When I remember all
    the friends so link’d together,
I’ve seen around me fall,
    like leaves in wintry weather;
I feel like one who treads alone
    some banquet hall deserted,
Whose lights are fled, whose garlands dead,
    and all but he departed.

~ Tom Moore


Still, choose today

Back at the start of January I mentioned, “Indeed. If it is to my advantage tomorrow, it is much more so today.” My touch phrase, “choose today” for 2023 continues to be a poignant reminder. I’ve now written it at the bottom of every journal entry this year, it often comes to mind in moments when I most need it, and it always reminds me of this:

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


“If it is to my advantage tomorrow, it is much more so today.” is a direct quote of Epictetus. Aurelius was born shortly after Epictetus’s death. But Aurelius makes a point of thanking one of his teachers, Rusticus saying in part, “[…] And for introducing me to Epictetus’s lectures–and loaning me his own copy.”

Which leads me to the first thing “choose today” reminds me of each day: Knowledge, and in particular wisdom, are gained through others by seeking out those who have something you wish to learn. These people which I’m mentioning lived thousands of years ago. Others (in other traditions from other regions of the world in other centuries) have separately discovered these same ideas, which makes it clear to me that these ideas are worth considering.

The second thing “choose today” reminds me of is to be forward-looking. Certainly I want to observe and consider my past (and the past of others!) but I should be looking towards the future. If something feels urgent, then where exactly is that sense of urgency coming from, and is the urgency real? If something feels important— same questions. If something feels _insert_whatever_here_— same questions. And then, what can I choose today?


Provoking the powerful

One reason I write here, is because I think it’s healthy for me to work with the garage door up. My choice of the guideline that herein I write about myself and things I find lying about reminds me to stick with sharing my subjective experience. Long ago I began suppressing my urge to share my opinions, and gosh, that turns out to be liberating.

This is the birth of “epistemic humility” in Western philosophy: the acknowledgment that one’s blind spots and shortcomings are an invitation for ongoing intellectual investigation and growth.

~ J. W. Traphagan and John J. Kaag from,

The confetti gun of opinions seems always to be spewing. For a while I was concerned that my expanding humility would create a sort of power vacuum into which even more opinions of others would drift and settle. But, nope. Removing my contribution has made no difference in the fluttering mess. None the less, it’s simply nice not to feel urgency to contribute to the mess.


Never say never

Is there a term for applying the Socratic method on oneself? Maybe, autosocraticism? Not simply self-examination or self-inquiry, but rather when you find yourself speaking with someone and realize you’ve just deployed the Socratic Method on yourself? Because this happens to me. I’m explaining something I’m thinking about, and I realize I actually don’t understand what I’m thinking about. (This is very close to “rubber duck debugging” where you can sometimes find the source of a problem by explaining it to a rubber duck. Yes, really.)

Also, a pull-quote is a self-quotation; a selection from the thing itself, presented earlier to suggest reading on is worthwhile.

And of course, I also need the past tense verb-form of that noun, just so I can write the sentence I really want to start with:

The other day I autosocratisized myself into realizing I had no freakin’ clue what the difference is between a pull-quote and a blockquote.

All of which confirms the (usually unspoken) truism about humans – we’re often wrong but never in doubt. We’re as sure of the future of our relationships as we are that 2+2=4.

~ Bob Seawright from,

Never say never. I’m often wrong and frequently in doubt.

Also, a pull-quote is a self-quotation; a selection from the thing itself, presented earlier to suggest reading on is worthwhile. Versus a blockquote; something quoted from another source, but which is too large to be just dropped inline wrapped in quotation marks.


Just, hard

I spend large amounts of time just thinking. That’s not so terrible, all things considered since there’s lots of actively anti-useful stuff I could be doing.

People have different personalities, goals, experiences, and levels of chance and serendipity, all of which make universal truths hard to find and difficult to teach. No matter how smart the world becomes, the best answer will always be, “You’ve got to figure it out for yourself.”

A lot of things work like that. Some of the most important topics are the hardest to teach, and real world experience is the only school.

~ Morgan Housel from,

There are certain traps for my mind. One insidious example is when I notice I’ve been doing prolonged thinking. …and then I start thinking about how I was thinking about whatever-it-was. …and might there be some underlying principle or knowledge that I don’t understand? …and maybe I should read more about that? …and maybe I should seek out others who know more about that?

Sometimes, I can manage to shake myself out of that. But usually, I have to simply lean into it for another hour, sometimes even the rest of the day (or week!) “Okay, I’m hung-up on this” and I have to try to go all in. After a real attempt at figuring it out, when I can apprehend just how bonkers-complex it would be, my mind simply let’s go of it.


