A flourishing life

Eudaimonia has come up before here on the ‘ol blog.

Simply put, I dislike having to use words from other languages. As soon as I queue up such a word for speaking, I imagine some leathery cowboy bitching about highfalutin words. (Which I, also immediately, find to be sublime hypocrisy on the part of my imagined critic.)

For the ancient Greeks, eudaimonia was considered the highest human good. While the word doesn’t easily translate into English, it roughly corresponds to a happy, flourishing life — to a life well-lived.

Eudaimonia wasn’t a destination — a nirvana that, once reached, initiated a state of bliss. Happiness wasn’t something you felt, but that you did; it was a dynamic, ongoing activity.

What that activity centered on was the pursuit of arete, or virtue.

~ Brett & Kate McKay from, https://www.artofmanliness.com/character/advice/aristotles-11-excellences-for-living-a-flourishing-life/

Anyway, there’s simply no way to say it succinctly in English. I’ve always wondered if the language (some word or phrase) is missing because we Westerners don’t think about eudaimonia— Or if we don’t think about eudaimonia because we don’t have the language for it. I want a single English word for all of that above because I think about it all the time.

Also, are you now wondering—more generally—if your primary language (the one you speak, read, write, and hear in your thoughts) affects the way you think or the types of thoughts you are capable of having?


Punk – with Amina Shareef Ali

Amina Shareef Ali joins Craig Constantine in a conversation ranging from punk rock to social movements, intertwined values, and the role of parkour in personal transformation.

…so these are transformative conceptual frameworks that have influenced me. But something, I think [critical …], is that they haven’t displaced each other. They’ve necessarily— …in order for it to be, really, a meaningful transformation and not just some kind of flailing, [not what] I might call [a] spiritual bypassing— It has to be integrated with what was already there.

~ Amina Shareef Ali from 26:58

This conversation between Amina Shareef Ali and Craig Constantine gets into the transformative aspects of various experiences in their lives, exploring Parkour, societal perspectives, and personal ideologies. Amina articulates her reflections on integrating multiple transformative frameworks in her life, encompassing academic, political, and personal growth. She emphasizes the importance of integrating new experiences with one’s existing worldviews, highlighting that each transformation enriches rather than displaces previous perspectives.

Throughout this dialogue, they discuss the nuanced ways people interact with spaces, drawing connections between Parkour and societal shifts, aiming to challenge normative articulations of spaces.

And many of the characters who were around were not who I would think of as my people.  There were those a bit too enthralled with shock and sensationalism at whatever cost, or those a bit too comfortable “ironically” espousing fascism.  It took me a long time to understand that in order to find my place within punk, I had to be an active participant in the conversation about what punk is, and could and should be.  Which, paradoxically, meant that I had to believe in my rightful claim to being punk in the first place.

~ Ali from, https://aminashareefali.com/2023/09/24/on-parkour-and-punk/


Integration of Transformative Frameworks — the significance of integrating various transformative experiences into one’s worldview without displacing each other.

Diverse Perspectives on Space and Society — the impact of societal norms and personal ideologies on the utilization and interpretation of public spaces.

Embracing New Experiences for Personal Growth — that individuals discover new transformative experiences at different stages in their lives, and the importance of being open to and integrating these experiences with one’s existing worldviews.


On Parkour and Punk — Ali’s https://aminashareefali.com/2023/09/24/on-parkour-and-punk/

Ali’s website and Instagram accounthttps://AminaShareefAli.com/ and @meaniemoves

Once Is Never — “Once is never. Twice is luck. Three times is parkour.” https://onceisnever.com/

(Written with help from Chat-GPT.)

Our sixth sense?

There are several ways to think about what might constitute the sixth sense. Because there’s a lot of stuff that we equipped to detect— electrical fields, magnetic fields, ultra-low frequencies, ultra-high frequencies, and infra-red to name a few off the cuff. Our brains are amazing sense-making hacks, and there (as far as I know) are multiple layers of mind “running” at the same time. We are literally swamped with information through so many mediums, and our brain is continuously and completely embodied into that information. Doesn’t it actually make more sense that we have “this vague sense that…” for any sixth-sense sort of experience we describe? What’s the alternative? …to have a myriad of explicit sensations that we only very rarely encounter? I think it makes more sense for to have a “vague feeling of…” as a way to experience the other, less-experienced parts of our physical abilities.

