Overconfidence

The world is filled with overconfident people. Overconfidence leads to malpractice, to fraud, and to broken promises. Overconfidence is arrogance. You don’t want an overconfident surgeon or even an overconfident bus driver. By definition, overconfidence leads to risky behavior and inadequate preparation. But the practice requires us to do our work without becoming attached to the outcome. It’s not overconfidence, it’s a practice of experiments that respect the pitfalls of hubris.

~ Seth Godin

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What, really, is the final boss?

“The problem is…”, is such a great phrase. When I hear it, I begin to smile. Unless I just said it, in which case I twitch and remind myself that the really hard part [of anything you want to discuss] is defining exactly what the problem is. A well-defined problem is such a difficult and rare thing. And here’s a fun article from “Dynomight” that plays with just how hard it is to figure out what the problem actually is, Candidate Final Bosses.

Just to be clear: We’re talking about “final boss”, as in the video game context meaning of the phrase. In the classic, journey-of-adventure towards some goal, video game, things get harder and harder and harder until… you have to face the final boss, in the final battle.

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Images?

My blog has an enormous amount of photography. There are over 2,000 images posted, and while many are simply me saving typing a thousand words, many of them are gorgeous. I’ve cherry-picked the best of them into a Featured Photography page.

…actually, since I’m me, I set up some code that creates pages of images arranged into gallery-carousels, and I have only to tag the images behind-the-scenes rather than manually edit them into the page. I digress.

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Ruh-roh… that’s me

The ways in which we are all susceptible to drowning ourselves into drama, and what it takes to float free, is what Iris Murdoch (July 15, 1919–February 8, 1999) explores in her subtle, splendid 1978 novel The Sea, the Sea — the story of a talented but complacent playwright approaching the overlook of life, who is ultimately overcome by his tragic flaw: Despite his obsessive self-reflection (or perhaps precisely because of it), his egotism ultimately eclipses his creative spirit — that brightest and most generous part of us, the part rightly called our gift, the part that extends the outstretched hand of sympathy and wonder we call art and invites, in Iris Murdoch’s lovely phrase, “an occasion for unselfing.”

~ Maria Popova from https://www.themarginalian.org/2022/06/23/iris-murdoch-the-sea-the-sea/

I’m not a playwright—but the rest of that character seems too like me. “Drowning ourselves in drama…” “…obsessive self-reflection…” “…egotism ultimately eclipses his creative spirit…” Methinks this novel would be a good cautionary tale for me to consume forthwith.

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Choose today

In recent years I’ve been choosing a touch phrase. The phrases are reminders, intended to cue up a larger train of thought.

For 2023 the phrase is “Choose today”. It is inspired by two different quotes, both having withstood the test of time:

Stick to what’s in front of you—idea, action, utterance. This is what you deserve. You could be good today. But instead you choose tomorrow.

~ Marcus Aurelius, 8.22

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…and one of my daily reflection prompts from Epictetus:

So is it possible to be altogether faultless? No, that is impractical; but it is possible to strive continuously not to commit faults. For we shall have cause to be satisfied if, by never relaxing our attention, we shall escape at least a few faults. But as it is, when you say, “I will begin to pay attention tomorrow,” you should know that what you are really saying is this: “I will be shameless, inopportune, abject today; it will be in the power of others to cause me distress; I will get angry, I will be envious today.” See how many evils you are permitting yourself. But if it is well for you to pay attention tomorrow, how much better would it be today? If it is to your advantage tomorrow, it is much more so today, so that you may be able to do the same again tomorrow, and not put it off once more, to the day after tomorrow.

~ Epictetus, 4.12.19-21

Indeed. If it is to my advantage tomorrow, it is much more so today.

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Darkness must fall

For it’s always that way with the sacred value of life. We forget it as long as it belongs to us, and give it as little attention during the unconcerned hours of our life as we do the stars in the light of day. Darkness must fall before we are aware of the majesty of the stars above our heads.

~ Stefan Zweig

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A space ship

Congratulations on the new library, because it isn’t just a library. It is a space ship that will take you to the farthest reaches of the Universe, a time machine that will take you to the far past and the far future, a teacher that knows more than any human being, a friend that will amuse you and console you—and most of all, a gateway, to a better and happier and more useful life.

~ Isaac Asimov from, https://www.openculture.com/2022/12/isaac-asimov-on-how-libraries-can-radically-change-your-life-1971.html

This tiny little post, which is written around Asimov’s short note quoted above, launched me in off in multiple directions. A library. Asimov. A type–written note. Even Asimov still made typing mistakes—how fast must he have been able to type after all those years of writing? What type writer did he use? Every now and then I feel like getting a type writer—but I spin off into looking at typefaces, and what the heck would I actually do with a type writer? OMG no I’m not going to start type writing the slips in the slipbox. (Because that’d be insane, and because hand writing the slips is part of the point since it reinforces learning. I don’t think typing would do that.) And I keep thinking I never got around to building the library/reading space that as a kid I’d always dreamed of. So many ideas. So little time.

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Restraint

Because that’s all that could restrain us (if anything could)—the only thing that could make us want to stay here: The chance to live with those who share our vision. But now? Look how tiring it is—this cacophony we live in. Enough to make you say to death, “Come quickly. Before I start to forget myself, like them.”

~ Marcus Aurelius, 9.3

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