Staring at Rectangles


Every morning, I spend an hour on the computer, writing a blog post and checking e-mail.

Then I go to work for eight hours. Generally, I spend six of those hours at my desk, on the computer.

In the evening, I work on the AI for an hour and a half, and spend at least another half hour writing my journal and doing other little things.

If I’m lucky, I get an hour in there somewhere to read a book, or sometimes watch a little TV.

That’s 10 hours a day. I spend over half my waking life staring at rectangles.

The thing is, I don’t regret it. Work pays the bills. The AI is the project I’m most excited about. I love reading; I’d never give it up. And writing the blog is a way to channel and structure the mess of thoughts bouncing around my head.

I spend most of my time staring at rectangles, and I like it. What the hell? What does that mean? How do I make sense of a fact so utterly bizarre?

Actually, I think I know the answer. It’s like cells in the body. (Stay with me here.)

Lone single-celled organisms, like amoebas, have to survive on their own. They’re responsible for everything: finding food, avoiding danger, navigating obstacles. They have to be, because no other cells are helping them out.

Cells in the human body are different. They’re part of a system, so they don’t have to do everything alone. They specialize. A neuron, for example, doesn’t worry about chasing down nutrients or dodging enemy bacteria. It just does its thing, sending and receiving signals, 24/7. Other cells fill other needs. No single cell has to do everything, and the overall system is vastly more capable than the sum of its parts.

The body is like society, and I’m like a neuron – or a skin cell, or anything else you want to pick. I couldn’t survive in the wild on my own, and I don’t have to, because I’m part of a system. I’ve specialized. I’m good at working in a particular environment, and (judging by the paychecks) society needs that.

Is it weird to spend most of your time looking at rectangles? Of course. But no weirder than anything else.

How much time do you spend rectangle-gazing, and how do you feel about it?

81 responses to “Staring at Rectangles

  1. I’m staring at a rectangle right now, and will be for the next eight hours. As I type the rectangle of your comment box gets bigger. I’m surrounded by rectangles containing disks at home, or thinly sliced rectangles bound together as one. That’s why you need more fractals in your life. The Mandelbrot set is not a rectangle πŸ™‚ Seriously, I liked your cellular analogy though I think many in today’s society are less willing to accept they are part of a whole.

  2. Thanks for reminding me to get up and stretch, arms, wrists, shoulders. Ahhh, all those cells who work tirelessly and without discrimination for my benefit are happy to get a little stress reduction. If only my mind could have the wisdom of one little cell. That’s my angle, enjoying this wonderful present moment.

  3. I look at them all day, or through them, or walk in to them, or sleep in one. I can’t escape rectangles. So 24/7/365 πŸ˜‰ Guess I need a little change. My next home will be an geo-dome. πŸ˜€

  4. I, like you, usually spend several hours a day ‘rectangle-gazing’.

    I feel like it’s easy to get caught up in the web of rectangles our lives require and when I finally disengage, jump in the snow, lie back and look up at the silent snow-covered trees, I feel like THIS is what I should be doing.

    But then it gets cold, I go back inside, pull out the rectangles and forget… πŸ˜€

  5. Brian, this is great. I spend many hours of my day “rectangle-gazing”. Most of the time, I feel just fine about my hours spent with rectangle friends. I know what to expect from rectangles.

  6. Staring at rectangles can me some of the times tiresome though!

  7. Every time my laptop gets shut, either the tv turns on, my phone comes out, or I turn to my Kindle. You kill one of them and another springs up. They’re like tribbles.

  8. The more rectangles I stare at the more numb I become, that is why I venture outside just to sit and stare at clouds, lizards, flowers, or just dance in my head. Anything to get me away from the tempting rectangles. try my blog, it is very motivational and inspiring and yeah, a lot of love too! I really, really love your connection with cells!!!! I study such subjects. I have my own issues since I am a little autistic. Much of the time is: “does not compute” then later …. a feeling will arise and i wont remember from what! I love to stay oblivious. it is a wonderful place to be!!!