A hidden sense of smell might account for the mysterious sixth sense and a universe of subtle knowledge about the world.

~ Elizabeth Preston from, https://aeon.co/essays/how-our-sense-of-smell-works-as-a-mysterious-sixth-sense

The question I have—sorry, I always have questions, never answers—is: Now that I know that my sense of smell is better than I thought it was, does that mean that my sixth sense improves? (In the same way that walking around barefoot eventually improves your ability to balance without having to actually work on that skill.)



It’s amazing what the addition of a single character can do. I’m often striving to say no more often. The month of No!vember shall be a month of practicing saying no.

I’ve been saying “no” to a lot of stuff and spending more time alone, working in the studio. When it comes to invitations, a helpful question I ask myself is, “Would I do it tomorrow?” If not, here’s how to graciously say no to anyone. (More in the “Build a Bliss Station” chapter of my book, Keep Going.)

~ Austin Kleon, from https://newsletters.feedbinusercontent.com/890/8904e328a953025dd059af8f75c7a64b8c8c75c6.html

It’s not clear (granted, I didn’t look very hard) if No!vember is Kleon’s idea. That doesn’t matter to me. His mention is where I first learned it, and so I was 19,050 days old when I learned this. That’s a bit of a shame, and I hope it’s helped you sooner.


The practice

I am often stuck in the resistance right before actually writing. It usually takes me several attempts to approach the work. It feels like walking up the slippery slope of a small hill, where the initial speed and direction has to be perfect, and then with continued effort—a penguin waddling judiciously—I reach the gently rounded top of the hill (after sliding off obtusely a few times and beginning again.)

I can easily be nudged into sliding off that small hill by distractions. I’m drawn to address the distraction. Can I fix that so it doesn’t happen again? (For example, change fundamentally how my phone is configured.) But I know that distractions are not all bad and I know that I can hide in the busyness of getting things just right. (Hazards warned of by both Pressfield and Godin.)

Besides that, if you want to get anywhere interesting, there’s no substitute – not even talent – for grinding away at something year after year until you’ve put more work into it than almost anyone else alive.

~ Cierra Martin from, https://www.gapingvoid.com/what-is-your-practice/

The word grinding feels too negative a way to spin simply doing the work. If I think, “that’s going to be grinding,” I’m setting myself up to more easily slide off that little hill. Because invariably—for the things I have to, and want to, do—the actual work is exceedingly easy. Easy like gleeful skipping. All of the hard part is in the way I think about the work before I ever begin. Even using the word “work” feels too negative. All of the hard part is in the way I think about the practice.



I’ve often mentioned journaling. A few years after I began journaling seriously, I started taking time to read my older journal entries. Initially, I was setting aside some dedicated time early each month to simply spend time with my old journal entries. I was just randomly hopping around looking up things, and reliving old adventures (at least, those I’d taken the time to write about.) I soon ended up with bookmarks at various number-of-years-ago.

Eventually I wanted to reign in the time I was spending reading. (The author of my journals is the most fascinating person I know of, so I can really get lost navel gazing into my journals.) I process-ified the entire thing (which I’ll skip explaining because it’s not important) and now, every day, I read my journal entries from 1-, 3-, 6-, and 9-years-ago. It only takes a few minutes and it is endlessly illuminating.

Oh the adventures I’ve had! The thrills… the spills… the ups and downs!

[…] most of the fun is in the experience and not in the reminiscing. We don’t actually spend most of our days enjoying memories. How many minutes yesterday did you spend thinking about that trip you took last year?

