Early 21st century life seems at times like an ongoing Pavlovian enterprise;
Blinking red light = time to check my voice mail
Inbox with bold type = must open my e-mail
Instant messenger pop up = someone needs a response asap
Morning greeting at work = an exchange of pleasantries is required
Cell phone beeping = voice mail waiting
It feels at times like my day is compromised of one conditioned response after another, creating a continuous and self sustaining feedback loop; I do these things simply because I always do them. This makes it easy to float through a portion of the day in autopilot.
I would venture to guess that this is an increasing phenomena for many of us. Of course a conditioned response is valuable and necessary at times, though when it becomes the norm it makes me feel like some disembodied ghost, only playing the part of a fully functional and sentient being. So how does one break out of this cycle then?
Small subversive acts work for me; turn the ringer off for an hour, cover up the blinking light with a post-it note, choose a different response, pick certain times of day where I choose to open e-mail.
I often add music into my day to help transform it. There is something incompatible, yet transformational about listening to the yearning and reflective tone of Sun Kil Moon or the dream pop of Beach House on my iPod while I complete mundane tasks like responding to an e-mail . The soundscapes infuse a layer of beauty into my day, stimulating parts of my brain that make me more creative and less likely to float around in autopilot.
For a while I was worried that I was becoming some sort of Cylon sleeper agent, waiting for the next signal or command to trigger some internally programmed response. Thankfully, I am not a diabolical walking toaster, and perhaps writing this is down part of what helps prevent this for me.
So as the red light blinks on the periphery of my vision I will blissfully ignore it’s demand for a response, for the time being at least.