I’m an idler. Sometimes, I prefer staying in bed over doing new things. But when there isn’t nice company in bed, doing new things is often more interesting. As I still deem interestingness to be a good thing, I figured pursuing it more consciously would be a nice proposal for 2014.
Pursuing interestingness means (occasionally) overcoming our desire to stay in bed and watch Netflix. Reasons to do so, there are plenty. Remember this brilliant column by George Monbiot:
How did we acquire this superhuman passivity? […]
Almost universally we now seem content to lead a proxy life, a counter-life, of vicarious, illusory relationships, of secondhand pleasures, of atomisation without individuation. Those who possess some disposable income are extraordinarily free, by comparison to almost all our great-grandparents, but we tend to act as if we have been placed under house arrest. With the amount most of us spend on home entertainment, we could probably buy a horse and play buzkashi every weekend. But we would rather stare at an illuminated box, watching other people jumping up and down and screaming. Our political constraint is one aspect of a wider inhibition, a wider failure to be free.
Call me pathetic, but I think Monbiot has a point here: Our passivity is directly related to our lack of freedom. And while I don’t spend a lot on home entertainment, I definitely think it wouldn’t hurt to play more buzkashi. Metaphorically, you know.
Maybe not every weekend.
But at least every once in a while.
I’m no productivity guru, so I don’t want my proposals to become stressful.
Thankfully, there’s an easy way to avoid overwhelm, reflected in this Metafilter post on how to figure out your life goals. What stuck with me there is the suggested approach of implementing things on a minimalist level, even when that might look piffling:
If there’s anything that you can do right away – do it! And do it more often – maybe one of the details of your perfect day is “brewing a cup of coffee that I’d ground from whole beans fresh”, and up to this point you’ve been making do with Maxwell House. If that’s the case, all you’d need to do is get a coffee grinder and start buying whole bean coffee instead. Even though that’s only a small detail, go ahead and do it right away – you’ll be that tiniest bit closer to what you want for yourself, and that’ll be that tiniest bit of a boost for your mood.
As with anything, taking baby steps is a smart approach. Traveling to Afghanistan, meeting a group of warlords, mounting a horse for the first time and attempting to drag a goat carcass toward a goal looks like a bit of a challenge. I might just start by visiting a pony yard.
What about a measure?
Measuring interestingness is a hard thing to do and I wouldn’t freak out about it. Here are a few pointers I came up with:
- Different people have different interests. Maybe I prefer buzkashi while you’re all about football. The good thing is that it doesn’t matter: Interestingness is measured best by how we personally feel about it. If something is interesting to you, that’s all you need.
- New experiences are often more interesting than well-known ones. But then, achieving mastery1 in something can be interesting as well. As for me, I’ll simply aim for something else than same-old for starters.
- Active rather than passive: To pick up the football example, organizing a tournament with friends and strangers in the park definitely cuts it. Going to the stadium could still be okay, especially if it’s something new for you. Staying home alone watching a match on TV could be enjoyable, but it probably wouldn’t count in my book.2
I’ll explore this further over the course of the year, but it should be enough to get me started. Bring on those horses. (And make that a dummy goat. Thanks!)