Why books and smartphone rarely go along

During Slow Reading Book Club meeting on Sunday at Kineruku (no one came besides me and V, by the way), there was this (staged) interview near our table.

I could tell that these guys were college students doing their filmography homework or something. But there’s also possibility that they were from local film community doing a documentary about local bookstore or, yeah, something. Eh, whatever (Seriously, why did I care so much about who they were?).

Anyway, they were loud so I couldn’t help but eavesdropping and the following is the excerpt from the interview that really hooks me.

Interviewer: I notice that you’re by yourself but who are you usually coming with?

Interviewee: I usually come with friends but it’s better to come here alone so that you can focus on your reading. With company, you’ll end up chatting.

I resisted the urge to come to their table and tell the interviewee that: “well, that’s not entirely true, lady.”

For some reason, I stayed put. However, my mind started racing and doing its thing which, as you can see, later brought us to this post.

Regarding the lady’s statement, I think it depends on who you’re coming with. If your company is chatty type of a person, then reading is highly unlikely. While I agree with the lady that it’s better to go solo, in the case of grabbing a company to read with, you have to choose wisely (V has this chatty quality in her which sometimes distracts me, but she’s my girlfriend, so…).

And if you really want to read alone, if you really want to focus on the book that you’re reading, not only do you have to ditch that chatty friend of yours, but also your smartphone.

Because, as matter of fact, with smartphone we’re never really alone.

I think smartphones can be as distracting as any blabbermouth persons. They produce the flood of notifications and it gets worse given that most of us have this deep, unbearable impulse to constantly check our phones so we know what happened to our friends on social media in, what, past 10 minutes?

At Kineruku, there were also these two women at the table next to ours. They brought books from the shelves with them. For a couple of minutes, I saw them reading the books. But the next moment I took a glance at them, they already ended up busy with their phones!

Don’t get me wrong, though. I think smartphone and other mobile devices are great. They are useful in so many ways. It’s true that, in the case of reading, smartphones can help us take notes or provide the access to dictionary or additional information. But more often than not, we end up scrolling the feeds, timelines, etc. We’re soooooooooo attached, if not addicted, to that tiny glowing screen we hold in our hands that we feel anxious and agitated whenever we’re separated from it, even when we’re in the middle of doing things like reading (even during movies!).

Okay, maybe that’s just me. But STILL, that’s awful, don’t you think?

So, in order to keep the distraction at bay, I usually turn off the Internet connection or activate the airplane mode on my smartphone or shut it down altogether. I bring a note and a pen in case there are things I want to look up in the dictionary or the Internet. But I’ll do it later. I believe that everything can wait.

I know that smartphone is not the only distraction but it’s one of the things that we can actually control (besides ourselves). Just because the damn phone is smart, doesn’t mean it can outsmart us. They are not designed to do just that after all.

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Slow Reading Book Club is still on, ya’ll!

yas!Remember when I talked about Slow Reading Book Club I wanted to found the other day? And that I set up the first meeting last Sunday (10/18/14) at Kineruku Bookstore at 7 PM WIB? Yeah, well, there was a slight change of plan.

It turned out that the bookstore was closed.

Disappointed, V and I went to another place to spend an hour reading.

But as stubborn as I am, I’m not gonna give up. Slow Reading Book Club is still on and you’re free to join. V and I will be at Kineruku Bookstore tomorrow, Sunday, October 26, 2014 at 1PM WIB.

It’s totally free (unless you order stuff they sell there) and they have a lot of books covering a lot of topics so you don’t have to bring any book if you don’t feel like it. Once we’re there, we turn off our internet connection (or cellphone, if necessary) and get immersed in anything that we read. It will last for an hour and then we go home.

Alright, I’ll see you there!

Oh, and by the way, happy Islamic New Year.

Why we hate it when our friends become successful

Admit it, you have to give it to Morrissey. I even unconsciously, mentally play this song in my mind whenever someone gets a raise, promotion or lands an ass-kicking job at a giant bona fide company with paycheck that makes you scream (mostly, internally) “ANJIR!”

So, why is it? Why, as Moz puts it, do we hate it when our friends become successful?

One thing and only, my friend: it’s—gasp!—envy.

The thing you should know about envy is that it’s different from jealousy. When you are jealous, you’re afraid that someone might take something or someone you love away from you. When you envy, you wish you had what another person has.

I don’t know about you but I experience envy since I was a kid. I watched with envy as my friend got a new, shiny pair of inline skates (I never had one, let alone a pair), I had a complete contempt for my friends who got fancy lunch box.

