Forecast for the Future

"Every individual without exception bears a potential writer within himself. The reason is that everyone has trouble accepting the fact that he will disappear unheard of and unnoticed in an indifferent universe, and everyone wants to make himself into a universe of words before it's too late. 

Once the writer in every individual comes to life (and that time is not that far off), we are in for an age of universal deafness and lack of understanding."

- Milan Kundera, The Book of Laughter and Forgetting

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Week 1, Day 2: Strangers When We Meet / The Manifesto, Pt. 3

"All great literature is one of two stories; a man goes on a journey or a stranger comes to town."
- Leo Tolstoy



"Talking to strangers is one of the essential ingredients to the development of great stories."
- David Zach, Futurist

Someone asked me recently whether or not I would be undertaking this exercise of Hyperliving were it not today, were it sometime in the recent or less recent past. The short answer is "no."

It's not to say that I couldn't have decided to take on a project like this is in 1995, or 1985, but it's certainly true that the entire experience is intrinsically tied to the changes the world has been undergoing over the past ten years and the ways in which all of life is slowly (or rapidly) intertwining into one throbbing, overlarged fiber of beats and pulses.

The idea of "Strangers on a Train," of meeting someone being able to come into and out of your life without leaving a trace, is one of the past. In 1951, if I leave my leather bag on a train and there's no easy markings identifying that it belongs to me, it means someone somewhere has a nice new leather bag. In 2006, if I leave my computer bag on the train and there's no easy markings identifying that it belongs to me, a Japanese man with the email address "hateyoubush@XXX.co.jp" opens it up, hacks into my email and sends me a cryptic email saying, "Hey, did you lost your powerbook on subway? you must be freaking out about it right?, but its safe. you might not be able to see this e-mail, but hope you will see this one soon so i can give you your computer back." [Thank you again, Kayuza, wherever you are, for making
my life again ok.]

The very concept of "strangers" is now something else. Obviously people may still be new to you, but it is no longer necessary for them to retain an air of strangeness. In a minute, I can get your cell phone number, email address, IM screenname and any host of other information that will allow me to track you until you actively choose to hide from me. And it's not creepy, it's just how it is. The terms of invisibility and strangeness have changed.

This brings me to today's stranger

As I mentioned earlier, I first brewed my plans for hyperliving over some beers in a bar last summer. When trying to think of a word or term that would encapsulate my ideas into a neat package, the word "hyperliving" immediately came to mind. I went home later and dictionary.com'd it and confirmed it wasn't a "real word," but that only made it seem more perfect for my purposes.

I didn't think of researching the term any further until last week, after registering the domain name hyperliving.net (which is STILL not operational--damn you, Fortune City!!) and was surprised to come across hardly any hits at all. None of them seemed particularly germane to my pursuits except this one, by a futurist named David Zach. What I read astonished me:

"In my talks, I explain the notion of hyperliving, where we just seem to skim along the surface of life and are so busy with all the temporary things that distract us that we don't have time to stop and think about what we're doing, let alone trying to think about it while we're doing it. All we seem to have time for is finishing the one thing so we can get on to the next thing."

I hadn't been sure whether or not I had coined the term hyperliving myself, but I had been fairly sure that no one else had bothered to define it. (It's not even in the dictionary!!) Far more surprising than that though was the way in which David's definition of the term so closely approached my own. In this week of contacting strangers, who more should I reach out to than this man?

to: davidzach
subject: Hyperliving

Hi Dave,

We don't know each other (I found you on the Internet). I have an odd note I'd like to relate to you and hope you might take the time to read.

This summer I came up with the idea that I was going to embark upon a year of what I wanted to call "hyperliving"--the idea that I would take on 52 consecutive one week commitments to "living a certain way" with the idea that it might bring me somewhere new (i'm a smart 25 yr old dude who's constantly struggled with discipline and am currently searching for some answers to the world at large). If you'd like to check out what i'm talking about, I've just launched my website at hyperliving.blogspot.com

Anyway, the reason i'm writing you is because i was googling "hyperliving" to see what else the Internet had to say about the term (and to consider whether or not it might even be a real word). I didn't find much out there but I did stumble across this blog entry you wrote in July where you define hyperliving as:

"We just seem to skim along the surface of life and are so busy with all the temporary things that distract us that we don't have time to stop and think about what we're doing, let alone trying to think about it while we're doing it. All we seem to have time for is finishing the one thing so we can get on to the next thing."

