I mentioned the other day that, returning from Cuernavaca with the concepts of askesis and otium on my mind, I seemed to keep bumping into friends who were choosing to give things up or trying to spend less time with technology and get back to their bodies. Well, here's an example.
Saul Albert is an extremely smart guy, someone I've been crossing paths with for years, and whose understanding of computers is in a different league to mine. He's an artist and technologist, and (among much else) co-founder of The People Speak which develops 'Tools For The World To Take Over Itself'.
He's also just given up email.
In the spirit of Pick Me Up, he's written a ten step plan of how he's going about this. Here's a taste:
- I’m going to talk to all the people I’m collaborating and communicating with via email, and work out together how we can continue this relationship without email.
- I’m going to unsubscribe from all my mailing lists (while making sure I can follow them via RSS).
- I’m going to tell all my friends and family about this experiment, and make sure they know how to contact me...
You can read the rest over on his blog, along with his reasons for quitting. What struck me was the tenth step of his plan:
- Finally, I’m going to organise my time in a way that suits me. This is what I’m most excited about. The thought of time without email, or worrying about email accumulating is really enticing. This will include regularly being in places where I can meet people (by arrangement or randomly) - having certain times of the day for calls and voicemail, and having other parts of the day for work - but just work, as in doing things I need to do - rather than simply shovelling the top off the growing email pile.
This is precisely what askesis should mean: not self-denial, but a deliberate decision to make room for people and things that matter to us.