老僧也会难入定

翻译了一篇公版文章,关于中世纪僧人的建议

看到题为《如何减少数字干扰:来自中世纪僧侣的建议》(How to reduce digital distractions: advice from medieval monks)的文章。

标题诱惑到我了,或者说,它干扰了我。

致使我晃晃悠悠地看了文章的大概,其间用了网页翻译程序——否则看不懂——并且塞着耳机,听着其他网站上的音频。

文章的版权是公共的的。我可以在这儿分享它。

我努力不分心了一晚上,将它翻译了一下。

往下,你可以看见中英文全文。

原文作者叫杰米·克雷纳(Jamie Kreiner),是佐治亚大学历史系的副教授。原文发表在网站aeon.co上。

在部分段落下面,我会附上一些自己的心思——它们会用这种颜色的字来表示。


中世纪的和尚有巨量的时间需要聚精会神。集中注意力是其毕生的工作!他们的科技显然与我们的不一样。对分心的焦虑却与我们一般无二。他们抱怨信息过载,就算你总算决定要读些东西了,也很容易感到无聊,从而转念于别的事物。他们被凝视窗外的渴望所搅扰,或者不断地对时间(那会儿,太阳算是他们的钟表),抑或在他们本该思考上帝的时候想到食物或性爱。

Medieval monks had a terrible time concentrating. And concentration was their lifelong work! Their tech was obviously different from ours. But their anxiety about distraction was not. They complained about being overloaded with information, and about how, even once you finally settled on something to read, it was easy to get bored and turn to something else. They were frustrated by their desire to stare out of the window, or to constantly check on the time (in their case, with the Sun as their clock), or to think about food or sex when they were supposed to be thinking about God. They even worried about getting distracted in their dreams.

有时,他们控诉说,是魔鬼使之心思不定。有时,他们指责身体的基本机能。但心灵是根本的问题:它是一种天生就跳来跳去的东西。约翰·卡森——此人对认知的思索影响了多个世纪的僧侣——对这问题颇为了然。他抱怨道:“心灵好像是被随机的突袭驱动的”。它“像是喝醉了一般晃荡”。它会在祈祷和歌唱时惦念别的东西。它会在阅读的半途中,浮想到未来的计划或过去的悔恨。它甚至不能专心致志于自娱自乐的事,更别说是专注于那些需要严肃以对的,困难的念头了。

Sometimes they accused demons of making their minds wander. Sometimes they blamed the body’s base instincts. But the mind was the root problem: it is an inherently jumpy thing. John Cassian, whose thoughts about thinking influenced centuries of monks, knew this problem all too well. He complained that the mind ‘seems driven by random incursions’. It ‘wanders around like it were drunk’. It would think about something else while it prayed and sang. It would meander into its future plans or past regrets in the middle of its reading. It couldn’t even stay focused on its own entertainment – let alone the difficult ideas that called for serious concentration.

在4世纪20年代的晚期,约翰·卡西安如果见识过智能手机的话,会在心脏跳一跳的瞬息里,预知我们的认知危机。

That was in the late 420s. If John Cassian had seen a smartphone, he’d have forecasted our cognitive crisis in a heartbeat.

但是,他的心智落在了别的地方了。在卡西安写作的时期,基督教的修道院正在欧洲和地中海地区蓬勃涌现。一个世纪之前,禁欲主义者们大多生活在孤绝的环境里。而对公共组织的新的热望,导致了寺院规划方面的新的激情。当僧人们建立起如何工作的准则时,这些创新性的空间功莫大焉。

But, instead, his mind lay elsewhere. Cassian was writing at a time when Christian monastic communities were beginning to boom in Europe and the Mediterranean. A century earlier, ascetics had mostly lived in isolation. And the new enthusiasm for communal enterprises resulted in a new enthusiasm for monastic planning. These innovative social spaces were assumed to function most optimally when monks had guidelines about how to do their jobs.

