Slower than a bee

This vignette, seen in a certain way—as though it is happening, but not happening to me—can be just what it is, without any entanglement with my own interests. None of my reflexive moral judgments are present. The angle of the sun doesn’t remind me of everything I still have to get done today. Seeing twenty-year-old students doesn’t make me wish I was younger. Because I’m not here. It’s just life unfolding, and on its own it’s beautiful.

~ David Cain, from https://www.raptitude.com/2019/08/how-to-see-things-as-they-are/

If you sit still, you can do what he’s describing anywhere. (You’ll have to go at least skim the article.) But if you sit still and do the visualization in nature, you will be immediately rewarded.

The world moves at its own pace. Somehow, it’s neither always faster nor slower than my normal pace. It’s a fundamentally different kind of pace that encompasses all the range of speeds. Regardless of speed, it’s unhurried. Meanwhile, it turns out that I’m completely capable of hurrying at various speeds. But sitting still and noticing the pace of the world always provides me with striking perspective.

There are so many varied speeds; Bees and birds, wind and trees, sun and moon, and there are slower speeds of course, but I can’t see those. If I pay extreme attention, in just the right situation, I can see a shadow cast by the sun moving. But that’s as slow as I can see—something that moves on the scale of one day.

Have you ever stopped to consider the speed of a bee? Do bees even notice we are moving? Are we just these large-ish pieces of their environment which are always in different places when they return “tomorrow” (aka, a minute later in our timeframe)? It seems obvious to me that the bees are going too fast and are missing EVERYTHING. (Well, sure, pollination and bee-production they’ve got.) But from my enlightened, lofty perch of slower-than-the-bee, I can see so much more.

Which makes me wonder: From my lowly perch of faster-than-a-lot-of-other-things, what am I missing?

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Autumn

I love autumn.

There’s something about chilly mornings and cold nights—good sleeping weather as we said when I was a kid.

Don’t get me wrong, summer is nice too. As a kid, of course summer was awesome. But the problem with summer was sleeping. Back in the day, we didn’t always have air conditioning. This wasn’t a deal-breaker but there would always be the occassional stretch of days where you’d simply lay stewing in your own juices rather than actually sleeping. Which leads to a particular thing about summer which I suspect I will always love: The late-night summer thunderstorm.

I’m not talking about your run of the mill evening summer thunderstorm. Those are a dime a dozen. They’re neat and all, but they can’t hold a candle to a late-night summer thunderstorm.

As I mentioned, I grew up mostly without air conditioning, and so I slept with the windows open. I had the “weather” corner of the house growing up. That means the normal wind, and so most storms, arrived at my corner of the house. It always started with a low rumbling in the distance. Soon I’d see some silent flashes of light. (I grew up in a house in the country, more in the woods than not. Night was dark.) Soon the rumbling would correspond to the flashes. Then, decreasing time between the flash and the boom. “14… 15… 16… rumble …four miles!” Then the rising wind in the trees, and then, finally, the wind from the downdraft of the stormfront. Scant seconds of cool wind, sometimes cold, occasionally frigid—in which case it was going to hail and storm like hell—would blow the stagnant air from the entire house. I’d stand by the window closing it inch by inch as the rain struck the screen. When the window sill was more wet than dry, it was time to close the window until the storm passed. We had a 3-foot exhaust fan in the ceiling in the hallway that could pull the air through the entire house. Someone would get up and run that fan after a thunderstorm, and it was the best air conditioning. After a while, we’d turn the fan off, and I’d lay in bed falling asleep to the raucous sound of crickets, the storm rumbling away bringing its rain and cool to the next community, and the smell of wet earth and trees.

Where was I? …oh yes, autumn.

Yes, please. :)

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Website obesity

Let me start by saying that beautiful websites come in all sizes and page weights. I love big websites packed with images. I love high-resolution video. I love sprawling Javascript experiments or well-designed web apps.

This talk isn’t about any of those. It’s about mostly-text sites that, for unfathomable reasons, are growing bigger with every passing year.

~ Maciej Cegłowski, from https://idlewords.com/talks/website_obesity.htm

This is so true that it makes me laugh and cry at the same time. I weep. I weep for the Internet. The Internet we know today was made possible by advertising, because too many of us don’t understand how reality works. That’s a good thing—that the Internet happened and grew to be as pervasive as it is—but the current trajectory does not lead to the best possibilities.

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Impermanence

I don’t know why we long so for permanence, why the fleeting nature of things so disturbs. With futility, we cling to the old wallet long after it has fallen apart. We visit and revisit the old neighborhood where we grew up, searching for the remembered grove of trees and the little fence. We clutch our old photographs. In our churches and synagogues and mosques, we pray to the everlasting and eternal. Yet, in every nook and cranny, nature screams at the top of her lungs that nothing lasts, that it is all passing away. All that we see around us, including our own bodies, is shifting and evaporating and one day will be gone. Where are the one billion people who lived and breathed in the year 1800, only two short centuries ago?

~ Alan Lightman from, The Accidental Universe

It seems obvious to me that apprehending the impermanence of everything is necessary in order to remain sane. Obviously my entire existence is an immeasurably tiny fraction of an instant. Obviously there is no ultimate “point” to all of this. Obviously there is no one true meaning of life.

It removes a lot of baggage and struggle once you realize that reality is in fact the real situation you are in.

…and then you’re free. Free to create, conjure, combine, laugh, love, learn, run, ramble, perable, talk, commiserate, procreate, invent, integrate, mix, mingle and just generally ENJOY LIVING.

