“Which is more important: to attain enlightenment, or to attain enlightenment before you attain enlightenment; to make a million dollars, or to enjoy your life in your effort, little by little, even though it is impossible to make that million; to be successful, or to find some meaning in your effort to be successful? If you do not know the answer, you will not even be able to practice zazen; if you do know, you will have found the true treasure of life.”

I stumbled upon a Hare Krishna drum circle today in a small park in West LA. My first, natural impulse was to capture and document the moment on Instagram. Alas- no smartphone in tow- I was forced to just sit and listen in the moment to the beat of the drums.

Naturally, this prompted another round of rumination about the role of smartphones and technology in our lives. While documenting our lives is certainly useful and important (cameras have been around forever), nowadays the act of capturing a moment actually supersedes the moment itself. I think it’s because we’ve gotten to a point where we’re almost dependent on other people validating the time we’re having. Look at this food I’m eating! ‘Like’ the restaurant that I checked in to!

Why? I think it’s because when this validation is instant and ample (20 likes!), we ultimately get to constantly remind ourselves that we matter in some way. And that’s the deep-rooted need/desire for connection that a lot of new social networks provide.

This is what DFW was getting at at length in Infinite Jest- the endemic problem of modern society is an inherent, deep-seated loneliness— the fundamental human need for connection and validation amplified by the the sea of stimulation and content out there that makes it even harder to feel like we belong.

Forget so-called peer pressure. It’s more like peer-hunger. No? We enter a spiritual puberty where we snap to the fact that the great transcendent horror is loneliness, excluded encagement in the self. Once we’ve hit this age, we will now give or take anything, wear any mask, to fit, be part-of, not be Alone, we young.

Thoughts on a sunny Saturday afternoon.

“I don’t believe people are looking for the meaning of life as much as they are looking for the experience of being alive.”
— Joseph Campbell

Trying out Simple

Finally got my new Simple card in the mail today.

It seems like the company has gone through waves of hype and disappointment - from first promising to reinvent banking as we knew it, to later underwhelming early users with their actual product offering.

I don’t have any especially high hopes for the service- I just want a hassle-free banking tool that lets me easily keep track of my purchases and day-to-day spending. I don’t already use Mint for that, so I’m planning to give Simple a shot for a few weeks and see how the new card and mobile app work for me. Stay tuned.

"Life is strange."

Some good words by Krishnamurti:

Sir, life is very strange. The moment you are very clear about what you want to do, things happen. Life comes to your aid— a friend, a relation, a teacher, a grandmother, somebody helps you. But if you are afraid to try because your father may turn you out, then you are lost. Life never comes to the aid of those who merely yield to some demand out of fear. But if you say, “This is what I really want to do and I am going to pursue it,” then you will find that something miraculous takes place. You may have to go hungry, struggle to get through, but you will be a worthwhile human being, not a mere copy, and that is the miracle of it.

You see, most of us are frightened to stand alone; and I know this is especially difficult for you who are young, because there is no economic freedom in this country as there is in America or Europe. Here the country is over-populated, so everybody gives in. You say, “What will happen to me?” But if you hold on, you will find that something or somebody helps you. When you really stand against the popular demand, then you are an individual and life comes to your aid.

[…] Life is like that. The moment you venture out, something takes place in you and about you. Life comes to your aid in various ways. You may not like the form in which it does to you — it may be misery, struggle, starvation— but when you invite life, things begin to happen. But you see, we don’t want to invite life, we want to play a safe game; and those who play a safe game die very safely. Is that not so?