When I am reading the little and old book called America in Perspective, which collects over 30 essays written by foreigners to describe American way of life. The excerpt written by Richard Muller-Freienfels offered very penetrative insights by characterize as a country of mechanization and standardization. Although it was published in 1927, the descriptions are still exactly true in today’s America. I couldn’t help but dogear the page and jog down his insights as follows:
In a purely external sense, the mechanization of life is conditioned by the size of the country… A vast network of railways covers the land; the telegraph and the telephone, both largely American inventions, have reached a high degree of development… Above all, the motor-car is not a luxury, but an article of everyday utility, which is obvious from the shabby conditions of most of the cars one sees… In the eyes of the American all these things have a positive value… This general mechanization of life is, of course, due to the co-operation of a number of factors. The lack of domestic servants, which I shall presently consider as a social factor, has of necessity resulted in the mechanization, even in the home, of many tasks which in Europe are performed by human labor.Everyone who has visited the United States will be able to recall similar characteristics, all of which go to prove the same thing, namely, that the whole of life has been mechanized in a far greater degree than with us.. the prevalence of practical thinking, of the concentration of the intellect on the practical, useful, and efficient, and the obverse of this attitude is the repression and suppression of all that is merely agreeable, emotional, and irrational in the personality. This rationality, as a form of thinking and willing, expresses itself in constructions and instruments and machines which impress the purposeful will of humanity, with the aid of the inorganic forces of Nature, on the outer world. The machine is above all the typical creation and manifestation of the utilitarian and practical reason. It is pure practicality, embodied rationality.
The mathematization and technicalization of life is connected inextricably with a further trait of Americanism–with the typicalization, or, to use the American expression, the standardization of life. Nowadays one may also call this Fordization, since Mr. Ford is regarded a peculiarly representative of his country. Standardization is a consequence of mass-production, mathematization, and mechanization, for it implies the unlimited mass-production — for the most part by mechanical means — of a definite type of product … At all events, an observant eye will note the conspicuous appearance of the same features everywhere, in spite of obvious differences. This typification will be seen in the most prominent features as well as in the least conspicuous.
In every sizable town, there is a WalMart, Home Depot and Blockbuster. A visit to McDonald’s will show you the array of devices and equipment which makes fast food delivery even faster. It appears to me that for every problem, there is a technical solution and for every illness, there is a magic pill for it.
One unifying character of American society, which encompasses all the characteristics in this dazzling diversity in this country, is the inherent belief individualistic capitalism. Everyone is a business and you need to run it as you do with a business. You make personal choices and accept consequences. No one, even the parents, cannot run the business for the child, because they cannot face the liabilities of infringing upon another individual’s business. The consecration of individual capitalism began as early as when the egg is fertilized. As to the question of how closely this celebration of individual enterprise is related to the fundamental changes of Christian belief system, I am not so sure. But I know it does have a connection and has manifested itself ever since the first English immigrant steps on the new continent.
I hope to write a book on this topic one day.
The moon shines like a big yellowish plate, the biggest I have ever seen. It hung above the horizon and seems to get a bit smaller when it rises high.
On May 6th, 2013, I learned that I lost a thing forever. Due to my self-righteous anger, my forever alert of other people’s problems, and my own poisonous wishes — I wished for the bad things to happen and they did. I asked for it. Then I felt heart wrenched and cried silently in the car. There is now an emptiness in my heart and a regret in my life that is impossible to be filled and remedied.
Be careful what you wish for.
There are certain levels of retribution in our life. The easiest one is not having the blessings in life that other people have and you are not even aware of it. You don’t even know there is such a wonderful blessing in the world.
Secondary to it is another type of retribution: you see such blessings but it is impossible for you to have. And you are left permanently yearning for the things that you could never reach. Sometimes you simply console yourself that maybe it is written, it is your fate.
The third level is taking away what you have taken for granted, sometimes forever, to deliver to you a wakening blow to realize that what a valuable object you have lost, and you will never able to retrieve it, ever. In many cases, the valuable thing is lavishly given to you is ruined by your own hand. After you realize what you have squandered, you are left with a feeling that a chip of your life is forever gone and it is you who chopped it down.
If you could still make up for what you have lost, then you are at the fourth level of pain. Fate just taught you a lesson and you can still get back what you want — if you truly want it.
