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Posted by Philip on 28 October 2013, 11:02 am in , , ,

Productivity > efficiency > process > presence

Earlier this month I blogged about Obsessive Productivity Disorder, saying I preferred the notion of efficiency (time/effort) over productivity (inputs/outputs). 

Sam, over at Rooster Tails, said he didn't like efficiency either. I had to agree with him that efficiency is a lot like productivity, in that it creates expectations of speed and volume, that are often used to tell people they aren't doing enough.

Sam said he preferred focusing on process. I like to value process too, putting value on the journey rather than the destination. 

Then I found this quote from Maria Popova, over at Brain Pickings, which is the sixth of seven things she has learnt in seven years: 

"Presence is far more intricate and rewarding an art than productivity."

She explains more:

"Ours is a culture that measures our worth as human beings by our efficiency, our earnings, our ability to perform this or that. The cult of productivity has its place, but worshipping at its altar daily robs us of the very capacity for joy and wonder that makes life worth living — for, as Annie Dillard memorably put it, 'how we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.'”

How wonderful is the serendipity of the blogosphere.

Presence is defined as "the state or fact of existing, occurring, or being present". It is also "a person or thing that exists or is present in a place but is not seen: the monks became aware of a strange presence," and "the impressive manner or appearance of a person: Richard was not a big man but his presence was overwhelming.

The origin of the word is Middle English via Old French from Latin praesent — meaning 'being at hand’, which gives the idea of presence a deeper hue — that of being ready to serve.

It is interesting to imagine a world where presence was valued above productivity, efficiency and process; where being at hand was enough to be worthy of shelter, food, clothing and quality of life. In fact it is not even something we need to imagine — it exists for pets (and to a lesser extent zoo animals). Sadly not for those animals we choose to eat — they create productivity by their mere existence.

But for humans, it seems, our own presence is not enough for us. There's a certain sadness in that.



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