Against Productivity
November 13, 2017 11:25 AM   Subscribe

When I look back on not only the wasted time in Puerto Rico, but the couple of unproductive years around it I see it differently now. When I wasn’t beating myself up for not being productive enough, I was thinking about and interacting with the world. I was laying the first stones of a new foundation, a new way of thinking about networked culture, and even about our place on this planet. Instead of getting things done I was learning, smiling at people I didn’t share a language with, and cross-connecting the notions of my brain and the experiences of my life. via
posted by roaring beast (6 comments total) 28 users marked this as a favorite
And posted on a website that lets you know up front how long it will take to read, so you can fit it into your ultraproductive schedule.
posted by hwyengr at 11:42 AM on November 13 [1 favorite]

“This moment’s goal of productivity, with its all-consuming practice and unattainable horizon, is perfect for our current corporate world. Productivity never asks what it builds, just how much of it can be piled up before we leave or die. It is irrelevant to pleasure. It’s agnostic about the fate of humanity. It’s not even selfish, because production negates the self. Self can only be a denominator, holding up a dividing bar like a caryatid trying to hold up a stone roof.”

Thanks for posting. This article is well worth the read, no matter how much time it takes.
posted by armoir from antproof case at 1:41 PM on November 13 [7 favorites]

I will never look at caryatids the same again.
posted by polymodus at 3:16 PM on November 13 [1 favorite]

Thanks for posting this. I spent so much of my adolescence and young adulthood depressed, lying in bed doing nothing (then feeling bad for doing nothing), and I often think, if I hadn't "lost" those years, I'd be further ahead, socially, educationally, health-wise, career-wise. But I'd like to think that experience gave me the perspective that some things are ineffable and unquantifiable, especially since I now work in tech, which is in love with optimizing your life. The bulletin boards at the office are full of flyers for "wellness" classes so you can "focus better" and "be more productive". I fell down the bullet journal rabbit hole and found spreads tracking "family" and "spirituality" alongside "books read" and "glasses of water drank per day"*. But I think life is far greater than that, you know?

*To be fair, this was probably just shorthand for "did I spend time with family today" or "did I pray/meditate/etc. today", which is important. But to see it in chart form, alongside more mundane goals (as if there were a clearly-defined end-goal), took me aback at first glance.

As an aside, I've never been comfortable with the medical model of depression. I want to make it clear, everyone's experience is different and everyone will have different feelings about it and that's OK! But in my experience specifically, it didn't help to think of it like any other illness that just suddenly set upon me one day for no reason. It was like a persistent grief that I didn't know how to address. And eventually, I realized, I was grieving something. To try to "win the battle against depression", for me, would mean attacking myself, cutting off the part of me that was calling for help. The depressed part of myself was not telling lies. They were emotional truths, which take precedence what we know to be factual truths, despite our best efforts. I didn't really start to feel better until I took the emotional truths seriously, no matter how ridiculous they seemed to my intellectual mind. I don't mean patronizingly indulging it like a toddler throwing a tantrum who doesn't know better. I had to respect it. Now that I feel better, it's good, but I also feel the pressure creeping to do something with it, so I try to remind myself, just feeling better is, in-and-of-itself, valuable!
posted by airmail at 6:18 PM on November 13 [10 favorites]

I went to save this and found I'd already saved it 3 years ago last week, apparently, on November 8, 2014, the day after it was posted. That was just over a week before I was laid off that fall. I ended up being led out in the midst of being incredibly productive—they didn't even let me finish editing the piece I'd been working on that afternoon. I left with the massive folder of copy I'd been working on still open on my desk. God, November memories, painful stuff, things forever left undone.

The quotes that most resonated with me then still resonate with me now.
It takes getting nothing done to make us human again...

I can now see that my productive work?—?at least the good stuff, comes from my unproductive time, from my empty yearning to understand the world.
This was a good thing for me to reread now, as I yet again struggle with productivity and depression and frustration and those odd memories, as I so often do at this time of year. For at least 11 years now, November has consistently been a difficult month for me, and the memories stack atop each other.

But one of the things that makes Novembers better—that has already made this one better—is taking time to just be, to experience the world around me, to take that photo I don't feel like there's time to take, to record the song I don't feel like I have time to sing, to bang out that Queens of the Stone Age drum part on my desk, to remember and rethink difficult situations. I've been taking a lot of walks and photos lately, poking through Instagram a lot, enjoying a visual space that's surpassed Twitter as the most positive, creative social-media atmosphere for me.

The spaces between things, the idle interstices, are the most important spaces by far, though. I feel it when I don't take me time, when I don't get enough of that in my life.
posted by limeonaire at 7:20 PM on November 13 [5 favorites]

I loved this. That, and-but

We all need to spend more time looking quizzically at birds we don’t recognize.

I see so few birds, nowadays. :(
posted by sandettie light vessel automatic at 9:27 PM on November 13 [2 favorites]

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