~ Ben Hoffman from, https://putanumonit.com/2016/05/11/shopping-for-happiness/

This article by Hoffman is typical. You’ll probably love it or hate it. The part I’ve quoted is way down in the middle part and not a major point. But it leapt off the page for me. I’ve long known that journaling has at least corresponded with my improvements, in the sense that it has raised the depth of the downward dips—this is a very important achievement. Alone, it’s reason enough that I intend to never cease journaling. Hoffman’s mentioning reminiscing as being a valuable activity related to happiness, has made clear another reason to never cease.



Setting a challenge for myself seems simple enough. Pick a goal and then work to reach it. But there needs to be more than the goal, and the process. There also needs to be some sacrifice; What will it be necessary for me to give up in order to attempt the challenge? There also needs to be some risk; Risk of physical loss, injury or monetary cost are obvious options, but a good challenge has mental, even spiritual, risk attached. Who will I be after this challenge? What about success itself? I think a good challenge must seem achievable (it mustn’t fly in the face of reality) but must actually be uncertain. It takes a special person to set and truly attempt a challenge that they aren’t certain they can achieve.

I am going to try to convince you to spend the next 4 days watching a YouTube live stream of people running round a 4.1 mile loop in Tennessee, all day and all night.

~ Matt Webb from, https://interconnected.org/home/2023/10/20/backyard

I’m not sure what to say about this “backyard ultra”. Fortunately for you, the race will be over by the time this post appears. You don’t risk being sucked into the live stream by reading Webb’s article. While I’m not the least bit attracted to attempting something like this, I read the article slowly. The challenge that lies at the heart of this race is something I understand. I’m not suggesting you go try to run one of these races, but I do hope you have experienced true self-set challenge.


60 Seconds – with Mandell Conway

60 Seconds – with Mandell Conway

Mandell Conway and Craig Constantine discuss the art of generosity in podcasting, daily writing challenges, and the power of pushing through creative discomfort.

I’m building the material up. I’m building the reps. I’m getting better and then I can go and say, ‘okay this is the part that I want to keep.’ I’ll share this today. I’ll share this tomorrow. …or I’ll share this next year. But just get in that habit of doing the emotional labor. I think I want to be able to push through that. Versus just saying I would spend 20 minutes and that drained me— [then] ‘yeah, I’m out of here.’ What would happen if I just sat in it for a little longer.

~ Mandell Conway 24:55

Mandell Conway and Craig Constantine explore the concepts of giving and generosity. Mandell speaks about the importance of daily writing, acknowledging the emotional labor involved and discussing the benefits of creating a content backlog for challenging days. They emphasize that the primary goal should be writing, with publishing (in whatever medium) as a natural outcome of this consistent practice. Mandell also offers some perspective on the creative process, emphasizing the commitment required to share impactful stories with the world.

Daily Commitments — the importance of a daily writing or podcasting habit, consistency is key.

Emotional Challenges — writing can be emotionally taxing, but rather than avoiding it, sitting with the discomfort can lead to profound and emotional content. By accepting difficult moments in writing, individuals can develop resilience and produce better work.

Importance of Conversations — the value of discussions between like-minded individuals. Sharing ideas and experiences can spark new insights and innovative approaches to content creation and creative work.


Giving is Like — Mandell Conway’s web site with his daily email, The Daily Tithe.

Mandell Conway: Giving Within Community — Mandell Conway with Anne Roche on Roche’s podcast, How I Live Through This.

@mandellconway — Mandell Conway on Instagram.

(Written with help from Chat-GPT.)


I don’t think ego is good or bad, it simply is. What matters (to me) is what I do, and what I do with my ego. Do I project my ego out onto the world (the way one can project a film onto a live scene in daylight: You can see the original people and things, but the film adds color and shape and, possibly, changes one’s perceptions) and examine and evaluate others colored by my own ego? …or do I try to go deeper and imagine what others might actually be experiencing, what their ego might be like?

Foremost, you must make a decision about your ego.

~ Paul Niquette from, http://www.niquette.com/books/softword/part8.htm

That insanely deep dive by Niquette is a refreshingly self-aware attempt at proving who should be given credit for inventing the word “software”. The part I’ve linked, isn’t even the last part. I found myself reading and knowing there was a time when I could easily have fed my ego in such a protracted journey— but I don’t think I would have been able (back at that time) to do the self-aware zoom-out that Niquette attempts. Possibly interesting to you; Definitely the sort of thing I find myself mulling over these days.


