老僧也会难入定

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.

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