Mortality

The essential power that confronting your mortality will give you—I call it the Sublime. Because it also opens up this idea of how amazing the world is that we live in, and how much we take for granted because we think that we’re going to live forever. It’s an incredibly important concept to me and it’s also very personal in the sense that I came this close to dying myself. I compare it to standing at the shore of some vast ocean. The fear of that dark ocean makes you turn away and retreat. I want you to get into your little boat and I want you to go into that ocean and explore it.

~ Robert Greene

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Saeculum

There’s an Etruscan word, saeculum, that describes the span of time lived by the oldest person present, sometimes calculated to be about a hundred years. In a looser sense, the word means the expanse of time during which something is in living memory. Every event has its saeculum, and then its sunset when the last person who fought in the Spanish Civil War or the last person who saw the last passenger pigeon is gone. To us, trees seemed to offer another kind of saeculum, a longer time scale and deeper continuity, giving shelter from our ephemerality the way that a tree might offer literal shelter under its boughs.

~ Rebecca Solnit from, https://www.themarginalian.org/2022/02/09/rebecca-solnit-trees/

Trees are simply magical. Carl Sagan made a point in the original Cosmos series that everything uses the same basic machinery to read, and write using the same four “letters” of DNA. In a very real sense, trees are us with some different initial inputs. (Setting aside the more ephemeral, yet critical ways where we differ starkly from trees, like degree of consciousness, self-awareness, spirit, soul?) Stand next to an old enough tree and one is invariably transported to a higher level of thinking about being.

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The pit of despair

When—despite your best efforts—you feel like you’re losing at the game of life, remember: Even the best of the best sometimes feel this way. When I’m in the pit of despair, I recall what iconic writer Kurt Vonnegut said about his process: “When I write, I feel like an armless, legless man with a crayon in his mouth.” Don’t overestimate the world and underestimate yourself. You are better than you think. And you are not alone.

~ Tim Ferriss

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R e p e t i t i o n

The popular history of spaced repetition is full of myths and falsehoods. This text is to tell you the true story. The problem with spaced repetition is that it became too popular for its own effective replication. Like a fast mutating virus it keeps jumping from application to application, and tells its own story while accumulating errors on the way.

~ Piotr Wozniak from, https://www.supermemo.com/en/articles/history

If you’ve never heard of Super Memo, and you click over there, it’s likely to distract you for an hour. This article is both the origin story for Super Memo and for spaced repetition. I’ve read at least one other thing (I’ve not read this article in full, but I have read at least one other one), that is a comprehensive deep dive. Today, I’m sharing this in the hopes that you’ll glance over at it, skim around and realize that, since you will then be acquainted with Wozniak, I am not the most systems-crazy person you know of.

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I’m not being hyperbolic

Why is it so difficult to make choices that we know will be best for us in the long run?

~ Peter Attia from, https://peterattiamd.com/hyperbolic-discounting-friend-and-foe-of-goal-achievement/

Sorry for the titular word play. This should be read foremost to understand exponential versus hyperbolic decay, and then to understand how to get your future self to do what your current self wishes. Attia explains it in the context of imagining future rewards. It turns out that using one (to assess the value of future rewards) makes actual sense, and the other turns out to be how our brains work (because: survival drove evolution).

Snoring? No really, go read it. Because if you understand the two methods you can hack yourself by setting up your goals to play into your mind’s predilection to make the wrong value calculation. In effect, rather than set things up the way that makes sense which frequently leads to failure thanks to our brains, we set things up in a more complicated way to fake ourselves into getting where we want to go.

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Together

It’s an endless list of little things that you think you’ve forgotten, but you haven’t. You are quite literally built to sense an infinite amount of subtle bits of signal from your fellow humans. We were not built to live alone in caves; we were built to live together in them.

~ “Rands” from, https://randsinrepose.com/archives/what-we-lost/

As the “online interaction” soared in recent years, I’ve gradually moved away from feeling grumpy about the quality of (for example), video calls online. Through that time I continued to enjoy in-person interaction as much as I ever did, and I had already spent years massively reducing the frequency of those. My feeling is that all the online interaction has expanded—not replaced, nor “attempted to replace” nor anything negative like that—my human interaction. I’ve had multiple conversations with people from other continents I’d never had been able to meet in person.

I’m not suggesting “Rands” has it wrong. No, he has it quite right. I’m simply pointing out that these sense-limited interactions can be an enormous positive addition when we don’t think of them as replacing normal human interactions.

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Have we become wiser?

We live in the age of philosophy, science, and intellect. Huge libraries are open for everyone. Everywhere we have schools, colleges, and universities which give us the wisdom of the people from many previous millennia. And what then? Have we become wiser for all this? Do we better understand our life, or the meaning of our existence? Do we know what is good for our life?

~ Jean Jacques Rousseau

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Perspective and awareness

The thing about status dynamics, though, is that they aren’t in one spot. There isn’t a whole world that is being fully and accurately perceived, except for one blank space that’s being glossed over.

~ Duncan Sabien from, https://www.lesswrong.com/posts/7Pq9KwZhG6vejmYpo/the-metaphor-you-want-is-color-blindness-not-blind-spot

This is an interesting unpacking of some metaphors. If one has a blind spot in vision, simply shifting your gaze or moving slightly, will reveal what one is not seeing. This is a key way in which the “blind spot” metaphor is inaccurate and insufficient for systemic differences (in people, culture, society, etc.). The metaphor of red-green color blindness carries more utility because it points out that the things, or the distinctions, which one can’t see are everywhere; they are not literally in one stationary location (the problem is not simply under this X on this map), and no matter what one does—gaze shifting, moving around, thinking a great deal—those invisible thing are not going to appear.

The only way I’ve found to get through such problem is to engage with others whose literal and conceptual perspectives differ from my own. I’ll sum that up as: Discovery.

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