The Gray Goo Catastrophe is a futuristic runaway scenario where, either by intention or by accident, molecular nanotechnology machines consume all the matter in the world turning it into a gray goo. This is not an article about molecular nanotechnology. I simply pose that, symbolically, we seem to be already there. This idea entered my mind when I was discussing the popularity of mindfulness last week. In fact that discussion was about how such a generic word and obscure eastern practice became commonly known and hyped. One thing in particular got me thinking. It was one single sentence:
"I have tired of mindfulness because I don't feel like carefully
smelling a box of fish sticks in the super market before I buy them.
Apart from the literal meaning of this sentence there is a lot of other information here. Lets investigate that a bit. "I have tired of
mindfulness" is a weird thing too say if you consider that it basically
means "I rather want to go through life with numbed sensory perception
and being oblivious of my presence in the now". I do understand why somebody
says something like that because what is tiresome is having to actively
do it. Mindfulness is an action. Apparently the person who said this has
not understood that mindfulness is a training for becoming more aware.
The person has not taken in that the aim is to change towards living more
deliberately and keeps seeing it as a tiresome action
that stands in the way of the normal behavior. "... because I don't feel
like carefully smelling a box of fish sticks in the super market before
I buy them." OK, it is just an example but it does contain a judgement
of the value and quality of the food and the circumstances under which
it is bought. It can be interpreted as: "I'm buying some processed food
and I can't be bothered to think about it and I certainly don't want to
be mindful about it". What it really meant is that, to the person, it
seemed over the top to spend so much time on such a mundane activity and
fish sticks. It conveys the feeling that it would be more fitting for
buying lobsters at a local fish market. I have to say I agree! If the
person was living more deliberately chances are that fish sticks were
not on the menu. Finally: "It's silly!". This addition tells us that not
only is mindfulness a time wasting and cumbersome intrusion in everyday
humdrum life, it is also embarrassing. The only perception of the now
this person accentuates is the self consciousness of being judged by
My first reaction to this was: "Wow, the teacher or mentor of this
person has completely failed." But I had to check myself there as I have
no experience at all of mindfulness teaching in this modern and hyped context. I
simply do not know what, if anything, is taught.
We talked on a bit. We observed that contrary to Awareness, mindfulness is
'simple' in that it is an action instead of a state of being. So, just as with going to the gym to become healthy, practicing mindfulness
gives you the promise of life changing transformation without a clear idea of the
effort, sacrifice and actual change required to reach that promise
(which is in fact Awareness). It basically is seen as a stress reliever, a trendy after work activity and
not so much as a tool on the path to become more deliberately alive. I am sure that is why it
has become quite popular. If it was more truthfully marketed it would have probably been rejected by the masses.
This brings us to my opening statement. We are somewhat conscious of the
fact that we have turned into compulsively consuming wage slaves. We all
feel that life should have more to offer and we want to expand our
horizons and discover our inner and spiritual selves. But only, it seems, if it does
not take too much time and effort and does not in any way means having
to change anything that deviates from the contemporary norm.
In the end we seem to prefer taking a few training sessions at the gym
and a few yoga and mindfulness classes we can talk about at work instead
of truly becoming aware. For crying out loud, you would stick out like a
sore thumb if you did!