Today, I know, I lost that thing forever. I can cheat myself by saying that it is fate that makes a joke an takes away what does not belong to me, but deep inside, I know I ruined it. Now there is an empty spot in my soul which is never going to be remedied.
Why do tenants have to sign a whole year’s lease instead of at shorter intervals, such a three months and half a year?
Isn’t it the tyranny of capitalism when the weaker side has to accept what the rich side dictates? With the burden of financial pressure, freedom and democracy becomes a convenient tool to become freedom of exploitation and dominance of plutocracy.
If you are an Indian caught in the westward expansion of the white people, beware of the overwhelming force;
If you are a Jew caught in the Nazi Germany, beware of the overwhelming force;
If you are a worker caught in the globalized capitalism, beware of the overwhelming force;
Do you surrender to the futility of struggle or you fight to death.
Or it does not even matter as the gust in the autumn will clear away the withered leaves anyway.
What is your choice if you are caught in the blind overwhelming force?
When reading a book, how to balance between speed and quality of reading? There are numerous books to read and there is certainly not enough time to read. Besides, life is too wonderful to be just spent in reading and consuming the mass produced words on pages.
As one historian eloquently puts, the increase of knowledge in history may risk the the actual understanding of the materials. The voluminous pages of names, dates and events, were forced upon readers, in a “buy and large” manner, typical of a society overbearing for more consumption.
As a result, wise reader need to choose wisely what to read and stop consuming whatever is conveniently accessible to him, either by deliberate information tracking or peer recommendation. There are always ways to do things differently and reading is one important factor. Books are products, and the majority of the products would be gone into oblivion within the next hundred years, into the trash of the historical dustbin, so to speak. Any reader without a discerning mind is feeding the braining with future trash.
Food for the brain should be planned and arranged as carefully as food for the stomach. Actively planning the personal diet results in a healthy body, so does selective reading. There are numerous marketing tricks which make us choose certain products, believing it is our personal choice. There are also numerous authors who write not to share information but to deliberately obfuscate the our understanding of the world — for seamy purposes such as pecuniary or political gains.
Allow me to go back to the topic about two ways of consuming books. One is reading and the other is studying. The later is the most time consuming but also should be very rewarding. Some portions of a book needs to be studied and cross-examined, and other portions to be read. I say this because I tend to consecrate books and afraid of fully committing to a book with the self-imposed obligation of finishing it from cover to cover. Bear in mind that today few books are written to enlighten; they are written to be consumed.
Today I went to a Jazz concert. It is the first live concert of Jazz I ever attended and the performance was wonderful.
When listening, my body can’ help shaking and dancing tot he rhythms of the music. The melody of Jazz sounds casual and informal, as spontaneous expression of emotions.
Jazz connects directly to the audience, and the instruments speaks directly to the audience. It is a hippy and cool, and I like the trumpeter whose music really talked into my minds.
Write down the thinking immediately or least once a day, let them accumulate and ferment.
Don’t sabotage oneself, and you know it when you are doing it. So just avoid it.
I have to admit that I erred on the side of being very disorganized. What’s ironical is that I spend more time trying to organizing things rather than focusing on the things to be done.
Today I make a decision to invent my own ‘chaos management method’, which means this:
Taking the state of chaos as the normal circumstance of things. Then focus on one thing and do it with consistence, and feel comfortable to leave other things disorganized and chaotic. Gradually, that one thing, presumably the most important thing to do for a period of time, will drag chaotic matters into its orbit, forming a stable planetary system around the common core.
This may sound abstract, so let me give you an example:
When organizing numerous types of files in a computer, I used to put them into different categories and created an individual folder for them. The time spent on examining and organizing them are considerable, but the result is not satisfactory. Very soon, I will create a lot of folders with all kinds of names and initial purpose of organizing them is defeated.
Now, I will do this: throw all the files into a portable drive, and only keep the documents that is absolutely necessary for the current project in the computer disk drive. When the current project is finished or suspended, immediately move them to the portable drive. The only thing to keep in mind is that care should be taken to give the files recognizable names so that they can be easily searched and located in case they are resurfaced to attention.
Executive files should not be bothered with any form of organization. Photos should be named with their occasion and the date. For the Office files and informational files, make sure they are synchronized across the computers and backed up automatically. The idea is: rather than managing several chaotic universes, I would just throw all objects into one universe, and find the things I need in that big universe.
I am a non-linear person and this is my method of chaotic management.