场域很重要,得共同生活/工作才行。一个人单独呆着,会变呆或者变躁。对于自由职业者而言,如何有一个那样的“场域”呢?近几年,上海出现了很多“共同办公”的空间。单打独斗的人(或者小团队),可以在那边租一个位置,找到“伙同在一块”的感觉(但租金其实都不便宜)。那种感觉会让人安心起来——从而更有机会专心?当然,大家在一块,也会创造交流的机会,而有了人际关联,人会更安定!

僧侣工作的重中之重,是专注于神圣性的沟通:去读、去祈祷,去歌唱,去效力以求理解上帝,从而使得他们的灵魂和施主们的灵魂更加健康。对僧人来说,冥想状态的心灵本就不该是轻闲的。它是需要被赋予能量的。人们最喜欢用来形容“注意力”的词语源于拉丁文“tenere”,意思是“紧紧地抓着某些东西”。这种观念,是一种心灵上的绷紧感——心智无时无刻不在积极地达成它的目的。而要成功地做到这一点,必须严肃认真地面对身体和头脑的缺点,并且艰苦工作,以使身心有所作为。

Their job, more than anything else, was to focus on divine communication: to read, to pray and sing, and to work to understand God, in order to improve the health of their souls and the souls of the people who supported them. For these monks, the meditating mind wasn’t supposed to be at ease. It was supposed to be energised. Their favourite words for describing concentration stemmed from the Latin tenere, to hold tight to something. The ideal was a mens intentus, a mind that was always and actively reaching out to its target. And doing that successfully meant taking the weaknesses of their bodies and brains seriously, and to work hard at making them behave.

其中的一些策略是很艰难的。比如“舍弃”。修士和修女得舍弃多数人都喜欢的东西——家庭、财产、生意、日常戏剧——对个人可享用的权利,他们要削去感知;还要避免在职业生活的祈祷过程中心心念念于种种琐细。修道院里的理论家们发现,当心灵徘徊游走时,通常会转向新近发生的事情。缩减你对重要之事的承诺后,会更加没有时间去争夺你的注意力。

Some of these strategies were tough. Renunciation, for instance. Monks and nuns were supposed to give up the things that most people loved – families, properties, businesses, day-to-day drama – not only to erode their sense of individual entitlement but also to ensure that they wouldn’t be preoccupied by that stuff in their professional lives of prayer. When the mind wanders, the monastic theorists observed, it usually veers off into recent events. Cut back your commitments to serious stuff, and you’ll have fewer thoughts competing for your attention.

约束也得在生理层面上起作用。在上古晚期和中世纪,有很多理论探讨了“身”和“心”之间的关系。多数基督徒都同意,身体是有需要的被造物,它对食物、性和舒适感有无限的欲求,这就使得心灵在最重要的事情跟前止步不前。那并不意味着身体必须被拒斥,只是意味着,它需要强健的爱(touch love)。对于所有修士和修女来说,自4世纪时修道院的时代开启以来,强健的爱就意味着节制饮食和无性生活。他们中的许多人还给这套向善的生活方案增加了常规的体力劳动。他们发现,身体在运动时都更容易集中心力,不管他们是在烘烤,耕种还是编织。

Restraint had to work on a physiological level, too. There were many theories in Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages about the connection between the mind and body. Most Christians agreed that the body was a needy creature whose bottomless appetite for food, sex and comfort held back the mind from what mattered most. That didn’t mean that the body must be rejected, only that it needed tough love. For all monks and nuns, since the very start of monasticism in the 4th century, this meant a moderate diet and no sex. Many of them also added regular manual labour to the regimen. They found it easier to concentrate when their bodies were moving, whether they were baking or farming or weaving.

