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I was never a great drummer. Snare, I could tap the snare just fine, but not in conjunction with the bass, or with the symbol or the toms. I was never a great classical pianist. I could play the right-hand treble lines just fine, but not while reading the left-hand bass lines. Dammit, I wanted to focus on one thing at a time.

Multitasking is not a great virtue of mine. And despite many critical voices telling me otherwise, I am not too keen on developing it as a skill. The ability to do and complete multiple tasks simultaneously is a valuable asset when your goal is to complete many tasks in a short amount of time. Wait, that is the goal for almost any modern office environment – more, faster, now.

In this centrifuge of everyday “productivity,” no one bothers to ask, “at what cost.” Day is night, night is day; weekday, weekend, it’s all the same. Life becomes a round of pinball, violently bouncing from wall to wall, not at one’s one volition or will, but by sheer opposite forces.

This traps us in “fast-think.” It’s fast food for thought.

We lose the ability to think strenuously. After one-too-many years of fast-think, we lose interest in simmering our thoughts, and our taste buds have become too immature to appreciate or too senile to care the slow-think process.

Running, writing and reading, and cooking combats the epidemic urge to feed all our thoughts into the processor.

Trails and the mountains present us with both the macro and the micro. The sheer size of nature’s peaks and falls dwarf us, putting us in our place as mere specks in a much larger sphere. Meanwhile, every tree root and rock on the trail must be taken into account – your mind and body is on full alert as you nimbly and efficiently make your way through weaving paths. Your body may be moving swiftly, but your mind is at a calm standstill. Your thoughts dwindle down to the bare essentials; it’s you and your next step, nothing else. Scrambling demands your utmost attention and nothing less, as your fingertips and toes are often the only things keeping one from a devastating or fatal fall. Sounds crazy, but in that void, I get most of my heavy “thinking” done. Thinking less ends up being more. Doing more with less. Things come together at the end of the trail.

Writing, done right, is a painstakingly slow process. The distance from one end of a computer screen to the other is a matter of inches, but sometimes, jotting down that next word feels like a power-hike up a vertical mile. Few other exercises devised by mankind requires you to focus as much as writing. In that moment, you are battling with your self, both past and present, on every word. Then you delete-all and start from scratch again. Reading is similar. Textbooks, Supreme Court opinions, news articles, you can get away with skimming through. You can’t bullshit through a novel. I find novels are hard to read during rush hour subway commutes because they require an extra gear of attentive devotion. The sheer depth and breadth of characters and intertwining of plots are only fully appreciated with your ass on a couch for a good three or four hours at a time.

What more can I say about food. Slow-food is now a popular term, countering fast-food. But apart from that, cooking at its core represents the most raw human behavior. Gathering (or shopping for) ingredients, preparing them, cooking them, and eating around a table is the ultimate symbol of slowing down. Along with brewing freshly ground coffee in the morning, cooking and eating a meal with other human beings is what bonds us to life and why we work to sustain ourselves. You stop, you breathe, you look around. The dinner table is a powerful glue that has steadily lost its adhesive power.

Fast-think, it’s no different from fast food.

billygoat2 thanksgiving

It has been days and days since my last posting. My intellectual gas tank – never close to full to begin with, possibly leaking profusely – has run dry. Taking longer and longer to even finish books, and the news has been so depressing that my guts refused to exacerbate the global tendencies by writing about them here. I’m still stuffed with ample dark meat from a fifteen-pound turkey (and the best parts, the skin and the fat gristle). Honey-basted ham, four different casseroles, corn bread, pie, more gristle, more pie, more corn bread.

So my girth is revived, my brained amply moistened with fat, my taste buds flattered, nourished, and spoiled for days to come.

I wake up and head straight for the couch with hot coffee. And the following exchange with my brother personifies the ultimate state of turkey day hangover. Fat-shocked mental

*     *     *

Me: Library?

Bro: Fo sho.

Bro: U know it.

Bro: Whachu up to.

Me: Listening to bagpipes.

Bro: Where?

Me: On the couch.

Bro: That’s cool.

*     *     *

The dichotomy is pristine clear.

My brother, the ever so studious, meticulous, up-at-four-in-the-morning med student who takes joy in spending his nights in the ER drilling holes into skulls.

Me, the lackluster lawyer, drained of all academic curiosity, proud cynic and coffee-at-one-in-the-morning guy.

But bagpipes on the couch with rich Honduran coffee, now that is soothing. That is soul food. We discover our muses on different grounds, in different circumstances, on different couches. Music helps. Music as your muse? Maybe. Bagpipes, though, have an odd medicinal quality. Any motivation-depleted, call-seeking dreamer can tune into holistic medleys of grand bagpipes on an iPhone and be instantly transformed to the green hills of Scotland. Haggis on the side? No more.

What calm, what joy, what hope.

Turkey day plus two.

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