Saturday, May 22, 2004

How Not to Begin the Day II

Dennis Mangan writes:

Your post on mornings, with the quote from Thoreau, was also quite good, and served as a reminder to me about what I really believe. Do you think that reading blogs or surfing the net in the morning is the equivalent of newspaper reading? If so, I am guilty of the practice, and I should probably mend my ways.

I am glad you brought this up, Dennis. I was thinking of adding an addendum on early morning computer use. I am against it. My monkish day begins at 2:30 AM, and I don't fire up the computer until about 9:00 AM. I reserve the first three hours of the morning for reading good books, writing with a pen in my journals and notebooks, and an hour or so of (nondiscursive) meditation. I try not to let anything practical intrude except for things like making coffee and feeding my cat, who, of course, gets up at the same time, and makes sure that I get up at that time. No personal finance, no chess, and of course no radio or TV, not even C-Span. Then around 5:30 AM out of the house for a hard ride or run for about 90 minutes, then breakfast, kitchen patrol, and only then do I log on. The early morning's activities are all 'archaic': reading from a book, writing with a pen, meditating, running.

Obviously, not everyone can, or should, adhere to such a monkish regimen, but it does at least illustrate one way to make good use of the morning. But equally important is the proper organization of the evening. A night spent in pursuit of the female ass and the whisky glass will obviously ruin the next morning, and something similar goes for imbibing the usual media dreck such as movies, going to parties, and so on: one is not properly priming oneself for the next day's work. Alphonse Gratry is very good on this:
A very serious question of practice is involved in the use of your evenings, in respecting your evenings. We have just spoken of what can be called the consecration of the morning. Let us now speak of consecrating our evenings. It is at this point or never, that you must have the strength to break with your present customs. I declare flatly that minds are formed and grow, just according to the real organization of their evenings. (Logic, pp. 533-534)

As you can see from this and from the Thoreau quotation, I am not speaking from my own authority here, but simply repackaging the insights of Gratry, Thoreau, and a hundred others.