Breathing Room

To abstain from all information about the world at this current moment would be a betrayal of your civic duty. On the other hand, to monitor every developing story in real time, like a breaking news producer, is a betrayal of your sanity.

~ Cal Newport from,

This tension is not only real, it’s necessary. You need to have this tension; it’s a critical component of how you assess the world by choosing what to filter in and what to filter out. The difficult part, of course, is if you don’t intentionally manage this balance.

How many things just pop in front of you each day? Are you happy with that amount?


Only when you breath your last

Lectures and learned seminars and sayings culled from the teachings of philosophers and educated conversation do not reveal the mind’s real strength. For speech is bold even where the speaker is timorous. What you have achieved will be revealed only when you breathe your last.

~ Seneca


In the end

Not just that every day more of our life is used up and less and less of it is left, but this too: If we live longer, can we be sure our mind will still be up to understanding the world—to the contemplation that aims at divine and human knowledge? If our mind starts to wander, we’ll still go on breathing, go on eating, imagining things, feeling urges and so on. But getting the most out of ourselves, calculating where our duty lies, analyzing what we hear and see, deciding whether it’s time to call it quits—all the things you need a healthy mind for… all those are gone.

So we need to hurry.

Not just because we move daily closer to death but also because our understanding—our grasp of the world—may be gone before we get there.

~ Marcus Aurelius, Med. 3.1


Email Apnea

Over the course of six months, Stone observed the breathing patterns of hundreds of people while seated at a computer. She found that four out of five held their breath or breathed shallowly while checking their email.

~ Jessica Fish from,

This is not a metaphor. Literal apnea while reading email. Not some people, but most people. Practice breathing— far too many people think they know how to breath, when in fact they don’t. Practice posture— far too many people think they know how to sit, when in fact they don’t. Practice getting up and fleeing from your computer— far too many…



To laugh often and much, to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children […] to leave the world a bit better […] to know even one life has breathed easier because you lived. This is to have succeeded

~ Ralph Waldo Emerson


The Ice Age persists

The algific talus slopes where relic species persist are steep, built atop limestone—itself a relic from a time, half a billion years ago, when a shallow tropical sea covered what’s now the Driftless. The porous limestone is easily eroded by even slightly acidic water, including rain. As a result it holds numerous caves, sinkholes, cracks, and fissures. These networks of open spaces deep in the hillside were never compromised by glacial steamrollers, and are crucial for the “breathing”—slopes’ respiration.

~ Gemma Tarlach from,

There seems to be something special about Iowa. Pockets of Ice Age biodiversity, and Vonnegut, must somehow mean something. Atlas Obscura started as an ecclectic collection of interesting points scattered about the Earth. It’s grown to—in my opinion—rival Wikipedia in the context of places. And then it started producing these place-specific, in-depth articles.

In the endless sea of click-baity, bullet-listed, double-spaced individual sentence fragments posing as a “post” on some social network… because, honestly, a paragraph block of text just scares the shit out of too many people, so we’ll just

space out the phrases

so our feeble minds understand

what the bite-sized thoughts are supposed to be.

I digress. Over decades, I’ve found sources on the Internet that are continual fonts of wonder and joy. I follow them using RSS, and I’m better off for it.


Yes, relax

This is the training. Relax the narrative, loosen your view, and drop into the openness of the present moment. Breathe deeply, and relax your body. Relax the jaw, relax the muscles in your torso. Feel the openness in this moment.

~ Leo Babauta from,

It took me a long time to understand that the only source of stress in my life is myself.

