Friday 18 January 2013

Is calmness possible in the digital age

On the flight from the UK to Singapore yesterday I was browsing through the in-flight magazine and came across an interview with Nicholas Carr - Pulitzer Prize finalist, author of The Shallows:What the Internet is Doing to our Brains. The following quote from Carr struck me as very relevant to Taijiquan training/teaching/learning today:

Taiji in a digital age!!!

"The nature of the Internet and other digital media is to encourage us to take in as much information as quickly as possible. What the net doesn't encourage, and I think what it is stealing from us is the ability to engage in calmer, more attentive ways of thinking, the kind of thinking that requires us to screen out distractions rather than indulging them. It's not just deep reading, it's also contemplative and reflective kinds of thinking and introspection. As a society, I think we are devaluing calmer, more focused ways of using our brains".

This presents a serious challenge to today's Taijiquan players. Talking to the current grandmasters it is clear that they faced many challenges on their own journey - famine, political upheaval, poverty.... It is also clear that in better times, life in Chenjiagou had few distractions and a slow and calm lifestyle that lent itself to the prolonged steady training through which the real traditional skill could flourish. 

In the same magazine there was another article in the business section citing"mindfulness" programmes that had been successfully introduced. By Olympics athletes, US marines and large corporations such as Google, Shell, GlaxoSmithKline, KPMG, Carlsberg... With the likes of the Harvard Business Review reporting on a modern epidemic of ADT - attention deficit trait - in the workplace, the article suggested that the need for mindfulness was an idea whose time had come. The symptoms of ADT cited included: distractability, impatience and difficulty with organisation and prioritising. Not traits likely to help one's Taijiquan development! 


  1. Outstanding. Mindfulness has been on my mind for a couple of weeks. :) I'm reposting this on Facebook, David.

  2. Great blog post. I'm reposting this one on facebook too.


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