Even though I succeeded in getting over the inline skates and the lunch box cases, the feeling never actually goes away. It continues into my adult life.

Today, I can handle envy pretty well when my friends got new material possessions a.k.a stuffs but it’s worse when it comes to the context of profession and success. And thanks to social media, the situation now becomes more rampant as people shove their achievements in your face.

Let’s face it, there are a lot of people more successful than you and some of your friends (take Raffi Ahmad* or Mark Zuckerberg, for example). But, stangely, you don’t envy them, do you? Even though they have a bigger house, the former just had a huge, grand wedding and they both are a lot richer than you are.

(*I don’t think being a rich and famous celebrity is a sign of success, but I believe it is to some people).

But why is envy more apparent when it comes to your friends?

Because we are similar to them. We are the same age, coming from the same background, having the same degree etc., etc. And that’s why it’s a lot easier to envy our friends than Raffi or Zuck.

The easier we relate to somebody, the closer we are with them, “the more there is a danger of envy” according to Alain de Botton in his insightful TED talk.

(On a side note, imagine how Raffi Ahmad’s friends are feeling!)

Because envy is a painful emotion, we often try everything we can to reduce it. In his song, Morrissey wonders if he could inflict pain on his friends (If we can destroy them/you bet your life we will destroy them/if we can hurt them, well, we might as well). He also tries to ridicule his friends (Oh, look at those clothes/now look at that face it’s so old/and such a video, well, it’s really laughable).

Now, no wonder if you meet a coworker, say, spreading nasty rumors about someone (or—god forbid—you!) who earns more money than he/she does.

That, or you try to bring yourself up by working your ass off to get the same amounts of money, the same respectable job (often blood-sucking, soul-crushing, high-pressure ones), or anything that can take you to the same level as or higher than your friends.

While it can be one of the sources of your driving force to compete and achieve your goal, more often than not, the feeling of envy just sucks.

So, what can you possibly do about it?

I’ll say admit it.

Believe me, if there’s a thing shittier than envy it’s admitting that you have it. Remember that oh-so-profound quote from The Fault in Our Stars: “Pain demands to be felt.” Since envy is also pain, it too demands to be felt.

Whenever I’m overwhelmed by envy, I just let that icky feeling stir my gut, creating a churning sensation in my stomach and chest. Then I write down how it feels. I cry like a bitch. I scream my lungs out (through a pillow it is). I welcome it. I embrace it.

And, finally, I let it go.

Then I realize that only after the storm subsided do I get a clearer view about myself, my priorities, my values and the things that are important to me. I try to find what I’m good at, what I like to do and all the in betweens and focus on that.

You see, envy is not entirely bad. I believe that when you treat it right, envy can be put to a good use, say, as a motivation to work harder so that you can be the person you’ve been dreaming to be. But then again, make sure that your goals and what you strive for is your own. Because, as Alain argues (man, I really admire this guy!), “it’s bad enough not getting what you want, but it’s even worse to have an idea of what it is you want and find out at the end of the journey that it isn’t, in fact, what you wanted all along.”

20 Facts about Me (Kidding, It’s Only Five)

facts

There seems a growing trend in Instagram beside #foodporn and #liveauthentic. It’s #20factsaboutme. People write 20 facts about themselves and then nominate their friends to do the same. Usually, the picture accompanying it is a selfie of that person telling their facts.

I hate posting selfies.

Ugh.

So, back to the 20 facts thing. As one of avid Instagram users, I also got tagged. I haven’t done it though and I don’t think I want to. It’s because I don’t see any point pointing out 20 somewhat banal personal things about me without anyone learning anything valuable about it. Got the point?

But then I made an exception. I was gonna write that 20 facts about me here but I shortened it to only five. In return, you’ll get a twist from each fact. And by twist, I mean something I hope to be valuable for you to take away. So here they are:

FACT #1: I love reading. And I really, really wish everyone loved it too. Because, gosh! There are a lot of beneficial things about reading, especially slow reading. It reduces stress and actually enhances one’s ability to concentrate. Seriously. It’s also scientifically proven to slow rates of memory loss. You want to tell your granddaughters/sons that you won that lomba makan kerupuk in your neighborhood for ten years in a row, don’t you? (Now, you know what I mean) The Wall Street Journal covered the topic in its recent article here.

And don’t get me start on literature and fiction. Horace couldn’t say it better: dulce et ulite. Educating and entertaining. That’s the functions of literature, plain and clear. But if you need something more elaborative (and fun) about the functions of literature, Alain de Botton and his team at The School of Life compiled an animated essay covering what literature can do for human soul. Check out the beautiful video below.

