Unrestricted access to insight is destroying my capacity for original thinking. Too much insightful, intelligent and appealing content is within my grasp. The more such content I consume, the less I can digest. This can’t continue.
My inner monologue finds this week delightful. The intense sociability of the last few days and the accompanying rigid timetable, provoked the feeling of a rigid routine, and I have never favored living too rigidly. Yet this routine has been tremendously enjoyable, in no part due to the excellent company at every turn.
I remain skeptic of scheduled living for two important reasons. Firstly, free time has an openness that allows the mind to catch up on the backlog of things that have gone before. All the experiences of a day, a week, or months are slowly synthesized by the mind and returned to the realm of consciousness only if the mind is given the time to learn its lessons. Real insight only happens when the mind is not constantly buried under fresh information.
Secondly, a linear excursion through life, planned for contingencies and scheduled for efficiency (how businessmen live and no artist or author would), leaves no space for unexpected experience When you’ve got time planned out to maximise every minute, there isn’t a moment to grab that cup of coffee, go for lunch with colleagues or wonder into that event you weren’t going to attend. Quality takes as long as it requires, and time limits, deadlines and arbitrary impositions don’t help.
At the same time, a steady stream of points, places and people to visit has been oddly liberating. The steady hum of a little small purpose alongside the grand themes of life, a little excitement and a lot of company have proved to be a compelling cocktail of activity. Even a little task such as a trip to the library to pick up more Rebus novels has proven to be satisfying, alongside the mammoth tasks of Jessup selections and Monday night squash.
I didn’t anticipate that it would be enjoyable: if anything I feared that I had bitten of a little too much and would regret my commitaholic approach.
I agree there is a balance; to both schedule the space for opportunities without pretending that every moment is an opportunity (i.e. "schedule nothing; do nothing") and you have to leave the space open for opportunities to present themselves without rejecting them regardless of their merit when the arise (i.e. "schedule everything; miss everything").
I can’t do both at the same time, but, luckily, there is a median way: I can leave the gaps that allow an opportunity to take root preventing the dominance of a rigid life whilst also allowing the bubble of timetables to grow.
Professor Naim makes an excellent point in his article:
It is important to acknowledge publicly, not just now but always … that Islam has been in these United States for a long time, not just among the immigrants from the Middle East and South Asia but among the African-Americans.
If I may, I would like to generalise that insight one step further. It is easy to forget that Islam is a diverse faith, with its adherents spread across all casts, creeds and cultures.
It is tempting to ‘arabise’ and ‘asianise’ the faith, so that only the Islam of the Middle East and the Asian sub-continent is legitimate. Within these traditions, it is tempting to focus on the visible Islam, that receives media attention (i.e. relatively modern Saudi wahabi values distilled by purist Taliban ideologues – Asians putting into action an Arab idea).
Broad, tolerant and diverse perspectives, like the syncretic integrated Islam of an Indonesia or America have becomes details lost from sight in such a narrow world view. They are the inconvenient texture, that prevent the framing of a black and white narrative.