I should take a break

Taking a break is really difficult. A short break is often easy enough if you’re comfortable simply ignoring everything… for 10 minutes. But if you really want to take a real break, the difficulty escalates rapidly. I recently spent a long weekend camping a short, walkable distance from the beach. Each of the three full beach sitting days I tried to lengthen the stretches of time I literally sat in a beach chair without getting up. By the third day I was feigning agitated exasperation, and making jokes like, “That’s it! Today I’m getting serious about holding my chain down in the sand. No more standing up for me!” But in reality, I was bumping up against bodily functions, sun exposure (even under a magnificent umbrella), and peer pressure from my beach pals warning me of deep vein thrombosis. (I hope you never know what that is.)

I’m only half kidding. Everyone talks about taking a day off from work, and about looking forward to the holidays (for family and experiences, sure— but we all mean for the break we pretend we’ll get, but never do.) We even have a dedicated word, staycation (a word so legit it even passes my spell–checker) for suggesting some days we’re taking but not even going anywhere, just because we need a break. Our phones ring, our apps go bee-BOOP! and it’s ping! notification this, and ding! notification that. And an email arrives, and the dog needs walking, and the children need this, and the housemate that…

The hard work is actually prioritizing, pruning and putting one’s life in order. The impossible work is getting sufficient duration, and premium quality, sleep.

Taking a break isn’t lazy – learning to recharge is a skill that will allow you to enjoy a more creative, sustainable life.

~ Alex Soojung-Kim Pang from, https://psyche.co/guides/how-to-rest-well-and-enjoy-a-more-creative-sustainable-life

What’s that? How long did I manage to sit in the chair? On day three I managed a transcendental 5-and-one-half hours of literal sitting, toes in the sand. And I was on a roll, no where near needing to arise, having perfectly judged my fluid consumption, sweating, and kidney function up to then. I was foiled by my beach mates forcing me out of the chair (and at least part way into the ocean.) Which, all things considered, was very nice of them.


People first

People who become engaged with movement in the found environment develop a new way of seeing their environment. Well, t e c h n i c a l l y , they recover a way of seeing their environment which they lost. Mountains, hills, water, stairs… and the moats that criss-cross our communities where the big metal and plastic boxes whiz along— these all become “challenging.” Walls (of various heights from knee to enormous), railings, painted lines— these all become “challenging.” And yet, I’ve had the pleasure on countless occasions to stumble into a built space which feels different. Spaces which don’t require me to see differently. Spaces which beckon me to sit, stand, move, climb, and play.

That we immediately switch to building our cities and countries around people, instead of cars.

~ Peter Adeney from, https://www.mrmoneymustache.com/2023/04/07/car-free-cities/

Cars (small trucks, commercial trucks, planes, trains and ships) are tools. As I’ve said before what really matters about tools is one’s thinking and choices about tools. What I rarely hear mentioned is that tool choices also affect us. Our use of tools changes us. That’s what I really care about. How am I enabled (to do other things, to live more fully, etc), or constrained, by my choices with respect to tools? Furthermore, how do my choices enable or constrain those close to me? …in my community? …country? …world?


Presence – with Pete Machalek

Presence – with Pete Machalek

Pete Machalek discusses presence, in-person, and in both audio and video mediums.

I do think there is something about the challenge of presenting to a camera that a lot of folks can benefit from practicing. […] It’s something that I recommend challenging yourself about, if your presence is something you want to get better at. There’s a visual component to it. [But] it’s certainly not all visual.

~ Pete Machalek 24:42

Pete Machalek and Craig Constantine explore some of the intricacies of presenting in both audio and video formats. They discuss the advantages of audio-only presentation, noting it limits what the audience can judge you upon. Some video presentation strategies and formats are discussed, including the challenge of accommodating different visual perspectives as seen by viewers. Pete also shares the evolution of his content creation, explaining experiences and improvements in his vlogging journey.