I’ve been in two car crashes where I’ve instantly gone from automobile operator to roller-coaster rider. I’ve been absolutely wiped out, in countless variations, in martial arts context. I’ve discovered mid-air that I’ve been launched off my mountain bike. I’ve been obliterated while skiing. I’ve had too many—I’m refusing to count—nearly serious automobile accidents where my driving skills, applied consciously with to-the-inch and to-the-split-second accuracy saved the day. I’ve had bones broken. I’ve been fallen upon, by a poor fellow who was saved from an 8-foot, head first, fall onto concrete… by the flex of my rib cage. I’ve been hit in the face with a max-power, line-drive, point-blank soccer ball penalty kick. I’ve been flattened by a skull-to-skull running-speed impact. Sucker-punched in the gut. T-boned into the sticker-bushes at high speed on a bicycle. Beaned by a 2×6 board. I once fell 12 feet from a tree with my head being the first thing to land… on a tree root. I’ve been clipped by a truck, and blown a bicycle tire at high speed, ending up happy to reach the ditch rather than the asphalt. I rear-ended a car at speed (on my bicycle.) I’ve been banged up, flipped over, slammed into, … but also yelled at, and put upon. I had someone angrily invoke the name of my dead father in an attempt to shame my actions. I’ve been laughed at, and picked last in gym class. I’ve run out of money and bummed rides to work. I’ve been chewed out by a boss. I’ve had my credit card declined while in public. I’ve been scammed by street hustlers, lied to by various people, and pre-judged in various dimensions.

…and I can now truthfuly say: The only source of stress in my life is myself.


Zoomed way, way out

It’s true that such adaptations are now anachronistic; they have lost their relevance. But the trees have been slow to catch on; a natural consequence of the pace of evolution. For a tree that lives, say, 250 years, 13,000 years represents only 52 generations. In an evolutionary sense, the trees don’t yet realize that the megafauna are gone.

~ Whit Bronaugh from,

There’s an effect in film making which you’ve seen but may not have realized exactly what you were seeing: The dolly zoom shot. “The dolly zoom is a famous technique invented by Alfred Hitchcock for his 1958 film Vertigo. The shot is achieved by simultaneously tracking backwards or forwards while zooming in or out.”

The narrator is too breathless for my tastes, but still, take a few minutes to watch this explanation of the dolly-zoom. You can thank me later:

Ahem. Now, back to my top-quote and what I wanted to say in the first place…

Text-based, disorienting dolly-zoom!



and sometimes I trip over answers

Why do great writers write?

~ Farnam Street from,

Why, indeed. I write—and this reason is one of many mentioned in that article—because it’s the only way I know to be sure I actually understand a concept. I used to think that, at least some of the time, I was writing because I had something which I found interesting, and I’d wanted to share it. But I now realize that, no, what makes me want to share it is that I don’t want to forget it [the interesting thing.] Wait, sorry. I’m not explaining this very well. I write because the act of pinning-down my thoughts, to create concise— no wait, it’s not really about concision. (Score! It’s a rare day in mixed metaphors that I get to use that one.) The act of choosing one idea, from my usual flurry of thoughts, forces me to evaluate them; Choosing forces me to decide which of these thoughts is the most important— *derp* I was talking about why I write, and now I’m talking about how I write. I’ve gone astray. With word play. Clearly then, I am not a great writer, and actually I never claimed to be one, nor have I ever, truth be told—interjections be interjected… Do you know the difference between using—these guys—or these guys, to delimit an aside, (versus going full-on into parenthesis)? Swimming. Dashes are when you expect the swimming reader to duck their head under water, and commas—but never comas—are for a brief dive in the shallow end, (and we get out the parenthesis when our swimmer needs the warning that a deep breath will be required before we dive to the bottom of the deep end to investigate something sparkly spotted therein.) Quite proud of that ridiculous, previous sentence which uses as it espouses the variations thereof. *glancing up* Wait no, I’ve written a rambling wall of text.

Why, indeed, do I write? CLEARLY I have no frickin’ clue.

Perhaps I should settle for: Why did I write this post? Why did I use that linked article, combined with a title hinting that I learned something over which I’d tripped? Because It contains a larger block of context around a quote which I already, very much liked about the Muse.


PS: The title is a reference to, Sometimes I look stuff up.

Jesse D.

The idea of repetition and stasis are a fool’s errand. We are changed from one day to the next, one moment, one breath. Acknowledge that you are moving and the question then is speed not whether, and Plato says not to discourage yourself over that. Thank you for a Sunday morning reflection.