The Frame Rate of Reading a Book, Listening to Music, and Walking Through the World

I feel like an overclocked processor most days. Back in the early days of the Internet I used to gather old computers from large companies and recycle them. As part of this work I’d find certain processors and graphics boards that had more value for modification than others. I remember there were a handful of processors that you could mess with their BIOS and set the rate they would work beyond the factory settings—-it was called overclocking. Most of the time you’d end up with a super fast computer, but sometimes you’d fry and burn out the processor, and you were left with nothing.

I am not fully recovered from my latest burnout, but I am far enough into it that I can understand more about what put me there and what got me out of it. I learn a lot with each burnout. About myself and the world around me, but more specifically how I respond to the world around me. I get wound up easily. I let myself be overclocked beyond my factory settings. Others understand that people like me exist and take advantage of overclocking me to get more performance than you’d get out of normal folks. Capitalism is good at this. It is good at figuring out what your limits are and pushing you as far as it can, while extracting most of the value for itself.

I am hyper aware of how I get to the point where I burn out. I am kinetic. I easily get wound up. It is how I work—-I throw myself into it. It is what I do. I don’t know of any other way to approach what I do for a living. It is something that isn’t always in alignment with employers, but is also something that can be wonderful for generating value for a startup. Which is where I’ve seen the most exploitation of my day over the last 25 years, leading to my burning out. It isn’t just startups, the poster child for late stage capitalism. It is also Internet technology. It has a way of charging me up, something that is difficult to unwind. If I don’t deal with it on a daily or weekly basis, it manifests itself as burnout.

I thrive at a high digital frame rate. My brain will work through massive system architectures in hours or days, which might take others weeks or months. This is a frame rate that becomes dangerously high, leaving me stuck in a movie theater till room purgatory most evenings with the project spinning and filling, slapping the back of my mind with each revolution. After months or years of living in this state, I begin to lose my grip. The antidote to this is relying on a more analog frame rate on a daily and weekly basis, counterbalancing the velocity of working with APIs in the technology sector. Two examples of this analog frame rate are reading a book, walking around New York City, and listening to music on my record player. I find that the only way to maintain my digital self is to counterbalance with a regular digest of reading physical books, listening to physical records, and walking around a diverse physical world.

The frame is just different while reading a book, listening to a record end to end, and walking through the streets of New York and Central Park. It feels like Internet technology is just designed to push my processing capabilities to their limits, both physically and mentally. It is hard for me to tell whether this is just technology or capitalism, or both blended into a human shaping and consuming machine. It feels like a digital version of Charlie Chaplin in Modern Times, but everyday living is the factory. Our personal and professional lives have become blurred, and we are conditioned and programmed every waking moment. Reading a book, listening to music, and walking through the real world feels like the only way I can push back on the digital nothing that is working to consume each day. For me, it is all about living as much of my life at a frame rate that fits the rhythm of my heart and soul—-not markets.