I thought your definition was fascinating because a) I had naively considered that I may have invented the term hyperliving on my own, or at least that no one else had bothered to define it, and b) I am surprised at how directly your definition is related to mine, and that stands in almost direct contrast. I would be very interested if you know of any specific historical etymlogy to this term or if you to just sort of put the word together and applied your own understanding. I'd also be interested in any thoughts you have on my own ideas and how you would consider them to work with or against your own.

Ok then. Hope this email reaches you and that you have a minute or two to say hello.

cheers,
Jeffrey Beaumont

And this afternoon he wrote back:

to: jeffreybeaumont
date Jan 7, 2008 12:18 PM
subject: Re: Hyperliving

I don't quite know how I came up with this, which may in fact mean that I read it someplace, played with the idea and now I get the credit for it.

Your idea has some merit, but it sounds a bit disconnected and well, youthful to me. Meaning that you're probably in your twenties and have the energy to do what you're saying. I'm 50 and it sounds like it's too frenetic for me. Then again, the merit part of it is to delve deeply into each thing (some deep delving may take longer than a week) but what you seem to be doing is paying attention to each thing that you're doing. With my sense of hyperliving, the person can't really pay attention because there's just too many things on the agenda.

Here's the exact "mantra" or phrase that I use in my talks: Hyperliving is where you're skimming along the surface of life and the whole goal is not to enjoy what you're doing but to simply finish what you're doing so you can go and do the next thing that's on your list. Then I ask the audience, "does that sound familiar?" and when I get the yeses from the audience, then I explain that now that they have a word for it, they should start using it.

A lot of this stems from the modern notion that attention is the most valuable resource you own - because wherever your attention is, your time and money follow. The avg. American is confronted with somewhere between 3000 to 5000 advertising messages a day. All trying to take and hold your attention.

You might want to check the life hacker website and also read an article that was in the NY Times back in 10-15-05 or so - Meet the Life Hackers - all about how frenetic we are at work in terms of constant interruptions.

I'd be happy to correspond a little bit on this topic, so feel free to respond back with counter notions or questions.

Dave

-----

I need to learn more about David's theories to make sure I understand the nuances he's trying to convey, but it seems that here's the $20 sack pyramid question: David says that, "With my sense of hyperliving, the person can't really pay attention because there's just too many things on the agenda"--is he right?

I do not, at all, have the answer right now; however, I do I know that I am on this journey to find out. My quest did not, for once in my lifelong stretch of knowledge seeking, begin with a hypothesis, or at least not one that says, "Hyperliving will bring me to the Golden Lifestyle". It is entirely possible that David has hit the nail on the head, that focused but fragmented, short-spurt living will have "frightful consequences", but perhaps it's not the case and a new generation of minds will be able to understand how hyperliving is instead a way to compartmentalize the wondrous amount of stimuli that bombard our senses daily. Maybe we really can take it all in, holding on to what we've moved beyond after we're on to the next thing.

I guess I'll just have to wait and see.

To be continued.

[Tolstoy quote provided by David Zach. Check him out at http://davidzach.typepad.com/]

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3 comments:

spiffae said...

I love how David Zach just straight up called that you were young and impulsive.

Shrimp Cracker said...

Ideas for upcoming Hyperliving:
• At least one of your mixes should be set to tape. Especially considering your high-end deck. I was gonna say they all should be set to tape, but I don't want to be pushy...

Ideas for future Hyperliving:
• Explore non-subway modes of transportation. Get to + from work using buses, Queensborough bridge gondolas, ferries, water taxis, a car (yikes!) and your feet. 7 miles from midtown to your residence ain't too bad.
• A week of "fan mail" letter writing to your heroes (athletes, musicians, writers, public/historical figures). This could be followed up by a week of "hate mail."
• Go to the movies every day. Take one day to cut out from work & treat yourself to a matinee.
• Read the entire Mitchell Report. Blog reactions + upon completion pen letter to MLB as "dedicated fan."
• Learn a new song on the guitar (or write one). After practicing for a week visit an open mic and perform said song.
• Explore the museums you haven't been do. Preferably the free ones or at least on their free days.
• A week of poker. You could 1) read a book 2) watch DVDs of World Poker Tour 3) play online with "play money" 4) conclude the week by visiting your friend in Philadelphia who will drive you to Atlantic City for a real money game/tournament.

Michael said...

Note though that Zach puts a negative spin on hyperliving, making it seem like a societal manifestation of Attention Deficit Disorder rather then a true futurist perspective, whereby individuals must develop a means to navigate an increasingly complex and dynamic future. A futurist needs to accept the reality of hyperliving (Zach's definition) as a trap to ensnare the complacent and embrace hyperliving (Beaumont's definition) as a way to remain relevant in such a world.

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