New associations

Instead of feeling complacent about what you know, you must expand your knowledge to related fields, giving your mind fuel to make new associations between different ideas. You must experiment and look at problems from all possible angles. As your thinking grows more fluid, your mind will grow increasingly dimensional, seeing more and more aspects of reality. In the end, you will turn against the very rules you have internalized, shaping and reforming them to suit your spirit.

~ Robert Greene


Slightly better

An eternal question which I find myself frequently pondering: When to stick with something and when to dramatically pivot (or outright quit)? Pondering this problem is not a recent development. I have countless stories going back as far as I can remember—all the way back to little-kid baseball at, perhaps, age 10.

[…] there’s not a lot of readily available answers to the question of what the meaning of life is. The only answer I’ve been able to come up with for myself is this: to ensure that my presence on this earth makes it better than if I hadn’t lived at all. Whether or not I’ll have managed to achieve that is an unknowable calculation. All I can do is try to love this stupid, cruel, wonderful, gorgeous world I’ve been given through an accident of entropy, and hope that I can give it a better than equivalent exchange.

~ Jenny from,

When I find I’m staring into space, pondering the stick-or-pivot question, a two-part test has been getting me moving again: If I keep doing the thing (upon which I’m pondering sticking or pivoting) are my efforts making the world a better place, and does what I’m doing have a clear end-goal?

The perhaps counter-intuitive part is that while I want a ‘yes’ (obviously!) for the first part of that test, I want a ‘no‘ for the second part. When I have a clear end-goal things don’t work out well. I find I generally misunderstand in the beginning of a thing what would be a good end goal, and worse, I lose interest once I understand what done looks like for the long-arc of the thing. Far better it seems to point myself in a makes the world better direction, and wonder onward.


New kind of society

[…] what we need is a few hints on the art of creating an entirely new kind of society, durable but adventurous, strong but humane, highly organized but liberty-loving, elastic and adaptable. In this matter Greece and Rome can teach us only negatively—by demonstrating, in their divergent ways, what not to do.

~ Aldous Huxley


Setting and scene

Lately I’ve been struggling with setting. As many people have noted, excessive fiddling with getting things ready, or “just so”, before feeling one can begin to do something is simply a form of procrastination. It’s a form of hiding from doing the work. Steven Pressfield describes this as the “resistance” which shows up just when you are finally facing the real work that you are called to do.

I tell this story not because I think a method approach, in which you inhabit your characters and their behaviors, is the best way to write fiction. (If this were true, a lot more authors would take a swing at romance novels.) But instead because it’s an extreme example of a more general point that I’ve been emphasizing recently: when it comes to cognitive work, setting makes a difference.

~ Cal Newport from,

Setting is real, and it is important. But there’s a second part to finding (or creating) the optimal environment: Scene. Where are the others who are also doing the same work? It could be the other painters or authors like you, and you’re all living in a neighborhood and regularly gathering and conversing at the local cafes. (The archetypical writers scene of the 1900s was in Paris.) If I’ve imagineered a certain niche of work that I want to do, how do I find (or create) the scene?


Creating connection

The alternative is an interaction that creates a connection instead of destroying it. Where is the eye contact? Where is the dignity that comes from recognizing another?

When we humanize the person at the other end of the counter or the phone or the Internet, we grant them something precious—personhood. When we treat the people around us with dignity, we create an entirely different platform for the words we utter and the plans we make.

~ Seth Godin


Thank you I. Asimov

Over in my Open + Curious project, I’ve been working intentionally to improve my writing. For Open + Curious the more recent articles all begin with a clear posit (a statement which is made on the assumption that it will prove to be true) and then go on to explain why I believe that to be true; that’s their finished form. I was generally writing each piece, editing it to find and hone a single line of thinking, and then finishing up by crafting the leading posit. Yes, I know, “Craig discovers the essay.”

I’m reading I. Asimov and this advice leapt off the page:

What I do now is think up a problem and a resolution to that problem. I then begin the story, making it up as I go along, having all the excitement of finding out what will happen to the characters and how they will get out of their scrapes, but working steadily toward the known resolution so that I don’t get lost en route.

When asked for advice by beginners, I always stress that. Know your ending, I say, or the river of your story may finally sink into the desert sands and never reach the sea.

~ Isaac Asimov


I’ve now written thousands of posts where I’ve led with a quotation from something. I’m forever writing some observation about what I’ve quoted, and then trying to pivot to what I actually want to say. Unfortunately, this style has begun to feel constraining.

Going forward, I’m going to see what happens if I think of what I’m quoting as giving me a direction. This piece starts with my thoughts about my writing for Open + Curious, and then looking “in the direction” of Asimov’s quoted contribution, beyond that I “see” this gibberish about my writing process. Sorry, maybe that’s all too meta? It’s noisy in my head.