A tiny commitment

To suddenly “go mindful” and try to be present all the time is about as easy as running a marathon when you’ve never even run around the block. Since most of us are not present the vast majority of the time, occasional stabs at “being in the moment” are quickly overrun by the colossal momentum of a lifetime of being lost in thought.

~ David Cain from, https://www.raptitude.com/2010/03/how-to-make-mindfulness-a-habit- with-only-a-tiny-commitment/

There’s much worth reading on David Cain’s Raptitude website. For example, his How to walk across a parking lot, is one of the greatest things I’ve ever read. But the piece I’ve quoted from above stands out as a terrific “how to…” for working on mindfulness.

I’ve been actively working on first self-awareness, then self-assesment and finally mindfulness, for many years. (And writing about my journey as I’ve done so.) But mindfulness is still something that comes and goes for me.

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Not in a vacuum

It can be easy to look at great geniuses like Newton and imagine that their ideas and work came solely out of their minds, that they spun it from their own thoughts—that they were true originals. But that is rarely the case.

~ Shane Parrish from, https://fs.blog/2020/04/shoulders-of-giants/

There’s a perennial discussion around creativity that gets described various ways: “Steal like an artist.” “Repurpose what’s been done before.” “Creating new from the old.” I like Parrish’s point, (in the article but not the quote above,) that “geniuses” first mastered the best that others had to offer. Then they go onward and farther to create something new.

If the only thing someone has ever done is sample and remix others’ work… meh. But if someone has mastered some field—art, math, music, whatever—and then recombines and extends, (or pares down or transmogrifies)… then, ok. My distinction feels very close to the, No true Scotsman, logic fallacy, and yet I think it’s a useful distinction.

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Vignettes

I was chatting with my old friend Arthur over a continental breakfast at the Hotel Palomar.

~ Dave Pell from, https://nextdraft.com/2017/04/02/the-cell-phone-time-machine/

I’m deeply in lust for vignettes. I’ve quoted the opening of the short piece and I’m saying nothing further about it. Although, I’ll happily arrange a few more bytes about vignettes.

You see, I’m a sucker for cuts; Cuts in the sense where one visual transitions to another exactly in the way that the real world doesn’t. (With a hat tip to Douglas Adams if that last turn of phrase feels familiar.) Movies like Up, or Bicentennial Man—which I love, but most people seem to pan—or check out the “Epilogue” in the movie, Cherry, (on AppleTV. Get AppleTV for a month just to watch this movie.) I’m a sucker for Vignettes that give you just enough information for you to navigate… and leave to your own devices to pull up your own memories, and to yank on your own heart strings.

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Choose two

Life is about tradeoffs. When we know what to say no to, and we know why, we can say yes with comfort and confidence to the things that matter. To the things that last. Work, family, scene. You can have two if you say no to one. If you can’t, you’ll have none.

~ Ryan Holiday from, https://ryanholiday.net/work-family-scene/

The words “work”, “family”, and “scene” are of course maleable. I’d argue there’s a fourth—”self” or “health” would be the word I’d choose—and the admonition should be expanded to, “choose any three.” None the less, there something that feels to me very true about it being necessary, in the way the gravity is necessary to obey, about picking two of those three. There was a time when I chose work and scene. It was interesting, for a while. It wasn’t what it was cracked up to be. What’s your list, and which are you choosing?

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This is not amusing

I grew up with maps showing how cities would be obliterated by a nuke. They’re back.

~ Clive Thompson from, https://clivethompson.medium.com/the-return-of-1980s-era-nuclear-strike-maps-a7aa292f7702

As did I. And, The Day After, for those who don’t know what that is, … well to be candid, I’m not sure how to describe it. Absolutely, scientifically and viscerally real. I know what it looks like when civilization collapses; and it’s not some kitschy zombie scenario. Disease disables, maims and kills. But nuclear war would return us to Medieval times. I would have been 12 or so when The Day After aired on TV, and I’m confident we watched it. I know I’ve also seen it several times on VHS, (and possibly on Beta as we had one of those for a while too.) There’s an interesting, unresolved question about why don’t we see signs of other intelligent beings… and one legit thought is that, quite possibly, all but vanishingly few races obliterate themselves in a sort of technology limiting event.

