Now we come to one of the most important parts of the daily routine:
At what, you ask?
Not to be rude, but clearly you’re not great at this yet. Don’t worry; there’s plenty of time to learn.
Back to first principles: we inessentials are not going much of anywhere. It’s sort of like being on a ship, if the inside of the ship were your dwelling and also there’s wifi and no rocking (we hope).
Think about it: there’s a lot of time to look at stuff while on this boat ride.
Assuming you are awake about 16 hours every day, my back-of-the-envelope calculation shows that you will spend roughly 90 daily minutes with your eyes closed due to blinking.* Now, what will your eyes take in for the other 14.5 hours?
If you’re anything like me, the answer is roughly 13.5 hours of a combination of laptops, phones, and TVs, what with all the working and hobbying and online workout classing and maintaining every relationship you’ve ever had over video call.
(Does this feel good? Not even a tiny bit. It feels a bit like dry cotton balls have been rubbing against my eyes, or perhaps my optic nerve, by the end of the day.)
So that’s the first kind of staring: gazing into the white-light void about a foot from your face all day. It seems to contain all the world, but it also sort of makes you nauseous and doesn’t let your brain finish any of its processes.
Plus, the allure of Content is fading a bit. Back in the old world when you were always falling behind on television, didn’t you wish something would happen that would require you to stay home for a while? You fantasized about having long uninterrupted stretches to binge-watch this or that, or to play through that one video game you bought years ago. But when it comes down to it, you just don’t even seem to have time for that, or it loses its luster immediately. And aren’t you having a lot of conflicted feelings kind of regretting that wish you once had for a break back when the world felt normal, but also basically hoping you’ll never have to go back to the office?
Anyway, your eyes and your very soul will begin to cry out for variety.
This is when you must learn to stare.
Have you ever looked for a long time at the way the light falls through the blinds at different times of day?
How about what your toes look like when you tap your feet to the mystery beat of “Pyramid Song?” How can your toes get the beat when your brain can’t?
Have you looked for a long time at the birds? Whichever ones you can see. Maybe you’ve got pigeons and crows. Maybe the little black ones filigreed with gold and red and green like a late-Victorian painting. Maybe tiny titmice or big herons or soaring turkey vultures. I bet you’ve got some if you look out the window long enough. Watch where they’re going. Are they building a nest? Eating a mouthful of grass for a lunchtime salad? Racing each other? If you stare long enough, you’ll find out.
Have you looked at your bookshelves? What’s on them? Lots of colors. Things you have either read or haven’t. They bear staring at for a while.
What color are your walls, really? Probably not white. (That’s the thing with paint: it’s never actually white.) I thought these ones were green but the more I look at them the more it’s really an even split between green and gray.
What about the sky? It’s different colors all day. Sometimes gray, silver, white, pale blue, powder blue, bold cyan, or my favorite: that immensely deep blue at twilight, a kind of blue that is so heavy that it colors everything right down to the pavement. Or black. Probably a mix of these. Look at it for a while.
Is anyone near you? What does their face look like when they concentrate? What does their face look like when they don’t know you’re looking?
(Fair warning: this can get awkward. But a global pandemic is not for the faint of heart.)
Therefore, staring at this point is not about staring “at” anything. It’s about simply staring for staring’s sake. In fact, free yourself from the productivity-culture trap of staring “at” stuff. No more must you watch your email inbox like a nightclub bouncer, waiting to respond quickly so you can prove you respond quickly. Liberate yourself! Why not stare instead at the texture of your laptop?
Hmm, interesting, no? That’s a good ten-minute stare at least.
Quite a lot of time can pass this way. I’ve been awake 13 hours so far today and I tell you what, I’ve done a whole lot of looking at stuff, and I bet you I’m not even done yet.
Next up: determining just how many empty cans I can stack before they tumble.
*This sum absolutely cannot be correct; it is madness and seems like an insanely high figure, but I am either bad at math or it is true, and in the spirit of being my own best hype man, I’m going to insist that it’s correct.