Medium Matters — The choice between audio and video content impacts how your audience perceives you. Audio content limits judgment to voice and content, while video adds a visual dimension, demanding attention to body language and other visual aspects.

Practice Makes Perfect — Improvement in content creation comes with practice and persistence. Your initial attempts may not be perfect, but experience refines your skills over time.

Embrace Challenges — Stepping into new formats, such as video, challenges your comfort zone and offers opportunities for growth in personal and professional presence.


Sage Presence — Empowering people to communicate their value in all the venues of today’s world.

Vlog with Pete Machalek and his partners.

(Written with help from Chat-GPT.)

Could 1 be none?

There’s a mantra meant to remind one about being prepared: 2 is 1, 1 is none. If something is important, one should have a spare (the thinking goes.) Instead, I like to ask myself: Could 1 be none? So rather than doubling up the complexity by having 2 of something… And rather than just having one of something and hoping it doesn’t break (or even having a plan for when it breaks)… Could I just get rid of that one thing?

The larger the scale the more management becomes a stochastic job. It is impossible to know that everyone is doing the right thing all the time. We have to approximate it by randomly sampling the breadth of it. This is why dogfooding is so important. This is why skip-level 1:1s are so important.

~ Andrew Bosworth from, https://boz.com/articles/brown-mm

I’m not a manager of people. But I am a manager of a lot of things, responsibilities, resources and goals. Your life may be similar. I’ve found that problems don’t fix themselves, and so I’ve a habit of immediately fixing problems. Or, at least adding it to the lists of things to get to. Quite often, when I start fixing (whatever that means in the situation) I realize the problem runs deeper. Quite often, when I find I’m ignoring, resisting, loathing, or outright complaining, about a problem… there’s something deeper going on. I start turning 2 into 1… And then could 1 be none?


Structure – with Moe Poplar

Structure – with Moe Poplar

Moe Poplar shares his expertise and insights on format, structure, and connecting with your audience.

“[…] what service are we providing to our audience? I think if you know what goes into your show— if your show has a format— You also can start building a level of trust with your listener so that they understand your agreement. Because nobody wants to listen to the podcast that says this is what we’re gonna talk about, this is what we’re gonna do, this is what we’re not gonna do… You know? We’re looking for people like us, who say the thing in a way that we would say it, so we can understand it.”

~ Moe Poplar 24:38

Moe Poplar brings his experience in producing and editing podcasts, as well as his various podcast projects, to this conversation. He highlights the importance of defining a clear format and structure for podcasts, emphasizing the role of a format in establishing a contract with the audience. Moe also touches on the significance of the host-listener relationship, where setting expectations and creating a rhythm in the podcast can enhance the overall listening experience.


Podcast Format and Structure — The importance of defining a clear format and structure for podcasts. Having a structured approach establishes a contract with the listeners, setting clear expectations for what to expect in the show.

Host-Listener Relationship — Building a strong host-listener relationship and the significance of creating a rhythm in the show, using music cues, and setting a comfortable tone.

Production and Editing — Experience in podcast production and editing underscores the value of a well-organized and thought-out podcast.


Podcasts Hella XP, Bunn Amigos and The Class of 1989

Moe Poplar’s web site, Ashy Feet

(Written with help from Chat-GPT.)

Connection – with Staci Boden

Connection – with Staci Boden

Staci Boden shares her journey from helping individuals turn dead ends into doorways to guiding leaders and change makers on their transformative paths through the art of following energy.

The question is, how do we navigate daily life. That’s really what following energy is about— it’s meant to be a practice to support individuals in learning how to navigate their daily lives while feeling connected with themselves.

~ Staci Boden ~18:28

An expert in somatic practices and a generous guide for those who’ve appeared in her life, Staci discusses her journey and the evolution of her podcast. Staci talks about her book, “Turning Dead Ends Into Doorways” and how her podcast transformed, becoming the “Following Energy” podcast. She emphasizes the importance of grounding oneself and paying attention to energy, which can lead to personal growth and a more compassionate world. Staci describes her role as a guide and change maker, supporting individuals and empowering them to make an impact, emphasizing the importance of taking life step by step.