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Expansive

Normally, we think of these difficulties and frustrations as something wrong with us, the other person, or the world. With this kind of view, every failure is another reason to feel bad about ourselves. Every frustration with someone else is a reason to shut down to them or lash out at them. Everything wrong with the world is another reason to feel discouraged.

~ Leo Babauta from, https://zenhabits.net/practiceground/

I recently read a discription of one’s mindset that used the term “expansive.” Having a “growth mindset,” or a “positive attitude,” are other turns of phrase in the same vein. Thinking expansively leads you to find opportunities. For 6+ years I’ve been tinkering on the Movers Mindset project, and a legitimate question comes up: What is the mindset of a mover?

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Magnanimity

Instead, Will redefined success for himself as winning in such a way that others are satisfied with his success. This implies not only excellence but also magnanimity. It’s like when opposing crowds would give Michael Jordan standing ovations. Or when fellow golfers would congratulate Tiger Woods on his shots. Or, you know, when conceding politicians used to say nice things about their opponents.

~ Mark Manson from, https://markmanson.net/3-life-lessons-from-will-smith

I’m reminded of zero-sum games, versus synergy. My definition of success precludes my participation in zero-sum games. I find that Mahatma Gandhi’s, “an eye-for-an-eye just leaves the whole world blind,” brings clarity when I’m uncertain. I often joke, “chaos? disorder?! …my work here is done.” Joking aside, and truth be told, I like to imagine leaving a wake of joy and improvement as I move through the world. I’m also reminded of…

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

slip:4a625.

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Equilibrium

After all, you had the amount of body fat and lean body mass that you had because they were the optimal amount to keep you at the optimal temperature given your environment. Then, without changing your environment, you forcefully overrode your body’s attempt to maintain these optimal levels in order to change the level of fat mass you have, and accidently your lean body mass.

~ Brad Pilon from, https://bradpilon.com/muscle-building/weight-training/will-you-lose-weight-and-keep-it-off-if-you-diet/

That first sentence is sublime. As far as I can recall, it’s the sentence which best describes everything I know—from both knowledge and experiene—about controlling one’s body composition. As I wrote previously in, Exercise, “I am the sort of person who…” has been the gateway each time I’ve been able to affect my body composition. Each time it’s been because I’ve changed my behavior or my environment (or both.)

At the beginning of this week, because I am the sort of person who looks ahead for the major goals and hurdles of the coming week, I realized I needed to get two runs in before Friday; I can’t count on running at the end of the week on Friday, Saturday, nor Sunday. (Monday is the first day of the week for me.) I planned to run Tuesday and Thursday. Wednesday night, because I am the sort of person who makes a plan for tomorrow as part of preparing to go to sleep, I realized it was going to be chilly, wet, and drizzling around 7am when I was thinking it would be nice to go for a run. Fortunately, because I am the sort of person who enjoys running in the chill and drizzle the weather forecast didn’t faze me. And Thursday—this morning—, because I am the sort of person who follows through on plans, we were out the door around 7.

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Chesterton’s Fence

As simple as Chesterton’s Fence is as a principle, it teaches us an important lesson. Many of the problems we face in life occur when we intervene with systems without an awareness of what the consequences could be. We can easily forget that this applies to subtraction as much as to addition.

~ Shane Parrish from, https://fs.blog/2020/03/chestertons-fence/

I’m going to ‘fess up and say that I don’t recall ever hearing of “Chesterton’s Fence.” If you too just went, “who’s what?” then do check out that article.

That said, I’m nervously thinking everything about it—his fence, that article—seems obvious to me. Not simple, but obvious. Any time I find myself with such thinking, rather than stand on my megalomaniac soap box and yell at “those kids”, I instead begin searching for a clear reason for why I know, what I am claiming seems obvious.

In this case, the knowledge comes from learning systems thinking. Somewhere along my way I learned to think about everything as systems of things. I’m always trying to see how this thing is related to, dependent on, and causative of, some other things. Somewhere along my way I found Chesterton’s fence, (but the fence system didn’t include long-term planning for owner identification and so the fence I apparently found wasn’t labeled.)

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