  9. I never really thought of it that way, but I do the same. It seems that our world is obsessed with rectangles. I wonder how many successful products are partly successful because they are rectangles. For example, strange shaped cell phones don’t sell too well (the iPhone and Samsung Galaxy both reign supreme now).

  10. I too stare at rectangles most of my day. And I am happy with that. But I often crave more beautiful and messy shapes. And then I get outside and look around πŸ™‚

  11. Not even one rectangle, but a group of them – assorted, arranged in their owned spaces, making up the aggregate table. I copy the whole mess into a clipboard – an intangible rectangle of memory somewhere (that in itself, contiguous cells, also squares) – and paste it into a rectangular Outlook window and click a rectangular button marked “Send.” Comparatively, the circle invites dynamism, challenges our action-nerves. Rectangles? Our analytic fibers. A silent, challenging elegance, more crafted than organic.

  12. Although my rectangle time is not QUITE as extensive as your own, I do my fair share and I’ve discovered a little trick to make that time just that much more enjoyable. I found that, no matter how wacky it may sound, if you get up, walk around, and start smelling stuff, your energy level and enthusiasm meter suddenly go through the roof. There is something about getting up, walking to the window, and smelling the curtains or a grapefruit that shoves some spunk back into your day. I challenge you to try it next time you are spending time with quadrilaterals, and it may just bring in a whole new level of enjoyability during your rectangle time πŸ™‚

  13. Reblogged this on jaygousse's Blog and commented:
    Fantastic correlation

  14. I love all your posts, very informational.

  15. I now wonder what a triangular computer screen would look like… I will test it out by cutting the cover off a book first.

  16. I never thought a rectangle could mean so much.
    Brilliant though.

  17. It hasn’t escaped my notice that a generation (I’m 30 yrs older than you) raised to not sit too close to the TV now spends our entire lives glued to a a frigging screen barely inches from our faces. Getting outside into nature — barely a rectangle in sight — helps a lot. So does making sure the design of your home (lamps, tables, chairs, etc) add in some gentle circles and curves.

    Great post!

  18. I’m in University and so a large part of my day is staring at projected screens, boards, or computers. We’ll say that’s 4 hours a day, then two hours of my job are usually staring at a screen and then another 2 when I come home to update my blog and sites. 8 hours. Yeesh!

    I’m not sure how i feel about it…I love being actively engaged with people face to face and to explore my surrounding myself…touch, smell etc. and a computer completely robs me of these experiences BUT at the same time the computer is the source of much of my inspiration that drives me to explore the world more and to interact with people…so win win?

    That puts it into perspective! ( P.S. loved the rectangle view point)

  19. I spend way too long staring at this particular rectangle. Much, much too long. As a consequence my neck seems to have a mind of its own (I’ve been browing your blog – that looks like a topic that’s missing, maybe the only one!) and sort of keeps sloping off in a rectangle-leaning direction, even when I’m not looking at the rectangle.

    By the way, if we sat in the recommended position for rectangle-staring, for the amount of time we normally rectangle-staring people stare at rectangles, our bodies would become right angles.

  20. on a slightly different note. At one time in my life I was doing about five hours per day of clarinet practise. What I was actually doing was blowing through a cylinder shaped object with a beak at one end.

    Walking would take you away from your rectangle. There are less rectangles down by the river. I think if tyou were a writer spending large chunks of time staring at a rectangle you would wonder if grass were greener on the other side. What would it be like to grab a shopping trolley and go for a good long walk around australia for say seven years. You would be going against the grain a bit.

  21. LOL..well even I face recaqtangles whole time a day coz I will be in front of either my lap or my pc in the morning half and in front of my tv in the evening half :P..(as I have just finished my graduation and is working my way to post graduation)..As I have my parents working for me (with God’s grace) I don’t need to worry about my money part..only that I feel, 24 hours is not enough in a day to spent in front of the rectangles πŸ˜›

  22. I spend all day everyday for work and at home staring at rectangles! Thanks for reminding me to leave the rectangles for a while, but the growing intergration in society makes it almost impossible to avoid the little rectangles !