Following Energy and Grounding — The concept of “following energy” as a practical way to navigate life. The importance of grounding oneself, slowing down, and paying attention to the energy in the present moment.

Evolution of her Podcast — Evolving to focus on following energy and birth. This shift aligns with the need for a new paradigm in the world and reflects her commitment to supporting individuals in their personal growth journeys.

Empowering Change Makers — Her role as a generous guide supporting individuals to make an impact.


Staci Boden’s web site, https://dancing-tree.com

Her book, Turning Dead Ends Into Doorways

Her podcast website or search for “Following Energy Podcast” wherever you listen.

(Written with help from Chat-GPT.)

Your attention, please

I’ve a strong drive to seek attention. I’ve a desire to be seen as clever. Being clever isn’t the problem; The desire is the problem. Being clever is, sometimes, just the right ingredient to help someone solve a problem. But more often than not, being clever is not helpful.

It’s becoming increasingly clear to me that my work is really about attentional design.

Becoming aware of attention. Shaping and directing it. Shifting its quality and inner experience. Leveraging it to produce work of real value.

~ Tiago Forte from, https://fortelabs.com/blog/the-topology-of-attention/

Magic happens when I’m able to cleave the attention-seeking from the useful clever. When I’m able to remove stressors (stressors which invariably are of my own creation) then I’m free to frolic and create. Exhaustion can be a limit. Day-dreaming can be a limit if in excess. But ruminating is a certain road to ruin, every time. I regularly need to aim my attention inward: What specifically am I ruminating about? …and how, surgically, can I cut that out?



At the kickoff of an unusually long issue of 7 for Sunday, I’ll try to keep this first part short, because (as I often say, because I really do mean it) I appreciate your time and attention, and I don’t take it for granted.

Civility fades in the face of entitlement.

~ Seth Godin from, https://seths.blog/2023/10/no-thank-you/

Godin’s point—that sometimes we choose to assert that something was ours to take, when in fact someone was kind enough to give a gift—really landed for me. I’m reminded of a recently-run-here quote from Kevin Kelly about the growth opportunities pointed to by irritation with others.


What kid would think this through?

In high school I had a class where your final grade was based on a total number of points earned through the semester. The final exam was worth a large portion of the total semester points—let’s say it was 500 of your semester’s possible points. Your percent-score on the exam determined how many of those points you received. (Ace the exam, and you get all 500 points.)

The exam was many hundreds of multiple-choice questions; The exam was so long that no one could ever finish it. The questions had to be shuffled to mix the material taught in the course. Every year the questions were identical, but each year the teacher made a copy of the master list, cut up (yes, with a scissors) the questions, shuffled the strips, and then taped the questions onto a sheet with question numbering, to create a unique Frankenstein-exam every year. This Franken-xam was then photocopied (via a Volkswagen Beetle sized behemoth in the main office) to produce the actual exams.

In the days before the exam, we were told to work at our own pace, to answer each question (skips counted as wrong answers) and to simply stop when time was called. Afterwards, the teacher would calculate the average number of questions attempted by the class. That average was then used as the possible number of questions for calculating our exam scores. (Thus the shuffling to create an exam that is however-long we made it as we took it!) If you went farther than the class’s average attempted number, then you could score some extra points (if you get the answers right, of course) to offset any wrong answers you had along the way. A lot of work to shuffle it every year, but it was a neat idea.

I think it had always worked because kids just didn’t care enough to think it through. We weren’t told the total number of questions, nor what previous classes had attempted. But, for discussion here, let’s say the class’s average-attempted is 200. And let’s say I were to answer 227 questions, but I get 24 wrong. That feels like an 89%, right? No, actually I end up with 203 correct answers, which is more than the class’s average-attempted of 200. I actually score 101.5% and I would get all of the exam’s 500 points towards my semester total. Wait, there’s more: As extra credit, my 3 extra correct answers (my 203 against the 200 attempted average) become extra credit points just added right to my semester total. I’d get 503 points towards my semester!

