John Lockwood

Unboxing a Mind

Best Reads This Week - February 3, 2017

Welcome to our collection of best reads for the week of January 23, 2017. Many of these will be current blog posts as is par for the course, but this week we’ll also discuss a book and audio course. TL;DR – Get Viktor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning and read it, if you haven’t already.

I want to thank Cal Newport for bringing my attention to a “crazy but brilliant book” You Are Not a Gadget: A Manifesto. In it, Jaron Lanier makes a compelling case for making smart choices about the direction of technology that are based on humanistic values, while showing how the inertia of entrenched systems like Midi and Unix can blind us to alternatives that may exist. Perhaps what I most enjoyed was the fact that Lanier pointed out the simple fact that the battle cry “information wants to be free” is sheer nonsense, because information is inanimate and wants no such thing. What it really reveals is a debased culture that wants writers, musicians, programmers, and other talented professionals to work for free.

A more personal note on mindfulness and technology comes from Share Mindfulness in the form of An Open Letter to Phone-Addicted Friends and Family. This article discusses the hurt we can cause others when our phones appear more interesting to us than our friends do. (Not to mention the hurt and even deaths we can cause on the highway!)

Newport’s always worthwhile blog also made it to our list this week with On Value and Digital Minimalism. Some of Newport’s writings were helpful to me as I began my experiment in giving up social media, and I think he’s on the right track here too by having us examine what value a technology adds to our lives. Where I differ from Newport somewhat is that I tend to see digital minimalism as a variety of – and practice for – overall mindfulness. Because of that difference in emphasis, I think a better category than “invented value” for sites like Twitter and Facebook would be “addictive value”, or, in Buddhist terms, “a value based solely on craving”. In my selfish way, I’m less concerned about whether I’m part of someone else’s business plan than I am about the effect a particular technology has on my mental state.

In our next article, if you think you have difficulty in your mindfulness practice, check out Tony Bernhard’s piece about how prisoners practice mindfulness in maximum security prisons. One of the practices he discusses, the “three breath trip” (a short return to mindfulness) is a practice that’s necessary in prison, but also worthy of mention for those of us who are on the outside because it’s something we can do while busy with jobs and family. I think every practice that helps us to stay mindful throughout the day is worth considering.

For those of who – like me – are trying to become more regular in our practice of mindfulness meditation, the Zen Habits blog has a great article on How to Cultivate a Year of Mindfulness. I’ve incorporated some of these suggestions into my practice.

Finally, while I was working on this article, I finally read a book that I’d often heard quoted, and now I fully understand why. The book is Viktor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning, and, hey look, the library extension works on Goodreads, too! All I can say is, if you forget the rest of this article, it’s all good – go out and read Frankl.