But then again, you don’t always have to do what people tell you to do. If you don’t want to read, just don’t. No obligation. But you’ll surely miss out, you know. I mean a lot. So, think about it.

FACT #2: Because I love reading, I always make time for it. Always. Whatever your excuse is, you always have time to read. Even if you are CEO or a housewife with 16 kids, you definitely have at least 5 minutes to spend on reading. And if you read that WSJ’s article, you’ll find that Slow Reading Club is a real thing.

You see, that’s the thing I want to do: create a Slow Reading Club in my own community and help people find the time to read without distraction. I believe that there are people out there who like reading but can’t find the encouragement/time among today’s ubiquitous, never-ending digital distractions like smartphone and the Internet. I want to gather these people in a club where they can read peacefully with like-minded individuals. We don’t have to talk about what we read (we’re not in college); all we do is, well, just read. What do you think?

On Sunday, October 19 2014 at 7 PM WIB, I’ll be at Kineruku Bookstore (get the map here). I’m gonna read my book and sip a cup of tea there (maybe a plate of tempe mendoan). Come and join me, turn your Internet connection off for an hour, and let’s read. See you there.

FACT #3: I watch TED talks. A lot of them. My favorite talks mostly about happiness, career and success.

Here are several of my all-time favorites:

Alain de Botton – Gentler Philosophy of Success

Susan Cain – The Power of Introverts

Matthieu Ricard – The Habits of Happiness

Shawn Achor -The Happy Secret to Better Work

The Minimalists – A Rich Life with Less Stuff

Andy Puddicombe – All You Need is 10 Minutes a Day.

I wish I could personally thank them for all their talks because they changed my life and my perspective in a very profound way. God bless them.

FACT #4: I’m into minimalism. It’s a philosophy/principle/life style that promotes life with less stress by owning less stuff. Trust me, I experience the benefit of it first hand and decide that there’s no better life style suiting me best. Besides, it really goes well with my financial situation.

Before purchasing stuff, I ask myself these questions: “do I really, really need this?” “Will it make me truly happy?” “Will it bring value to my life?” As the result, there’re less junks in my place. I am surrounded (mostly) by the stuffs that actually give value to my life. I’m less distracted and able to focus on the things that really matter.

But that’s me. Since there are many names and flavors of minimalism, what suits me doesn’t necessarily suit you. You decide what kind of minimalism suits you best. The key is: get rid of the unnecessary junks and only keep things that you truly need and actually give value to your life. It could be applied to stuffs, reading materials, activities, jobs, friends, anything!

If you’re ever interested in minimalism or just simply curious about it, I suggest you to visit The Minimalists, Becoming Minimalist, Be More with Less, and Mnmlist (they’re great guys and gals). Oh, you got sources of your own? Please share with me in the comment.

FACT #5. I practice meditation. I always take 10 – 15 minutes a day for my meditation session. It’s usually in the morning shortly after I woke up.

Why meditate? Because it calms me down and clears my mind. You see, the voice in my head is a total asshole. It just won’t stop talking, that chatty son of a bee sting. The worst part is that it sometimes drags me down to the deepest pit of anxiety and that’s hell.

So, I decide to take medication practice meditation. I’ve been doing this shit for months and I can feel that things get better and clearer. I’m able to focus on the task at hand without listening to the darn voice in my head. I begin to be more mindful, calmer and, I must say, happier. Seriously.

I can babble about meditation for pages so I’ll leave it here. You better dig Andy Puddicombe’s and Matthieu Ricard talks up there.

So, those are the facts about me. Just like any typical #20factsaboutme challenge, I nominate you to do the same: state the facts about yourself. And don’t forget to add twist.

Hello

This one simple word is my favourite word. It starts any kind of conversation (most of the time).
The reason why I start this blog is because I want to start a conversation. I actually have a blog at Blogspot (lame title, I know) and a microblog at Tumblr, but I want a fresh start. So here I am.

There’s nothing much I want to talk about in this first post, I just hope that I can write here committedly (if that’s not a word, it so is now) like I do with my journal (yes, I keep a diary and call it journal because I don’t wanna sound so girlish).

I also hope that what I share here is valuable to the reader. You see, The Mins–Joshua and  Ryan–put this idea in my brain that whatever you do, you better make sure that it matters and adds value beyond yourself.

And I’m gonna work hard to be just like that myself. Just wish me success. Not luck, but success.

Alright, I’ll see you around.