Hermits Rock

Go to content Go to navigation

In Search of Qualitative Change

Lately, I’ve been thinking my daily reading is scatterbrained and insignificant. My RSS reader includes 25 personality-driven blogs, a half-dozen issue-focused blogs and semi-blog sites (e.g. The Revealer); 20 blogs and occasionally updated pages from literary magazines and university presses; six newspaper feeds (five from the Times, one from McClatchy), and one Google News search (for updates about Crystal Bridges). It’s time for change.

With maybe one or two exceptions, I’m cutting out all personalities that I do not count as friends either personal or imaginary. (Speaking of, it’s never too late to become an imaginary friend!) Second, I think I’ll replace issues blogs with general issues-based filters. For example, rather than read Environmental Economics though it’s often funny and encourages me think in new ways about the costs of environmentalism—I’ll read Grist instead. I’ll expand the third category most by adding more literary magazines, their blogs, and other of the more thorough online and print mags as well as more blogs from presses. Finally, I’ll also expand my aggregating: a few more news feeds from more varied sources, which I can skim and read or dismiss at a glance; and a few other focused searches.

Most of what I excise I’ll move to a bookmark list that I check periodically—weekly or monthly.

You should realize that, by changing my reading, I’ll probably also be changing my writing here. Therefore tell me, does it sound like a decent plan? Any suggestions for what I should add?



Here’s the difference, which you can open—or import!—into your favorite RSS reader: old; new (both are .opml files).

i just finished reading a book called “the 4-hour workweek,” which i don’t actually recommend. however, in one brief section, the author describes his own dissatisfaction with efficiency movements like the “getting things done” crowd. i think his point is that it doesn’t make sense to mindlessly pursue efficiency if the things you are doing are rather pointless and if you use the time gained to do still more pointless things. (not that any of your rss feeds are pointless—i’m just summarizing the general point.) basically, the question one should ask is do i really need to be doing/reading/paying attention to this in the first place? what would happen if i never did/read/paid attention to this again? would it be that catastrophic?

all that to say, rather than uncluttering the aggregator to add different feeds, what if you just reduced the number of feeds to two or three (or even none). what would happen? what could you fill the recovered time with if you didn’t read those other feeds ever again? if you knew you were going to die tomorrow, next week, or even next year, would you still need to read those other feeds? those are the kinds of questions the author of that book would ask.

If the author of that book you don’t recommend asks those questions of people he meets, do you think he does it because he disdains what is mundane, because he wishes to invite those persons into the greatness of the life he has discovered for himself, or because he enjoys the rhetoric of Gospel Meetings sans gospel and sans meeting?

Whatever his reasons, a person he were to interrogate might reply, “What life is there than this that I live, and how do you recommend that I prioritize this time over that?” Another, wiser person might simply refer him to Walden, since all of those same insights were made 150 years ago in ways that still merit recommendation, and what’s the point in rewriting poorly what was already written once so well?

I believe all persons who read at all have reasons for what they read. Those reasons may or may not be good, and they may or may not justify the volume of reading one does, but they are reasons nonetheless and probably worth sussing out in one’s effort to understand whether another person’s time is well or ill spent.

I don’t think the guy is necessarily that judgmental about how people want to spend their time. His angle more focused on asking stressed-out people to make sure that the way they’re spending their time and attention is really the way they want to spend their time and attention and not just a way to put off things they find boring or anxiety-provoking. I think he would say that if one wants to read a lot, then read a lot. But if (a) one reads (or checks email or watches TV or whatever) a lot as a way of avoiding other obligations, interactions, or experiences and/or (b) a person feels over-busy and feels like she/he has to put off what she/he really wants to be doing with life/time, then one could experiment by stripping away these security-blanket distractions and seeing what happens. He references Walden at different points, and the book is essentially a relatively cheap rip-off of Walden for the cubicle/IT-age…but with the twist thrown in that he can show you how to live like a really rich person w/o working all the time. This how-to bit gets pretty lame-o pretty fast.

A cross between Thoreau and Suze Orman!

Scratch that: a cross between Thoreau, Suze Orman, and Chuck Norris.

and, like chuck norris, fond of the informercial.