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effort or luxury? which do you choose?

Posted on November 9, 2017 at 10:05 PM

Day 8 of #bahaiblogging

I'm reading a science fiction novel titled "All Our Wrong Todays". In this novel and many similar ones I have read and enjoyed, the future is envisioned as one relatively free from the physical effort and struggles of human existence. The author imagines a number of gadgets - made possible due to an invention which produces energy very cheaply, in unlimited supply - that people in this future world use to clothe, feed, groom, and transport themselves, eliminating the need to exert effort in almost every aspect of daily living.

This reminds me of earlier, even more naive sci-fi notions of a future where men and women become skinny, weak beings with large heads to house their continually-evolving brains. But many contemporary thinkers and writers have realized the perils of luxury and the care-free lifestyle. Effort is not a bad thing, it is a pre-condition for growth, and learning.

NPR interviewed University of Chicago psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi - the man who coined the term "flow" for the science of 'ultimate human performance' or 'peak performance,' recently. URL:

Mihaly believes we can achieve one of the most elusive needs — self-actualization — by finding a state of "flow" in our work or our hobbies. He gave a scientific explanation for the experience of many performers and athletes who say it is as if they 'lose themselves' while performing or competing. It goes like this (I am paraphrasing from memory - listen to the interview if you want the undiluted stuff): Each person has the capacity to process a certain number of 'bits' of information at a time (average about 120 bits, if I remember correctly). When a musician becomes so completely engrossed in performing a piece of music that every single bit of their attention is engaged, then their capacity is maximized, so any additional inputs - bodily pain or sensations, small noises, the presence of others in the room - will not be consciously registered.

The thing about this 'flow' is that it can happen with absolutely any activity. The interview also featured a piece about a man who makes a living slicing meat. He became such an expert at this specific task, that he could tell by the way the meat fell on the cutting board, by the weight and sound of it as he slapped it down, and the look of it laying there, exactly where the bones were. After a day of focused and intensive slicing, this man went home with a feeling of the sweetest satisfaction. He had done an excellent day's work. He was the best slicer of meat to be found anywhere in the world.

Csikszentmihalyi's ideas about flow (and yes, I realize that pronouncing his surname is an exercise in concentration for someone who speaks only English!) reminded me of this quote from the Baha'i Writings:

"It is the duty of every seeker to bestir himself and strive to attain the shores of this ocean, so that he may, in proportion to the eagerness of his search and the efforts he hath exerted, partake of such benefits as have been pre-ordained in God’s irrevocable and hidden Tablets." (Gleanings from the Writings of Baha'u'llah, p.326)

And this: "The education of each child is compulsory…. In addition to this wide-spread education each child must be taught a profession, art, or trade, so that every member of the community will be enabled to earn his own livelihood. Work done in the spirit of service is the highest form of worship…." (‘Abdu’l-Bahá on Divine Philosophy, p. 83)

May the flow be with you :D

Peace, Niki

PS  I know I am still a day behind, but the effort to catch up makes it all worthwhile :D

Categories: Spiritual Themes

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