“I wonder what would happen if I created a daily podcast, and did nothing else— if I didn’t tell anyone, didn’t share on social media, nothing. Just publish the thing every day.” So I went and made it happen, over 1,300 times. The answer to “what if?” is: I would receive a cornucopia of benefits simply from doing the work, even if no one heard a single one of them. I received: practice speaking extemporaneously, lessons in dramatic reading, countless tiny lessons of microphone technique, countless nuanced insights of physiology, and much much more.
Unfortunately, over the years, I became fixated on the least-important part of my original question: Daily.
I think this dynamic, to one degree or another, impacts anyone who has been fortunate enough to experience some success in their field. Doing important work matters and sometimes this requires sacrifices. But there’s also a deep part of our humanity that responds to these successes — and the positive feedback they generate — by pushing us to seek this high at ever-increasing frequencies.
~ Cal Newport from, https://calnewport.com/danielle-steel-and-the-tragic-appeal-of-overwork/
It’s become clear that maintaining the pace is a problem, and so I’ve changed the pace. And in a blink, I feel I’m again focused on that still-overflowing cornucopia of benefits.
There are only two things which seem to work for me: Plain old discipline, and regular, high-intensity exercise. Make a plan. Work the plan. Follow through. I don’t have to finish it all. (That used to be a huge problem too.) Each day, make a plan. And yes, some days the plan is, “today there’s no plan just follow your nose.” Where the mental freedom to believe that’s a good plan is banked during the days with a more plan-looking plan. The exercise acts as a baseline reset.
The result? An inevitable sense of disappointment. A sense that other people are doing better than us. We feel guilt. We feel pressure. We think “Oh, if only I had more money, or a better job, or lived in France where the child care benefits were different, if I had more custody, then things would be good…”
~ Ryan Holiday from, https://ryanholiday.net/all-time-is-quality-time/
Slowly, daily, my false sense of urgency ratchets up. It’s not healthy, but going out and doing something high intensity resets my personal brand of insanity. Every time I’m in the worst of moods, all I have to do is head out and just start running like I hate myself. (This is rare, but frequent enough that it’s useful to have a strategy ready.) I can go just a couple minutes running like I stole something, and then my crazy-brain starts bargaining… okay, uh, if we can just slow down a bit, I promise to stop acting crazy. I’m pretty sure that’s not the best way to deal with things, but it’s definitely a coping strategy that works well. And the side effects are awesome.
Sometimes I sit in a chair on the patio in the afternoon sun. If I’m just the right combination of tired, relaxed, and comfortable, and if the wind, sun, temperature, and soundscape are just so, I can drift into a trance. Time passes. After which, I have no clear sense of whether it was a moment, or ten minutes. It doesn’t seem that time had stopped, rather it feels like time had ceased to affect me. Did I breath? Did I move? Did I even think in that time?
It’s not only that our experiences of space are different. Our experiences of time are likely different, too. We think about the passage of time through our terrestrial experience of unidirectional motion through space – our metaphors of time are almost all grounded in the way our bodies move forward through the environment. Given this fact, how would an octopus, who can easily see and move in all directions, conceptualise time?
~ David Borkenhagen from, https://aeon.co/essays/can-the-liquid-motion-of-the-octopus-radicalise-our-ideas-about-time
Sometimes I find things on the Internet and there’s a clear takeaway for me, or a clear new-to-me idea or connection. This isn’t one of those times. Instead, I dipped into this article one day, came out the other end aware that it had to be included in a post.
And, perhaps I just fell asleep?
What is the opposite of play? …the opposite of playing an infinite game? I can’t think of a better candidate than the desire for control. My desire for control—when it rears its ugly head—stems from insecurity. (But let’s leave my insecurity for another day.) When I grasp for control I start trying to prepare for every contingency. When I grasp for control I start trying to control the contexts around everything I’m doing, everything I’m experiencing, and how others see me. And when I don’t grasp for control, I’m able to play.
The site you’re reading, Raptitude, is essentially an attempt to convey certain kinds of embodied knowing, having to do with the subtleties of being human, rather than driving a car or doing long division. I’m trying to get people to have some of the same perspective shifts I’ve had.
~ David Cain from, https://www.raptitude.com/2023/04/knowing-is-doing-not-remembering/
Experiencing that embodied knowing is what I enjoy about conversation. It’s not vacuous, and it’s not an attempt by me to control. It’s play, and it’s learning.
My journey of growth has been ascending levels of perspective shifts. Some of us don’t get to go on that journey because of external and evil forces or because of the random, initial conditions they drew at the beginning of their lives. While I don’t understand what my self even is, I do understand that hiding—ignoring reality—is not going to move me further along on my journey of self-discovery.
“Daytime” is us closing our eyes and pretending it makes infinity go away.
~ Randall Munroe from, https://xkcd.com/2849/
Munroe has gone on quite a journey. I think everyone far enough along on their needs-satisfaction curve (anyone who’s ever watched entertainment or played a video game is far enough along) would be moved, inspired, made to laugh and cry, by reading all of Munroe’s cartoons.
This cartoon is number 2,849. He publishes a cartoon Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. So, he’s published cartoons for about 950 weeks. About 18 years.
In the last 20 years I’ve made three false–starts at sketching. They parallel my personal growth. The first false–start involved me buying books and materials, and spending a lot of time setting things up to create what I thought was the perfect environment. No sketching happened. The second false–start involved my removing what I thought was a barrier; I switched to journaling in pencil (a multi-year side quest I eventually returned from loving ink more deeply) because I thought having the sketching tools before me more often would lead to sketching. The third false-start now happens once every few weeks: I find myself paused, looking at something, really seeing, and I notice an urge to sketch.
I came late to his work: I remember seeing him on TV when I was a kid, but I only really started reading him post-cancer, around 2010 or so, when he was in the middle of his great blogging explosion caused by losing his voice due to his health complications.
~ Austin Kleon from, https://austinkleon.com/2023/04/04/10-years-without-roger-ebert/
The connection is that Roger Ebert did a lot of sketching in addition to a lot of writing.
This time of year, every year, I’m thinking about seasons of life at large, and cycles in our work. I find that it’s fulfilling when I finish some large thing— when the last piece of a large project clicks into place like the final jigsaw piece. What doesn’t work is when I imagine that feeling of fulfillment too soon. I do try to imagine what done looks like before I begin small things—few-hours sized things, days sized things. But for large things, it’s often better if I think of a few possible ways it could eventually be “done” and then simply get to work. It’s best if I remember there’s no tidy “Fin!” like at the end of a movie; There’s only the doing.
Agent K put it best, “Fifteen hundred years ago everybody knew the Earth was the center of the universe. Five hundred years ago, everybody knew the Earth was flat, and fifteen minutes ago, you knew that humans were alone on this planet. Imagine what you’ll know tomorrow.” Some things once known, cannot be unknown.
There’s a useful concept to think about here: “Bezzle,” JK Galbraith’s term for “the magic interval when a confidence trickster knows he has the money he has appropriated but the victim does not yet understand that he has lost it.”
~ Cory Doctorow from, https://pluralistic.net/2022/07/29/managed-retreat/
This interesting, tiny detour of a word is just one bit of gobsmacking available from Doctorow. He’s actually writing about managing our retreat from all the housing we currently have in flood plains. But along the way, he takes us into the World of the Inconceivable via radium suppositories. (And yes, I did proofread the previous sentence.)
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?