动起来,反而会不容易分心。对此很有体会,我在跑步的时候是很专心的。有时候,嚼着口香糖想事情,似乎也可以更专注呢……曾在网上看见,有人站在跑步机上办公——那人有套专门的设备,没有座椅。被动的身体动态,以及对于身体动态的某种确认,或许也会增进定力。以前,当我有机会跑东跑西的时候(做记者出差时),我会在路上看书——可比在书桌边看书定心多了……

也有一些解方,或许会让今天的人们大感奇怪,它们基于想象性的图像。修道院教育里有一块内容,是教人塑造卡通化的认知形象,以助人提升记忆和冥想的技能。心灵喜欢刺激,像是色彩、血腥、性、暴力、噪音和狂野的手势。接受这里面的欣喜感和情感偏好,以便利用它们,是有点挑战性的。作者和艺术家会通过做出生动的叙述或雕刻出怪诞的形象,来体现他们想要传达的思想,以此,做成一些这儿所讲的那种难事。但是,如果一个修女想真正学习她读过或听过的东西时,她会自己做这样的工作,做法是在心里面,将种种素材重现为一系列奇怪的动画。帮助记忆的符号越是奇怪,就越好——不熟悉的感觉会让它们更加容易被寻回,而当她“回头”看着它们时,会更加着迷于思考。

There were also solutions that might strike people today as strange, which depended on imaginary pictures. Part of monastic education involved learning how to form cartoonish cognitive figures, to help sharpen one’s mnemonic and meditative skills. The mind loves stimuli such as colour, gore, sex, violence, noise and wild gesticulations. The challenge was to accept its delights and preferences, in order to take advantage of them. Authors and artists might do some of the legwork here, by writing vivid narratives or sculpting grotesque figures that embodied the ideas they wanted to communicate. But if a nun wanted to really learn something she’d read or heard, she would do this work herself, by rendering the material as a series of bizarre animations in her mind. The weirder the mnemonic devices the better – strangeness would make them easier to retrieve, and more captivating to think with when she ‘returned’ to look them over.

这很有趣!很早以前,在一本教人增进记忆力的书里看到类似的法子:某件事情死活记不住的话,就把那个事情和初次的性经历连结在一起——在心中编个故事,把它们勾结起来——那样会不易忘怀。想到那个无聊的事情时,也会增进一些情趣,从而“专心”。也许会专心到嘴巴半开的程度……

假设你想学习十二星座的顺序。托马斯·布拉德沃丁(一位14世纪的硕士、神学家和英格兰的爱德华三世的顾问)会建议您想象一头长着金角的、闪闪发光的白色公羊,它踢中了亮红色的公牛的睾丸。当公牛大量流血时,想象一下在它前面有一个女人,正在生一对双胞胎,流血的操劳差一点就要把她撕开,一路扯到胸口。当她的双胞胎突然迸裂出来时,俩人正与一只可怕的红蟹一起玩耍,那红蟹钳住他们,让他们哭号。如此这般想下去。

Say that you wanted to learn the sequence of the zodiac. Thomas Bradwardine (a 14th-century university master, theologian and advisor to Edward III of England) suggests that you imagine a gleaming white ram with golden horns, kicking a bright red bull in the testicles. While the bull bleeds profusely, imagine that there’s a woman in front of it, giving birth to twins, in a gory labour that seems to split her up to her chest. As her twins burst forth, they’re playing with an awful red crab, which is pinching them and making them cry. And so on.

这例子很猛。尝试把无法专心以对的事情放入血腥暴力和恐怖的故事里,这路子管用!

顺便一说美国的NASA已经调整了黄道带上的星象格局。如今,按照专业天文工作者的意见,黄道上有13个星座,而非12个。此“新知”甚至影响到了《圣斗士星矢》——对此,我曾写过一篇不算短的文章。(点击链接,会在新窗口打开该文)

一种更高级的集中注意力的方法是在阅读和思考的过程中建立精细的心理结构。修女,修士,教士以及他们所教育出来的人们总是被鼓励去视觉化那些正待处理的素材。一棵大树或一位细羽毛般的天使——或者说,在圣维克多·休(此人在12世纪时,为该策略写过生动的小指南)的例子里,存在着一个位于宇宙中心的多层方舟——它可以成为将繁杂的材料分门别类,从而使之构成有序系统的模板。图像可能与想法的要点紧密对应。举例来说,休想象出一列自方舟中上升的柱子,它们代表了天堂中的生命之树,随其上升,方舟上的地球与过去的世代以及天堂的穹顶联系了起来。或者, 这些图片可能只是组织性的占位符。在那种状况下,一棵树代表了一份文本或一个主题(例如,“自然法”)可以有八个分支,每个分支上有八个水果,代表了64个不同的想法,这些想法被归纳为八个更大的概念。

