Zen and the Art of Tetris


I have a strong belief in the idea of Zen.

We all have at least one thing that can get us to a more conremplative point. There’s always that one particular activity that you can use to simply lose yourself. Where you can dissolve from all the troubles you may be facing and the stresses of the real world and be completely absorbed and engrossed in that one thing while allowing your mind to simply drift; to find that spot of inner peace.

At least one of my good friends uses cooking as that medium. When she is cooking or baking (actively, not waiting for something to get done in the oven) you can’t really have much of a conversation with her. She’s in her happy place. She’s allowing the activity to absorb her, to clear her mind, to allow her a moment or two of pure thought. Her motions become more reflex than calculation after glancing at a recipe book to check the next step. She is calm. She has found some semblance of inner peace.
A few people I know use knitting or crocheting or other craftwork. Some of them are running out of things to make and people for whom to make them. The same thing happens. They wind up getting absorbed in what they’re doing, so much that they may not want to put it down and, when they do, they’ll probably be thinking about picking it back up for the next hour before they can be officially distracted from it.
There’s also things like drawing, painting, or anything else arts related that requires more than a moment’s concentration. Some people even get their fix by painting walls or sanding things or doing harder work.

The absorption into these activities is incredibly good. Reaching a meditative state of mind wouldn’t be easy for most of us without a kind of medium to distract our modern minds which are, usually, forced into a kind of ADD. In a world full of multi-tasking, we are not usually able to – or even inclined to – concentrate on one thing for an extended period based on what have become social norms.
Think about it. If you sit around all day doing just one thing, no matter what that one thing might be, you may wind up completing something and you may feel accomplished. But, when you dig deep down into your psyche, there’s something that’s still dissatisfied. There’s something down there in the depths yelling at you and pitching a fit because you wasted all that time doing just one thing. You spent all those countless hours which cannot be regained doing just that one thing. Instead of doing three to ten different things at the same time, you chose to do one.

Maybe it’s just my personal neurosis. Maybe I’m the only one who feels this way but, when I’m in a situation when I cannot multi-task, I feel like I’m not doing enough. I’m one of those sorts of people who usually has to do 3 things at once to truly concentrate them. Even right now, as I write this, I’m talking to co-workers, fielding phone calls, doing my job, and contemplating which fiction project I should really be devoting my time to.
I squirm when I think that I have to dedicate my time to just one thing but, once dedicated to that thing, I turn into a zombie. I’m in the zone. I want to do nothing else but that one thing until it’s completely finished and any interruptions to that activity are met with horrifying levels of annoyance. Once I can get that voice in the bottom of my psyche to shut up about wasting my time, I get lost.

There are a few things that can get me to reach that state. Writing, sometimes, is one. As a matter of fact, right now, I have the feeling that I’m in the zone. I have completely forgotten to go to lunch and will probably compromise with my desires and take a break within the next 15 minutes. I’ve been so absorbed in my writing today (I was working on something else before I was inspired by my total absorption to write this) that I’ve not cared about getting more coffee or grabbing a bottle of water. I’ve been upset when the phone at my desk rings. I’m in that place where the rest of the world is blurring around the edges and all I see are the words on the paper.
I can also get this way when I draw or paint Warhammer miniatures. I feel my breathing pattern change to a slow steady rhythm. Everything in my mind seems to slow down and I can achieve clarity of thought.

The one that truly makes me zone, though, is sort of embarrassing because it’s completely unproductive. It has no end product though it may feel rewarding.
My guilty Zen pleasure is puzzle games. Tetris and Lumines lately, though I have been known to absorb into Planet Puzzle League, Dr. Mario, Meteos, and many others. This is why I absolutely love the Nintendo DS. It affords me a portable Zen machine. If I have it with me, any time I need to clear my head, I just jam in good old Tetris DS (at which I excel in a manner which borders ridiculous), play on standard mode with the endless option, and go until I drop. Usually I end up finishing in the upper one hundreds (Lv. 150 or higher), but have been known to play through to much higher levels (I think I topped out in the low 400s one night, but it was late, I couldn’t put it down, and passed out shortly after).
I feel kinda bad about this, but it’s an incredible mind clearer. I’ve had some of my best ideas while I was lost in a long round of a puzzle game. My thought process about what’s happening on the screen dissolves and the game just starts to come naturally, no matter how fast the pieces are falling.

It’s wonderful to get to that Zen point, I just feel bad that my Zen largely involves something that produces nothing. Feels like kind of a waste. Maybe I need to concentrate more on production and less on pixels.

But, those pixels are so damned addictive…

—end transmission—

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