  23. I say it proudly.

    I love staring at rectangles.

    I love the visual facade shielding me from the course texture of reality.

    I say it proudly.


  24. I love it. But I hate it. And I know we have a very difficult relationship. Love hate yearn.

  25. I have mixed feelings about it, I think its sad we do it when we could actually be talking to one another. And when we’re in the office and you get an e-mail from someone two desks away. But i also do creative work so i need to use my computer. And i love my work.

  26. The only rectangles I like to look at are paper ones… Sadly, like yourself, I dont get enough time…. Its hard practising origami on a tablet.

  27. Reblogged this on lisalove slimming and commented:
    Learning for this !!!! Health life.

  28. my mouth was wide open like a really big rectangle after reading your blog! πŸ˜‰

  29. 8-9 hours per day an it’s tiring…

  30. Now that you mention it… A lot of laptop screen, probably as much book and magazine reading and a little TV watching, most of my day! But it’s interlaced with walking in nature, spending time with pets (faaaar from rectangular!) and of course my cooking pots are round. πŸ™‚

    Just gotto eat lotsa carrots to keep on doing what we love (such as reading) for a long time to come…

  31. P.S. Your surname just ‘registered’ after having sounded vaguely familiar. The ‘vaguely’ is weird because I listen to Tim Buckley very often (hooked, I’m afraid).

  32. Congrats on the FP πŸ™‚ You earned it! This short post is great. It’s pretty unusual to hear a defense of rectangle-staring, rather than some kind of “longing for the old days of hunter-gatherers” moan about it πŸ™‚ I, personally, love my screen and book time, and want more of my life to be about that. lol πŸ™‚

  33. I spend all day staring at squares, I worry it’s affecting my health, and when I went to get my eyes tested they confirm, yes my vision was shortening due to the amount of time I spend looking at a screen. I know after staring at a screen all day I should come home and look at stunning vistas, but b’ton suburbia doesn’t come with vistas, just a view of the neighbours bedroom, so screens it is.

  34. I completely agree that humans are so societal in nature that we can easily be compared to cells in an organism. Great post.

  35. it feels like every second you will find that shape….but what about lines? impossible!

  36. Reblogged this on ttd/photography and commented:
    very very true

  37. I spend almost 12 hours working in computer. I don’t even notice that I would reached that hours by just making blogs and exchanging perspective! Tired but worth it. Thanks for sharing.This is an interesting post and worth the read!

  38. I stare at rectangles way more often than I need to and I think I do it to avoid thinking about how often I do it. Nasty cycle, it is.

  39. I love this post! Of course, that’s because I hate rectangles in general. Hence the name of my WordPress blog – Ranting About Rectangles! You might enjoy the “how the blog got started” post. If I had thought about it, I would have included cells and how they work together – it seems so much more natural than cubicles, doesn’t it?

  40. congratulations on featured in Freshly pressed.

  41. I’m a professional writer so I also spend a lot of time staring at rectangles. Not just the rectangle of my computer screen, but the angles and juxtapositions of interpersonal relationships. I admit it’s fascinating, and I like how you talked about one aspect of that in this post. Good job. πŸ™‚

  42. Reblogged this on Code Stands and commented:
    well its going to be lives,..anyway πŸ˜›

  43. Rectangles of all sort became a big an important part of our everyday life, we rely on them in almost every task we are trying to achieve, at some point we became addicted to it to a point were getting the rectangle out of our sight for sometime get us in the mood of being lost.
    I’d like to see it as a sword with a double edge blade.
    Great article I must say, highlighting and important fact related to virtually all of us.

  44. That was unexpectedly useful and it has given me
    a excellent idea to publish a new post on my blog.
    Also, what host do you use? Your blog seems incredibly smooth and mine is awful to load.

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