About two weeks ago, I heard a term that evidently had its first moment without me: ludic loop.
If you have missed ludic loop’s intermittent moments, it describes a certain kind of nearly zoned-out behavior loop, like the one that happens to people playing slot machines, or Candy Crush, or Facebook… . My ludic loop activity is Solitaire. By the way, ludic is a word meaning “spontaneous, undirected playfulness,” which I find particularly misapplied.
The interesting part is that it is pleasurable, even if it looks from the outside like some sort of compulsion. Reflecting on it, I think the pleasure falls on the spectrum between my thumb-and-blanket (yes, I remember that feeling) and actual absorption, the kind that happens when I’m engaged in writing, or learning something new. Closer to the thumb end, frankly, but unlike with thumb-and-blanket I have to give the activity my attention. Can’t read and play Solitaire at the same time.
But it’s not real absorption.
Lately I’ve been readjusting my food intake downwards, since my avoir-du-pois has been drifting upwards. (The new shape is, as expected, far from a one-and-done initiative.) This at the same time as I’ve added a seminary class, and look to be adding a paying gig. I’m liking the trend, because I can see from my tracking-app on my phone that I’m playing less Solitaire and Facebook.
I’m also thinking less about food.
One of the stresses since October, when the Half-Plate Project reached its endpoint, has been moving through my days with merely my free-floating willpower between me and snackage. I’m goal-directed, but I also long ago latched onto the Jewish practice of savoring all God’s good gifts, particularly good food. Once I released the structures of Half-Plate, I was left with “I should.” And I quit “I should” in therapy thirty years ago.
Back around the beginning of this month I had a day where I had gone to class, then settled into one of the student lounges with my laptop. I wrote one post, thought of another, finished that and chased down a third. Periodically I would shift my eyes from the screen to over the door-frame, and think, “Hey, you usually eat lunch about now. It’s in the fridge.” I answered myself, “Mmmhmm… in a sec,” and kept writing.
This, friends, is exactly how I operated during my AMD and sysadmin working life. Ask My Sweetie—I believe that, at one point, he had a reminder on his calendar to call me and ask me whether I’d eaten lunch. At 1:30pm, if I’m remembering accurately. This in addition to the daily appointment on my calendar: LUNCH 12-1pm.
When I’m mentally immersed, I’m not hungry. Not like I am in the usual course of my life.
Also, I can tell you that even though the ludic loop is absorbing, and I can sit inside it for hours (no joke), hunger comes through loud and clear. Even not-real hunger, like that for crunchy things, or baked goods. (That last surely must have some serotonin boosting products involved, the way that craving kicks in-!)
What if what I’ve been hungry for has actually been mental food?
If that’s true, how can I have been bored and not noticed?