Duke was drunk on rubbing alcohol and three days no sleep. “Where’s the mutt?” He would yell, looking for me. “Where is the white devil?”
Ben Parker Karris is a young writer currently living in the American Southwest.
(Originally published by The State Press on May 21 2012)
Tim Kreider wrote an op-ed on the “busy trap” for The New York Times that went viral last June. The busy trap, he writes, is a self-imposed trap, something to which Americans are especially privy: the cycle of accumulating countless, meaningless tasks to produce a sense of importance. Something Kreider implies, but doesn’t outright say, is that our lives have become a pile of to-do lists because there’s no other way we can feel like we’re leading meaningful lives.
I used to write mundane, trivial tasks in a daily planner I carried — such as, “shave legs,” “call home” or “clean out car” — just so I could feel the satisfaction of their completion. It wasn’t that I had very much to do, but I still wrote down every task I could, drawing out even the silliest and daily maintenance tasks, just so I could feel satisfied with myself. The physical act of crossing them off made me feel like I had accomplished much, even if I had done very little of value at all.
It was a small respite, a symbolic release of tension I found in a day-planner I bought at Target.
I realize that these rituals might seem extreme, but I have to wonder about all the books I stopped myself from reading or the coffee dates I denied because I told myself that I was simply too busy to enjoy them: I had too many chores to do, too many plans to make, too many so-called responsibilities with which to follow through.
Kreider’s argument is relevant to us, even though his primary audience is adults with families. But as young adults transitioning into a world of 9-to-5s, you have to wonder how the busy trap tricks us into filling our time with tasks that don’t truly matter.
The fact is, advertisers exploit this craving for productivity, creating a myth of the “active, healthy lifestyle.”
Vista Del Sol’s front page ad boasts that you can “roll out of bed and walk to class” if you sign a lease with them. They depend on your presumption that you must be too busy to shower, too busy to wear anything but your pajamas to class. Cheap fast food joints, such as Taco Bell or Little Caesar’s, use this desire for busyness to sell us convenience: We are far too busy for a quick meal at home, though we clearly make time for the things we care about doing, such as spending all night revisiting the YouTube videos we’ve already seen again and again or mindlessly scrolling through our Facebook feed looking futilely for stimulating posts.
This mindless Internet browsing is a byproduct of the busy trap, too. We feel perpetually compelled to do something — even if it is nothing — to generate the sensation of productivity. God forbid we are found simply daydreaming.
There are graduate schools, employers and career counselors, who say, implicitly or not, that we must keep lengthy résumés, fill our summers with internships and part-time jobs, “network” endlessly if we want to remain viable contenders in the ever-dwindling job market. They purely want to define who we are by what we do, how good we are at being both busy and functioning human beings. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been asked how well I can multitask at a job interview. (I don’t want to multitask; I want to focus.) A GRE subject handbook in literature advised that rather than actually reading literature, I should compile a list of well-canonized works and memorize a few thematic details to receive a competitive score to my favorite graduate programs.
For me, the busy trap is only a microcosm of a culture that is more concerned with amassing objects, hoarding fragments of information to maintain a front of success. The busy trap is a process of keeping up with appearances. The culture (and this is a self-indictment as well) is less interested in making connections, drawing associations between ideas, events and people — even though that is where true goodness of life is discovered.
I have to acknowledge that there are struggling students, students who work three part-time jobs to pay their tuition loans. I know; I’ve been there, too. Moreover, I’m not sure if my feelings are representative of a larger generational trend, or if they are exclusive to me. The crux of the matter is this: I’m not really that busy, and I don’t want to be “that” busy. I can’t imagine that I’m alone in feeling like I have to keep myself in the busy trap to be considered successful or productive.
Reach the columnist at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter @ce_truong
Delicious Suheir Hammad (via mythought-dreams)
why is it men
describe our colors
sweet honey shade
cafe au lait
delicious olive (an acquired taste)
peaches and cream
because they are
so ready to
“If you remember me, then I don’t care if everyone else forgets.”
—Haruki Murakami, from Kafka on the Shore (Alfred A. Knopf, 2005)
“It caused a furor at the Academy.”
Painting: Claude Monet, Boat Studio, 1876
Rineke Dijkstra, Julie, Den Haag, Netherlands, February 29 1994, 1994
From the Tate Gallery:
Julie, Den Haag, Netherlands, February 29 1994, Tecla, Amsterdam, Netherlands, May 16 1994 and Saskia, Harderwijk, Netherlands, March 16 1994 are three portraits of women made shortly after they had given birth. All the women were known to the artist – one was a personal friend and the other two were friends of friends. Dijkstra photographed the women in their homes because in Holland it is more common for women to give birth at home than in a hospital. While bearing signs of their recent ordeal – the medical pants and sanitary towel which Julie wears, a trickle of blood down the inside of Tecla’s left leg, the caesarean scar on Saskia’s belly – the women appear proud and happy. They hold their new babies turned away from the camera, protectively pressed against their bodies. Dijkstra has developed a way of combining natural light with flash which results in particular quality of soft, clear light. Julie’s left hand covers her baby’s eyes to protect them from the flash.
Philip Pearlstein, Female Model on Oriental Rug with Mirror, 1968
I published a very short piece of #fiction with @nanoism. Please visit nanoism.net to read it! #twitterfiction #storytelling #az #write
Memory is not an instrument for exploring the past but its theatre. It is the medium of past experience, as the ground is the medium in which dead cities lie interred.Walter Benjamin, Selected Writings, Vol. 2. (via ninetythieves) + (via mythologyofblue)