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Reading as Contemplation versus Reading as Compulsion

In the middle of Twitter-mania and the push toward writing and reading fast, updated and short-lived information, it is good to be reminded about different ways of reading by two spiritual teachers from two very different paths. One is from Carlo Maria Martini.

The Christian tradition developed lectio divina (divine reading), a method in four steps: “lectio, meditatio, oratio, contemplatio” (reading, reflecting, oration, meditation). Those successions are the products of theological and anthropological reflections on the way the believer approaches God’s word, in order to assimilate them and transform them in real life, in action. (Carlo Maria Martini, Lectio Divina e Pastorale: A Cura di Salvatore A. Panimolle, Ascolto della Parola e Preghiera, La “Lectio Divina”, Città del Vaticano: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1987, p. 217).

The second is from the Indian mystic Osho.

To read is to know a certain art. It is to get into deep sympathy. It is to get into a sort of participation. It is a great experiment in meditation. But if you read the Gita the same way as you read novels you will miss it. It has layers and layers of depth. Hence, path – every day once has to repeat. It is not a repetition; if you know how to repeat it, it is not a repetition. If you don’t know, then it is a repetition.
Just try it for three months. Read the same book – you can choose any small book – every day. And don’t bring your yesterday to read it: just again fresh as the sun rises in the morning – again fresh as flowers come this morning, again fresh. Just open the Gita again, excited, thrilled. Again read it, again sing it, and see. It reveals a new meaning to you.
It has nothing to do with yesterday and all the yesterdays when you were reading it. It gives you a certain significance today, this moment, but if you bring your yesterdays with you, then you will not be able to read the new meaning. Your mind is always full of meaning. You think you already know. You think you have been reading this book again and again – so what is the point? Then you can go on reading it like a mechanical thing and you can go on thinking a thousand and one other thoughts. Then it is futile. Then it is just boring. Then you will not be rejuvenated by it. You will become dull. (Osho, The Search: Talks on the Ten Bulls of Zen, Rebel Publishing House, 1977, p. 122).

I wonder if the compulsive search for the latest news/messages and for an unending flow of information could be a reflection on the mental level of the everlasting freshness experienced by an enlightened soul. Such a condition re-creates itself anew at every moment, keeping the mind free from the burdens of the past.

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I click, therefore I am: Toward outsourcing our identity

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We are scattered over the Net, a piece in a social networking site, another piece in a different site, in a dating site, we write in our blog and we comment on others’ blogs, meet on chats and join forums on the most diverse subjects. Furthermore, we keep several contacts by email.

Our identities are becoming ever more fluid, we feel affiliated with various situations with only a part of ourselves. The real communities of family and friends too are now more like windows which maybe we would prefer to also manage in our computers. Lifelogging projects want to extend the scope of our life activities which are processed and managed online.

Sherry Turkle described in her books The Second Self: Computers and the Human Spirit (1984) and Life on the Screen: Identity in the Age of the Internet the exploration of the psychological parts in role-playing games and later on the Net. She thought that having the chance to live our object relationships could be important to individualize our identities.

One aspect of our online identities, explored by several experts, is the attenuation of inhibitions in online life. The superego, our psyche’s structure devoted to criticizing ourselves, to inhibit our actions and desires, is weakened by our online activity. Without superego pressure we can explore parts which are usually kept in the shadow.

Using false identities, as happened more frequently in the first years on the Internet, hides our real identities (partly for our own selves as well) and the superego is hidden along with it.

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Siamo sparpagliati nella rete, un pezzo su un sito di social networking, un pezzo su un altro, un altro pezzo su un sito di incontri, poi scriviamo sul nostro blog e commentiamo sui blog degli altri, ci troviamo sulle chat, e poi partecipiamo ai forum sui temi più disparati; inoltre manteniamo diversi contatti via email.

La nostra identità è sempre più fluida, ci sentiamo di appartenere alle diverse situazioni solo con una parte di noi stessi. Le comunità reali della famiglia e degli amici sono altre finestre che magari vorremmo poterle gestire a loro volta con computer. I progetti di lifelogging vogliono estendere le attività della nostra vita che vengono elaborate e gestite online.

Sherry Turkle aveva già descritto nel suo libro Il Secondo Io del 1984, e poi con La vita sullo schermo l’esplorazione delle parti psicologiche nei giochi di ruolo e poi nella Rete. La Turkle riteneva che il poter vivere i propri oggetti di relazione potesse essere importante per individuare la propria identità.

Un aspetto della nostra identità online, anche questo esplorato da diversi studiosi, è l’attenuazione delle inibizioni nella nostra vita online. Il superego, la struttura della nostra psiche dedicata a criticare noi stessi, ad inibire le nostre azioni e desideri, viene indebolito dalla nostra attività online. Senza la pressione del superego possiamo esplorare parti di noi stessi che normalmente sono in ombra.

Usare una falsa identità, come succedeva più frequentemente nei primi tempi della Rete, ci nasconde la nostra vera identità (in parte anche a noi stessi) e con questa anche il superego inibente.
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The myth of freedom through technology

Dalì Apparition of the Town of Delft[en]

The New York Times article “In Web World of 24/7 Stress, Writers Blog Till They Drop provoked a certain sensation on the Web.

Advertisements of cars still show them in the deserts or on isolated mountain roads. The reality: lines of heavy traffic, traffic lights, stress, costs, social isolation, poor quality of life. Even after many years during which cars went from being portrayed as symbols of freedom to the sardine cans that are imprisoning us, the image of freedom associated with them refuses to die.

But since a few years a new image of freedom in the collective mental imagery has been promised by advanced technologies, which permit us to be free from fixed timetables and workplaces. Wi-fi, Web on mobile phones, and always-on Internet connections promise to let us work when and where we want to, free from the obligations of time or place, with our laptop on the top of a mountain having an uninterrupted view in front of us.

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L’articolo del New York Times In Web World of 24/7 Stress, Writers Blog Till They Drop, che racconta la morte di un blogger per stress e la pressione a cui sono sottoposti i blogger, ha provocato un certo scalpore sul web.

Le pubblicità delle automobili le ritraggono tutt’ora mentre vengono guidate in deserti o in strade isolate di montagna. La realtà: code, semafori, stress, costi, isolamento sociale, bassa qualità della vita. Dopo tanti anni in cui le automobili sono passate da simboli di libertà a scatole di sardine che ci imprigionano, l’immagine della libertà associata alle automobili non muore.

Ma da alcuni anni, nell’immaginario collettivo, la nuova immagine di libertà è stata conquistata dalle tecnologie avanzate, che ci promettono di liberarci dall’orario e dal luogo di lavoro fissi. Wi-Fi, web sui cellulari, connessioni alla rete sempre attive ci promettono di poter lavorare quando e dove ci pare, liberi dalle costrizioni del tempo e dello spazio, con il nostro portatile in cima alla montagna avendo di fronte un panorama incontaminato.

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