Ready. Aim. Aim.

If you’re holding back and looking for a reason why, and that reason is replaced by another reason, then… you might be stalling.

~ Seth Godin from, https://seths.blog/2020/11/are-you-stalling/

I’m sure I must have been stalling at some point in my life, but ain’t nobody got time for that now. Sometimes my stalling manifested as frenetic deck-chair arranging when I was actually stalling on the rudder improvement project. Sometimes it manifested as deep, pensive stretches of prodigious cogitation. Now I’m all like: Manifest destiny!

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Deeply held beliefs

This book is complicated and ambitious. But there’s one thread in particular that I think is worth underscoring. Crawford notes that the real problem with the current distracted state of our culture is not the prevalence of new distracting technologies. These are simply a reaction to a more fundamental reality: “[W]e are agnostic on the question of what is worth paying attention to — that is, what to value.” In the absence of strongly-held answers to this question our attention remains adrift and unclaimed — we cannot, therefore, be surprised that app-peddlers and sticky websites swooped in to aggressively feast on this abundant resource.

~ Cal Newport, from https://www.calnewport.com/blog/2016/07/15/from-descartes-to-pokemon-matthew-crawfords-quest-to-reclaim-our-attention/

Turns out Crawford was interviewed by Brett McKay, another person I’ve often quoted here. I’ve not yet listened but the episode is Becoming an Individual in an Age of Distraction.

Originally I thought “social media” itself was the problem. Eventually it became clear to me that social media is the symptom. People want to be fed saccharine lives through their phones because they’ve never been taught that they need to consciously make decisions about what’s important to them.

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Always and everywhere silence

From pure sensation to the intuition of beauty, from pleasure and pain to love and the mystical ecstasy and death—all the things that are fundamental, all the things that, to the human spirit, are most profoundly significant, can only be experienced, not expressed. The rest is always and everywhere silence. After silence that which comes nearest to expressing the inexpressible is music.

~ Aldous Huxley

Wonder

I’ve a system of daily reminders; of course it’s complicated.

For years now, a few of my reminders have simply been questions. I recently started writing something to go with those questions making them feel more at home with some of my other reminders and prompts which had some exposition with them when I found them. I thought it would be interesting to share what I added to this question today:

WHAT HAVE I BEEN READING? — I’ve performed this experiment countless times. Read less: nothing happens. Read more: ideas, new connections, inspiration, questions, motivation, short-cuts, wonder.

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Epidemiology and economics

It is increasingly clear that neither of these assumptions is correct. Despite the claims of epidemiologists, our best efforts have never been able to reduce the number of newly reported COVID-19 cases for the world as a whole for any significant period of time. In fact, the latest week seems to be the highest week so far.

~ Gail Tverberg from, https://ourfiniteworld.com/2020/09/23/reaching-the-end-of-early-stimulus-whats-ahead/

It’s not meant as a doom-and-gloom quote. The article goes on to talk about how our economies really work and what’s really going on.

I’ve a tag for Tverberg for a reason. You should read everything she’s ever written—which would be hard because you’d have to also wade through the amazing, museum-piece that is The Oil Drum. I use that site as a litmus test for anyone who ever mentions “energy”—”Have you heard of The Oil Drum site?” If they have, then I’m really listening.

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Turmoil

It’s the pursuit of these things, and your attempts to avoid them, that leave you in such turmoil. And yet they aren’t seeking you out; you are the one seeking them. Suspend judgement about them. And at once they will lie still, and you will be freed from fleeing and pursuing.

~ Marcus Aurelius

All that will be

Let me tell you, then, how you must think of me. I am as happy and lively as in my best days. Indeed, these days are my best, for my mind is now free of preoccupations and has leisure for its own concerns; now it amuses itself with lighter studies and now, pressing keenly after truth, it rises to the contemplation of its own nature and the nature of the universe. First it investigates the continents and their position, then the laws which govern the sea which surrounds them with its alternate ebb and flow, and then it examines the stretch which lies between heaven and earth and teems with such tumultuous and terrifying phenomena as thunder and lightning and gales and the precipitation of rain and snow and hail. Finally, when it has traversed the lower reaches, it bursts through to the realms above where it enjoys the fairest spectacle of things divine and, mindful of its eternity, moves freely among all that was and all that will be world without end.

~ Seneca, from Consolation of Helvia (20)

This type and period of writing is referred to as “silver point.” It’s highly polished, almost performance art in itself. Some pieces of silver point—including in my opinion swaths of Seneca’s writing—are tortuous to the language. (As I understand it, tortuous in the original as well as the English.)

What I’ve quoted is the ending of his letter. 2,000 years later, sounds to me like the human experience remains identical.

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Personal knowledge systems

Continuing my deep dive—hopefully it doesn’t become a drowning—into Knowledge Systems: Yesterday I spent a little time tinkering with Discourse to see what I could do with it. There is a mind-numbing array of tools that could be used, but I keep coming back to the point that I don’t actually understand what I’m trying to build.

I’ve spent significant time thinking about that, and reading about that, but it’s still not clear. It’s like standing in an aisle of tools each shiny and powerful; I know people who have piles of tools. Fortunately, the best way to understand is to build. And so building I am. (Out of sight privately, sorry.)

I seem to recall hearing a metaphor about house building: Start with a sofa in the lawn, add features as needed. Be prepared to knock it down and start again.

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Happiness must ensue

But happiness cannot be pursued; it must ensue. One must have a reason to “be happy.” Once the reason is found, however, one becomes happy automatically. As we see, a human being is not one in pursuit of happiness but rather in search of a reason to become happy, last but not least, through actualizing the potential meaning inherent and dormant in a given situation.

~ Viktor Frankl