Nothing is so fatiguing as the eternal hanging on of an uncompleted task. ~William James

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Bleedin' Bleed Over

I have been thinking lately about bleed over.  In ham radio jargon, the term refers to "interference caused by a station operating on an adjacent channel."  

I am not now, nor have I ever been, a ham radio operator.  I first encountered the expression in reports of concert goers' disappointing experiences at an outdoor music festival resulting from bleed over--in this case, because of stages featuring loud musical acts being in proximity to ones requiring more subtle attention.  

A closer look reveals that this sound phenomenon is just one type of interference, which scientists define as "the interaction of two or more waves." Interference can be constructive or destructive, depending on how the waves interact, and whether their forces are added to each other, or cancel each other out.

And what, exactly, does all this have to do with getting things done?

The recent experience that occasioned these musings about bleed over was riding in a car with my husband and hearing a melody, which I took to be one of his many raucous ringtones.  When it turned out that neither one of our cell phones was beckoning, and that the radio/tape/CD player in our car was not on, we determined that the "music" was probably coming from one of the several cars around us at the stop sign that had halted our progress.  Someone else's musical selection had "bled over" into our space.  Which got me to thinking about all the many ways in which we are all constantly bleeding over into each other's spaces, and hours, and lives.

And that got me to thinking how little recognition of this common occurrence goes into making up the typical to-do list.  And what it means that we so frequently think of others living their lives, making their noises and demands, as "interfering" with us and our plans.  And all our talk of "boundaries," which are supposed to be "appropriate."

And these thoughts lead to the need for balance.  Because it is probably not going to work for me or you to fling ourselves into the swirling sea of sentient life surrounding us and give ourselves over to bombardment and drift.  But neither is it wise to operate from some mythical hermetically sealed container of a plan for our days, our careers, and our time on this earth.  

Some of the quandary we find ourselves in with respect to the influences of others probably stems from the individualistic character of modern life in a society like ours.  More organic communities probably do not call for to-do lists, in part because choices are narrower, and routines stronger, and purposes more communal.  We might do well to revisit this orientation, at least in aspects of our lives, beginning with those groups of which we are voluntary members, such as our families, churches, and social and political organizations.  At least some parts of our lives might be better as ensemble undertakings, rather than our default solo mode.

I'm not sure how this gets "organized," but maybe that's the point.  My meditation group was reading last night, from Jon Kabat-Zinn's Wherever You Go, There You Are, a selection on non-doing, in which he says
The only way you can do anything of value is to have the effort come out of non-doing and to let go of caring whether it will be of use or not.  Otherwise, self-involvement and greediness can sneak in and distort your relationship to the work, or the work itself, so that it is off in some way, biased, impure, and ultimately not completely satisfying, even if it is good.
Deep thoughts for an early midweek morning.   My two-year-old charge is due within the hour--a tiny zen master of non-doing.  He is certain to bring the ripples of his being to interact with my deliberate circles, and disturb the surface of my reflecting pool. 

No comments:

Post a Comment