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Time flies when you’re having fun

For months I have been discussing with colleagues at an institute to which I belong in New York City about our mutual web site. I had been telling them that instead of spending thousands of dollars on a professional to do the web site that we, the members could put one up ourselves for a fraction of the cost. They didn't want to. They felt inadequate to the task. They were committed already to the professional who had done our last web site. I could see it was useless.

However, in the process I realised that I could put up a web site for myself. So, instead of spending time writing a chapter in a book that is due to the editors at the end of this month, I started to create a new web site for myself.

It became intoxicating. The time did not just go by. It was at light speed. In fact, the reference to light is a good one because not only did it seem like night came too fast, we lost a whole hour going from Saturday to Sunday, because it became daylights saving time. My experience was that at first I was frustrated with the interface, but eventually, somewhere late on Sunday night, it all seemed to click in.

I found a good graphic for the header, taken from a photograph in a museum in New York that my wife, Linda, and I visited once. It's of a stained glass panorama of young people and if you look at their eyes, it tells a kind of story about contacting — noticing and being noticed, reaching out toward others or brushing past people without being affected by them. It's not just in the eyes. One person is reaching out with her arm and finger outstretched in the way that Michelangelo depicted God and man on the ceiling of the Sistine chapel.

Such web sites used to have at the heart of them a blog where the owner of the site would write, much in the way that I write this column, on a regular basis. Mine does too, but the blog is not the only thing there. The beauty of the open source software that I'm using for this is that plug-ins can be added to the site, and they pick up the general look and integrate into the site as if they had come with it to begin with. For my site I found an events calendar that provides descriptions, dates, information about the venue (including a Google Map for it), and costs involved. I will be using it to give information about conferences I am attending or presenting at, training and teaching events I am conducting, events that some of my colleagues are providing, and events of interest to the professional worlds I belong to.

I am also listing references to books I have written or edited and chapters I've contributed to other people's books. These are available at Amazon.

Although I work locally through Benedict Associates for psychotherapy and EAP counselling, I am also offering online services for those who live at a distance, and so the site provides information about how people not living in Bermuda can work with me through Skype or FaceTime.

The web site is not quite as polished as it will become. I had to toy around with various features and so there is a fair amount of redundancy in the menus, but all that will eventually resolve itself.

So, making this thing was play for me. Play takes time when one becomes absorbed in the process, but the time is not noticed. Isn't that a weird thing? We have such differing experiences of time.

When a person is in the midst of a boring or painful process, then time seems to pass as if it were a snail moving through cold molasses. When a person is delighted, excited by something and the focus of attention seems to become one's whole world, then a person loses him or herself, the self-consciousness of the moment, and that person becomes identified with his or her figure of interest. That is the way my colleagues speak about it. What it seems like in normal language is that a person becomes the other, the object, the thing that person is doing, and so that is why it seems like the person loses him or herself. The passage of time is not noticed; it is not attended to. That is different when a person is bored or suffering, because then time becomes a major object of attention, and the person asks, “How long will this keep going on!?”

People can also “join” my web site. Why might a person want to do that? Only if one is registered can they comment, ask questions, interact with me in that virtual space. Instructions for joining are at the web site. A person can see all these things and follow the development of the space by going to www.drphilipbrownell.com.

At the end of the weekend I had mixed feelings about how I had spent my time. Was creating my own web site a priority? I meet with a lot of people who have trouble devoting their time intentionally to things that matter, for instance, paying attention to people who matter. Many folks play with their toys instead of devoting themselves to their people. Some people cannot organise themselves so as to spend the most time on the things that matter the most; they are hooked by the impulsiveness of stimuli that distract their attention. It's as if they become instantly identified with every new movement in the visual field. (Have you ever tried to hold a conversation with someone when there was a television playing on somewhere in the same room?) Attending to priorities means giving one's time to the things that are of greatest importance, regardless of whether one experiences that as agony or ecstasy. It's a matter of self-discipline, I suppose.

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Published March 11, 2014 at 9:00 am (Updated March 11, 2014 at 9:42 am)

Time flies when you’re having fun

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