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Factory work, Round 2

My fear—or maybe it’s better written, as “my lament”?—is that for every made-it-big tech person who represents the worst of avarice and greed, there is a sea of regular tech people who are being ground up by the works. Countless pasty faces staring at screens, drinking diet soda, trying to live in the bites of life they can grab after hours, (taking their phone so they can be summoned, of course!) stressed-out, burnt-out…

So when I hear people talk about “tech people” as if we’ve collectively done something wrong and messed up the world, I look around and all I see are people who’ve been broken and smashed. The grass is no greener on the inside-tech side of the fence. To everyone outside-tech, what gets done inside tech is magic—it’s not, it’s factory work, round two.

I don’t mean this as a repost to what people say when they lament what has happened to the world, but as a commiserating plea: “Yes! Yes! The problem is everywhere.”

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Get out of the way

This is why “culture” in business matters. Because it allows people to see whether or not they’re allowed to cut the metaphorical knot.

~ Hugh MacCleod, from https://www.gapingvoid.com/blog/2019/08/28/gordian-knot-culture/

I was recently asked, “What’s the hardest part, for you, about podcasting?”

Staying out of the way.

I’ve spent so much of my life diving in and fixing things, that it has become my first instinct. To rush in and grab the controls. To attach a sense of artificial urgency to everything. To become frustrated that others aren’t immediately taking action now that a solution or idea has been found.

Certainly, an important step is to first cultivate a team who can do great work. But once that’s done enough, the hard part for me is staying out of their way.

Many people would say that I value action over thought. This is absolutely not the case. I am driven to find evidence, to investigate, to look for previous examples of similar solutions and ideas, to gather data, to analyze, to sort, to organize, to imagine… and then I act— often frenetically.

It is right before that last step that I’m learning to self-intervene.

Ready!

Aim!

Get out of the way.

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You needn’t have happened

It’s the very last thing, isn’t it, that we feel grateful for: having happened. You know, you needn’t have happened. You needn’t have happened. But you did happen.

~ Douglas Harding

Expressing gratitude, part 2

Most of the people that I work with do great work most of the time. (No, this is not about to turn into a back-handed compliment.) That means they make a few mistakes, or do a few things where I feel feedback would be helpful. Abitrarily, let’s say 90% of their work is good, and there’s 10% that I think could be improved.

…and so I start providing feedback on that 10%.

What does the other person experience? 100% negative feedback from me!

It doesn’t matter how good I might get at delivering great feedback, and helping them improve. If the only feedback I give is on the 10% of their work that I feel could be improved… ouch!

Instead, I need to think about the entirety of that person’s work. My feedback should be roughly in the same proportions as their work. This enables me to convey both the direct pieces of feedback and my assessment of the ratio in the whole. Continuing with the 90%/10% example, I should be giving vastly more positive reinforcement. That other person should be hearing vast amounts of positive feedback. This is not limited to people who work “for” you. This can be applied to everyone you have regular contact with and is relatd to my earlier post about, “if you see something, say something.”

There is a benefit for myself as well: If I’m only giving negative feedback, (focusing on that 10% as it were,) then it’s going to feel as if everything I encounter all day is negative. If I instead focus on increasing my ability to first notice that 90% of everything is great stuff, and then communicate that outwardly to the others, then it’s going to feel as if everything I encounter all day is positive. Since focusing on the negative stuff is one of my biggest problems, this is fertile ground indeed.

What’s your perception of what you encounter and does the feedback you give reflect that?

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Expressing gratitude

What if you, whenever people did good stuff for you, you let them know they had a positive effect on you? You might have to come up with a unique way of saying it if you want to make explicit that you aren’t saying “I owe you”. We’ll leave that as an exercise to the reader.  

~ J. Hazard, from https://www.lesswrong.com/posts/ctBCPaD3yYimEHXPu/magic-is-dead-give-me-attention

Somewhen around 2005 was the trough of my expression of gratitude. Having now spent increasing time with this radical new notion of “expressing gratitude” I can say for sure… that I really need to keep working on it.

I’ve been stingy with positive reinforcement for a loong time. As I’ve begun to explicitly practice the habit of expressing gratitude, externally to other people, the results have been obvious and beneficial. My current intention is work on lowering my resistence to expressing gratitude. The most recent way I’ve been reinforcing the habit is to hold in mind a common mantra which I’ve repurposed: If you see something, say something.

I’ve found three ways that I’ve been practicing expressing more gratitude. There are others, obviously, but these are the three I’m currently practicing.

The first way plays out in direct conversation. While discussing one topic, my mind produces a tangential thought about something positive this person did on some unrelated topic. Spurred on by, “if I see something, say something,” the practice is then to mention that positive, tangential thing at the next opportunity in the conversation. Loong ago, I’d have let those tangential thoughts go by, not wanting to interrupt our discussion.

In short: Simply express gratitude now.

The second way is more subtle. Since those random thoughts of gratitude-moments-past are coming up today, I didn’t notice them in the past, or I suppressed expressing them in the moment. This reminds me to be more vigilant looking for the opportunities to express gratitude.

In short: Get better at noticing opportunities to express gratitude in the current moment.

The third way is to make a conscious effort to go looking for missed opportunites to express gratitude. If I have a meeting planned with someone, when I’m preparing I can make the small effort to think of a few opportunities I’ve missed.

In short: Practice actively looking for opportunities to express gratitude.

tl;dr: Duh, Craig. Simply express gratitude.

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