RIP Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, author of "Flow" (1934-2021)

Originally published at: RIP Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, author of "Flow" (1934-2021) | Boing Boing

1 Like

Keep up! @frauenfelder


Several comments in the thread there about how to pronounce his surname: ‘Chicks sent me high’


I find it very strange that the NYTimes article gives the pronunciation Mee-HIGH for his given* name, insofar as all other sources (and Hungarian words) put the stress on the first syllable. I wrote the NYTimes writer who said he was told this pronunciation from Csíkszentmihályi’s son.

*his first name being Csíkszentmihályi

according to an audible review the text version is more comprehensive… just saying

never mind chaos

That’s it: two (2) obit notices in a matter of days on BB for a Psychologist: Mihaly Csikszenmihalyi, perhaps THE great “positive” psychologist (so far)…is (fanfare) BoingBoing’s semiquasidemi official Favorite Psychologist.

Aye: I loved this guy’s books, too. He changed my life. Gimme flow. As much as possible on any given day: huge factor in that amorphous, everybody-thinks-they-know-what they’re-talking-about-when-they-talk-about-but-do-they-really? state: happiness.

“Flow” as a state: I’ve gotten that from reading BB over the years. But probably 98% of my flow occurs without any digital gadgets.

RIP: MEE-high

Carry on, BB!

The game studies podcast Game Studies Study Buddies did an episode not long ago on Flow, which has been a bit of a game design buzzword for the last decade-plus.

They ultimately find the book frustrating, the concept of Flow so vaguely defined as to be useless, and the uses people put it toward to be overwhelmingly neoliberal. So, I guess, be forewarned that they don’t walk away as fans.

1 Like

Interesting. I don’t get the “neoliberal” part, but okay.

I read Flow around 1991, very slowly. I remember it being a really great book for me at that moment in my life.

The “state” is similar to talking about what it feels like to be on a psychedelic drug. Language fails, but you know you’re in flow (or when someone forgot to tell you they slipped a ton of hash in those brownies you ate?) when your subjective feeling of time has warped. Because you were so engaged in this thing you like doing that you were astonished when you looked and 3 hours had gone by; it seemed like maybe 90 minutes! That made a ton of sense to me.

Earlier, in the mid-1960s, the phenomenological sociologists Berger and Luckmann described “finite provinces of meaning”: those parts of your day that are involved in non-ordinary consciousness. These are “enclaves within the paramount reality” - your paramount reality. You “transition” into these finite provinces and then transition back out, and their controlling metaphor was of the curtain rising, the finite province of meaning being the play you’re watching, then the curtain goes down, lights come on, you wander back out into the street. They instantiate these enclaves in diverse places in The Social Construction of Reality: A Treatise In The Sociology of Knowledge (1966) with, e.g, “Aesthetic and religious experience is rich in producing transitions of this kind, in as much as art and religion are endemic producers of finite provinces of meaning.” (p.25)

I took Mihaly’s book as mostly being about these finite provinces, although his language was not of the phenomenological sociologists, of course.

I just noticed that I could reliably go out and ride my bicycle through the hills, or improvise feverishly on guitar, or get stoned and read Joyce or Robert Anton Wilson or Pynchon and be “gone” in those states of mind, those finite provinces. (Mihaly did talk about exercise, playing an instrument, and reading; I don’t remember anything about cannabis…See Sebastian Marincolo on that stuff!)

Now I guess it would depend on one’s academic influences and/or ideological commitments whether of not those three things I named that I do to go into “flow” are “neoliberal.” Frankly, I don’t give a fuck in this particular instance…

(I agree with the general critiques of Neoliberalism as a political idea [I think of “Clinton-mind”] and the kinds of minds it produces. I don’t identify with any of it and have always been a sort of Chomskyan libertarian socialist-anarchist. It’s just that, ya know, I love to disappear from my paramount reality into a finite province. I’m a simpleton maybe.)

I’ve tried to keep up on studies that were intended to find out if only certain weirdos like myself easily go into flow or finite provinces, if it’s easily learned, there’s some matter of degree in who can do it, and there’s been a lot on flow and positive psychology and professed states of overall well-being and “happiness.”

I do remember reading Flow (it’s the only one of his I’ve read) and thinking, “This is sort of a Western psychologist’s way of talking about the more popular ideas of what ‘zen’ is.” Living in the future (worry) or past (guilt) is going to happen; let’s try to make more of our time in the present moment count more in our lives. It’s all a matter of degree.

Clearly, to me, there are people who “get lost” in a meaningful way (to them) in pursuits I have absolutely zero interest in: like playing a video game. I can’t speak to the Game Studies study people.

Most of the critiques of guys like Seligmann and Csikszentmihalyi that I read were similar to the same critiques of Carl Rogers and Maslow: where’s the quantification or it didn’t happen.

This topic was automatically closed after 5 days. New replies are no longer allowed.