Tag Archives: Mindfulness

Black Friday

I’ve previously written about my complicated relationship with… stuff. Things. You think I’d be decrying Black Friday, that ritual shopping spree that the US has exported to the rest of the world. 

I quite enjoy it.

Of course, it’s prone to abuse. It’s just another way of brainwashing you into buying stuff you don’t need to impress people who you don’t care about (and who aren’t even paying attention).

But there’s this little game I like to play. Whenever I see something expensive during the year, I tell myself: “I’d be a schmuck to get it now. It will be half-price or less during the November/December sales frenzy!”

This is especially true of my hobby, video games. The video game industry grossly over-inflates its prices, because the marketing machine is geared towards making people believe they need to enjoy a game as soon as it releases, or they won’t be part of “the conversation.”

Of course, there is very seldom a conversation about video games worth having. But that’s the idea that the industry wants people to get. They want to capitalize on their fear of missing out.

Immortal wisdom.

So I wait, instead of buying. And what happens is: when Black Friday comes along, not only do I get my stuff for half the price, but I end up getting LESS stuff – because my psychology is not affected by that need for immediate gratification, I only buy the things that I care about. 

Marketing likes to play all kinds of cheap tricks with your psychology. (Ethical Marketing is a thing, but that’s a lot of words and an essay for another day.) Fear of missing out is the video game industry’s favorite trick. Crazy sales (like Black Friday) are more of general marketing practice. But if you’re smart, and in the know (as you are right now!) you can dodge them, or even better – turn them to your favor.

It Matters The Way You Arrange The Food

“Why do you fuss over the way you place the radishes on the plate?” Asked Frida. 

“Look, it doesn’t take that long to do it. Didn’t I tell you to pour the wine?” Answered Silas. He shrugged as he turned to Frida, drops of vinegar spilling on the kitchen floor. 

“You just want me to get drunk!” Replied the red-headed woman. “The least you could do was join me.”

“I just want you out of my kitchen, woman!”

“Most people EAT in their kitchens! What are you, a duke?!”

Silas closed his eyes. She was doing it again. He wasn’t going to take the bait. Instead, he took a deep breath, and explained:

“Look, it stresses me to have you fussing about while I prepare the food.”

“Why?!” 

“Because of questions like that!”

“You’re kicking me out of your kitchen just because I asked about you arranging the radishes?!”

“Yes!”

“By the gods, you’re sensitive!” Said Frida, turning away with her hands open toward the ceiling, stomping back in the direction of the main hall.

Silas called to her: “Wait.”

Frida stopped by the door, back still turned to the black-haired, stocky scholar.

“It just… Matters. It matters the way you arrange the food. I mean, if you’re starving, sure, you won’t pay much attention. But we’re not sailing; we’re not adventuring, we’re just… Here. Living quietly. For a while, at least. Beauty matters. The way the meal looks will influence the taste. Don’t… Don’t ask me how, or why. But it does. You know it does, too, if you stop to think about it. It’s something everyone notices. It’s just they don’t… Remember.

Frida turned back to her companion. Her red curls rested on the shoulders of her plain, beige gown. “Was that so hard?”

“Did you get it?”

“Does it matter? It doesn’t look to me you got it completely, either. But now I know why you do it. I guess.”

“Is that enough?”

Frida shrugged. “I’ll go pour some wine.”

Not Another Steve Jobs Essay: Of Turtlenecks and Mindfulness

The anecdote goes like this: this famous person had a closet full of black turtleneck shirts. The point was to have one less decision to make at the start of the day.  But why is that important? It’s often assumed that it was so that this smart dude could hit the ground running, pondering incredibly more important  questions than “what should I wear today?”

But that wasn’t the point. The point was mental cleanliness. A person without a routine wakes up and immediately there’s a mental overload of “what to do, what to dress, what to eat.” The brain starts running upon waking up and won’t stop until going to sleep. That’s not healthy, and yet it’s the precise way in which we spent most of our lives.

The purpose of meditation is to help you gradually incorporate the act of “being present in the moment” into your life. That’s why it’s called a practice. The sitting is not the point. It’s the development of a skill that you can use through the day.

Standardizing some of your choices, as that guy did, is a practical way to help you find the mind space for this. Try having the same – preferably healthy – breakfast every day, for a month. See how that one less decision impacts your day. 

You might not build the next iPhone, but you’ll probably have a more pleasant morning.

Photo Credit: ijpatter1 Flickr via Compfight cc