicks were constantly being mined and targeted back at me as marketing, fundraising, and political campaigns. I was actually co-creating an ever-expanding volume of information, in an ever-narrowing window of awareness.
This is not news. What is news is the result of all this engagement is that my attention span itself is shrinking. Spread thin, everything ends up receiving the same amount of attention, even when it doesn’t require or deserve it. The constant input/output is extremely addictive and a total time suck, I end up with a diminishing capacity to tolerate doing less. The thought of doing nothing practically induces an existential crisis.
But doing nothing is apparently the antidote. Not nothing exactly, but nothing that is of any discernable economic value to the algorithm. The new paradigm is this: ‘USELESSNESS IS USEFUL’.
Please if I might have your attention for a moment longer. Having something to do can be useful and can reduce anxiety. It also helps to rehearse emotionally, as well as logistically. Here are a few suggestions for preparing for the Corona Virus. May these precautions prove ultimately unnecessary.
1. Get ahead on your medical prescriptions if you can.
2. Slowly start to stock up on enough non-perishable food to last at home for at least several weeks. No need to purchase things you wouldn’t normally use.
3. Start practicing not touching your face when you are out and about.
And a Buddhist practice from Lama Tsultrim at Tara Mandala:
Ritrö Loma Gyönma, the Noble Lady of Mountain Retreat, Clothed in Leaves, Who Removes Contagious Diseases. The 20th Tara is specifically for epidemics. Ritrö Loma Gyönma, is a Tara of the forest and wears medicinal leaves as her clothing. Visualize yourself as Ritrö Loma Gyönma, peaceful and saffron colored. Upon the Utpala flower at her left ear is a medicinal vessel, the Zamatog, filled with nectar. From the moon in her left eye descends a stream of golden nectar, healing all forms of disease. From the sun in her right eye light blazes forth and incinerates contagious diseases and that which causes them. Imagine all those infected across the world are healed with the beams of light from her eyes. While you repeat this mantra:
OM TARE TUTTARE TURE NAMA TARE MANO HARA HUNG HARA SVAHA
Look closely at the present you are constructing; it should look like the future you are dreaming. – Alice Walker