A more advanced method for concentrating was to build elaborate mental structures in the course of reading and thinking. Nuns, monks, preachers and the people they educated were always encouraged to visualise the material they were processing. A branchy tree or a finely feathered angel – or in the case of Hugh of St Victor (who wrote a vivid little guide to this strategy in the 12th century), a multilevel ark in the heart of the cosmos – could become the template for dividing complex material into an ordered system. The images might closely correspond to the substance of an idea. Hugh, for example, imagined a column rising out of his ark that stood for the tree of life in paradise, which as it ascended linked the earth on the ark to the generations past, and on to the vault of the heavens. Or instead, the images might only be organisational placeholders, where a tree representing a text or topic (say, ‘Natural Law’) could have eight branches and eight fruits on each branch, representing 64 different ideas clustered into eight larger concepts.

上段挺有价值,是古代和尚的好建议。它涉及到了相当神秘的东西,同时也很实用。好多人都会用的“脑图”,大概就与本段的精神相和吧。为了让这段的逻辑更加清楚,我把两句话标了粗体。

关键所在,不是在羊皮纸上画出这些图片。而是去给心灵一些东西,让它去画画,在将它的想法归类为某种逻辑结构的同时,放纵心灵对具有美学趣味的形式的渴念。我向大学新生教授中世纪的认知技术,到目前为止,这是他们的最爱的一门课。构建复杂的心智仪器的做法,为他们提供了一种方式,去组织(并且在此过程里,也去分析)那些他们需要为别的课程而学习的材料。这个过程也使他们的头脑里充满了可触知的、具有铆接意义的东西。在这种模式下,集中注意力和批判性思考不像是一种需要苦干的事了,而更像是一个游戏。

The point wasn’t to paint these pictures on parchment. It was to give the mind something to draw, to indulge its appetite for aesthetically interesting forms while sorting its ideas into some logical structure. I teach medieval cognitive techniques to college freshmen, and this last one is by far their favourite. Constructing complex mental apparatuses gives them a way to organise – and, in the process, analyse – material they need to learn for other classes. The process also keeps their minds occupied with something that feels palpable and riveting. Concentration and critical thinking, in this mode, feel less like a slog and more like a game.

给心灵一些东西,让它去画画……在这种模式下,集中注意力和批判性思考不像是一种需要苦干的事了,而更像是一个游戏。

但要注意的是:集中注意力的问题是递归(recursive)的。任何为了避免分心而生的策略,都会呼求避免分心的策略*。当卡西安提出他最简单的建议之一:“一遍又一遍地重复一首赞美诗,维持你的大脑处于受控状态”之时,他是知道接下来会听到什么的。“那我们如何专心于一节经文呀?” 僧人会这样发问。分心是个古老的问题,一劳永逸地避免它属于梦幻想。1600年前与现在一样,有许多令人振奋的事情需要思考。有时候,那会迷困心灵。

But caveat cogitator: the problem of concentration is recursive. Any strategy for sidestepping distraction calls for strategies on sidestepping distraction. When Cassian made one of his simplest recommendations – repeat a psalm over and over, to keep your brain reined in – he knew what he was going to hear next. ‘How can we stay fixated on that verse?’ the monks would ask. Distraction is an old problem, and so is the fantasy that it can be dodged once and for all. There were just as many exciting things to think about 1,600 years ago as there are now. Sometimes it boggled the mind.

*所谓“递归”,是种循环无尽的现象,类似这样:两面镜子对照,镜中不断出现镜相,层层叠叠,嵌套着……为了对付分心问题,我们想出了对策,但执行对策时,也要求我们不分心……于是我们又得为了“此对策”,而想“彼对策”。

分心这件事,古往今来难以解决——看来这问题非常非常人性。所以,我们别与类似“管宁”的人物交朋友了,那路人斜眼旁观,一旦发现朋友分了心,自己就默默动心了,在那儿憋着,然后找了时机“割席”给你看……

“管宁”无聊,而这文章里的几位修士还挺有趣!

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