After the exam was announced, two of my friends and I, realized…

  1. Do not tell another soul about this or everyone will fail the exam.
  2. When you get the test, go as fast as you can. Our goal is to attempt as many questions as possible.
  3. The goal isn’t to get every question right— The goal is to get a lot right.

For example, if we could get just 60% right—normally a really poor performance on an exam—while attempting twice as many as the class average, we win big. Say, 200 average-attempted, against our 400 attempted, at 60% correct (240 correct answers of 400)… we’d score 120% on the exam, plus 40 extra points (our 240 correct above the 200 needed) That’s 540 points towards the semester. And, if we could get 75% correct, while attempting 3 times as many questions, then our exam score is 225% (that’s our 450 correct answers, while needing only 200) plus an extra 250 points (that’s our 450, minus the 200 to ace the exam) That’s 750 points towards the semester! Now do you see the attack? :)

I never understood why no one else ever tried that.

I know this is a minor thing in the universe of problems with secondary education and grading, but I found the hack interesting.

~ Bruce Schneier from, https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2023/10/hacking-the-high-school-grading-system.html

…and I’m actually not sure if what we tried even worked. You thought I was going to have a clear take-away about my actual scores, or the test never being given again?! No the take-away is: Oh, I’ve been thinking like a hacker for a Long. Long. Time.



As the edges of human knowledge are advanced, the total amount one must learn to be able to then contribute to further advancement grows. If there’s a proverbial mountain of knowledge, it grows taller as each contributor adds. If you start from the beach (at birth), wander inland in your early years of not-guided-by-you learning, and eventually decide to scale the mountain… well, it really matters in what epoch you happened to be born. Or maybe it doesn’t?

There is a growing mountain of research. But there is increased evidence that we are being bogged down today as specialization extends. The investigator is staggered by the findings and conclusions of thousands of other workers-conclusions which he cannot find time to grasp, much less to remember, as they appear. Yet specialization becomes increasingly necessary for progress, and the effort to bridge between disciplines is correspondingly superficial.

~ Vannevar Bush from, As We May Think

Bush played a complex role in the history of the United States. (It’s better if you form your own opinion about him and his work.) His short essay from about 80 years ago is these days seen by technophiles as heralding our own, current Internet and information age. In particular, a lot is read into Bush’s description of a desk which behaves like our modern Internet, information systems, and data processing. That’s fine. It’s like reading 80-year-old science fiction that became science fact.

Much more interesting to me is the point that with just a bit of squinting, it looks like nothing has changed in 80 years. Everything about this—the mountain of information, the tools [eg, Bush’s imagined desk, our internet], the people feeling overloaded, the specialization—feels fractal.


Curated and random

I recall a little sign which was sometimes spotted on desks, back in the before-times when everyone had a desk and papers and ring-binders and books and a telephone that also sat upon that desk. The sign was: “A messy desk is a sign of genius.” (And sometimes it said, “…of a creative mind.” )

I’ve had a lot of desks. In every case, I’ve always swerved repeatedly between messy and organized. I get to a point where—sometimes with a literal scream—I stop working and reorganize everything. For a long time, I hoped that one day I would manage to be just comfortable enough, with just the right amount of clutter and chaos, to be able to reach a steady state.

One detail that drives me bonkers is in the digital realm, computers are perfectly organized. I use a tool (called Reeder) to manage a read-this-later collection. It’s a big collection often reaching 500 different things marked as possibly interesting. (Some are interesting enough to spend a few minutes on, some are interesting enough to spend hours on.) Sometimes I’ll randomly shuffle things in a digital list. But sometimes… the list is just ordered the way you assemble it. And you can look at the list in forward or reverse order. This gets to me. If it’s a big list, neither forwards or backwards is best. So instead, I do both: I read the item off one end (the thing that’s been in the list longest) and then the other (the newest), and I just alternate in a reading session.

Perhaps this seems like a silly or trivial thing to point out. But there’s a bigger lesson: Where do I have some specific structure (organization, ordering, etc.) that I didn’t actually intend? …is that structure holding me back or keeping me from experiencing something I’d prefer?