The joy of discovery

I have always loved book stores. All types. All sizes. All manner of [dis]organization. When I was young, each store represented a hoard of tomes I could not even dream of possessing. How many books would I have bought? …how much money do you have? Literally. The books I did have then became valuable to me. They were precious because I had chosen them for purchase with various allotments I received; Or they were gifted to me making them both surprising and precious. To this day: Mmmmmmmm, bookstores.

Each store has its own way of embracing you, embracing the reader, and creating a sense of the universe expanding. For anybody curious and interested in printed matter, the more bookstores you go into, the more you’ll realize how many different ways there are to be curious. That helps us set a foundation to be more knowledgeable about the world we inhabit. The practical and the sheer joy of it.

~ Paul Yamazaki from, https://lithub.com/paul-yamazaki-on-the-important-joyous-work-of-running-an-independent-bookstore/

In more recent years, resources have become available. These days, each time I wander into a bookstore I think: Once—just once—I’m going to clear the rest of my day, and spend it all here in this bookstore, and I’m going to buy every single book that i want. Just to see what that feels like.

ɕ

Obliged to respond

I recently heard a conversation between Brian Koppelman and Steven Pressfield (circa 2019 in Koppelman’s podcast, The Moment) where Pressfield mentioned a few great things for creatives to remember: Being a professional has nothing to do with getting paid. Resistance is real, it’s myself, and is waiting for me to invite it to stop me. The Muse is real.

The muse really does reward me for being found working. I’ve learned, no matter the work, the muse approves when finding me ready with pen and paper close. But if the muse taps me and I fail to treat the gift appropriately—if I think, “I’ll remember that. I don’t need to write that down.”—then I hear the muse scoff, “we shall see.” We shall see if I remember. And we shall see if the muse waits a bit longer before checking on me again.

That, of course, was the reason for the pen all along: it’s a physical reminder that you are not reading merely to consume the words of others passively, but that you have an obligation to respond.

~ Mandy Brown from, https://aworkinglibrary.com/writing/ways-of-writing

I’m realizing that books themselves also need room to sprawl. If I keep them shelved upright, or even more simply stacked flat, they still seem to be squished into submission. When I am able to lay a few of them out, with some room for them to wave their invisible tendrils, they seem to taunt me: go ahead, pick me up! If there’s a tablet or some writing scraps at hand, or garish sticky notes for flagging pages, then it begins to feel like its own room with unfolding conversations. In the end, it’s almost a composition just having the books lying about.

ɕ

Horror and systematic idiocy

Have you ever looked at your own writing and wondered: What author’s work might it resemble? And if you haven’t, I hope I didn’t just break writing for you.

All I can remember of these once indispensable arts is the intense boredom by which the practice of them was accompanied. Even today the sight of Dr. Smith’s Shorter Latin Dictionary, or of Liddell’s and Scott’s Greek Lexicon, has power to recall that ancient ennui. What dreary hours I have spent frantically turning those pages in search of a word for “cow” that could be scanned as a dactyl, or to make sure that my memory of the irregular verbs and the Greek accents was not at fault! I hate to think of all that wasted time. And yet, in view of the fact that most human beings are destined to pass most of their lives at jobs in which it is impossible for them to take the slightest interest, this old-fashioned training with the dictionary may have been extremely salutary. At least it taught one to know and expect the worst of life. Whereas the pupil in a progressive school, where everything is made to seem entertaining and significant, lives in a fool’s paradise. As a preparation for life, not as it ought to be, but as it actually is, the horrors of Greek grammar and the systematic idiocy of Latin verses were perfectly appropriate. On the other hand, it must be admitted that they tended to leave their victims with a quite irrational distaste for poor dear Dr. Smith.

~ Aldous Huxley from his essay, Doodles in a Dictionary from, Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Other Essays

Lest you think that’s an overly long quote, I’ll point out it’s still only about half of the paragraph. Huxley can really unspool a sentence. Some of the writing in that book—Huxley’s, omg no not Smith’s dictionary—are overwrought. But some of them have a delicious tinkling of structure and grammar with an occasional punctuation of solid snark.

ɕ

Communication – with Vincent Thibault

Vincent Thibault joins Craig to discuss the dance between movement and mindfulness, and the balance of effort and ease in training Art du Déplacement.

You don’t have to pretend that you’re in top shape. If you’re not in top shape that very day you just do what you can. You can be yourself and the whole notion of ease is actually very profound, and that’s where my personal training connects with meditation […] One of the first things we learn with Buddhist Meditation is to be friends with yourself. I don’t want to confuse the whole discussion and mix our metaphors here, but there’s this notion of learning to be friends with your own mind, and that can translate into the way you approach movement and any kind of training.

~ Vincent Thibault 35:55

Vincent, a dedicated Buddhist practitioner, engages with Craig in a dynamic conversation encompassing spiritual insights merged with movement philosophy. They discuss the balance between effort and ease within training, stressing the importance of adapting to personal circumstances over time. They touch on Buddhist teachings in the context of physical discipline, emphasizing mindfulness, authentic connection, and embracing change as core tenets of their practice.

[Connection] also means that you could be connected to the people who have been practicing this before you. Whether you’ve learned from the Yamakasi or somebody else, you can acknowledge that. You can appreciate what you’ve received from them. And there’s also connection with the people who will come after you. Because—sorry to deliver the news—but you won’t be there forever and you won’t be coaching forever if you’re a coach. And you won’t be moving in the same way forever, and you don’t know when you’re going to see it.

~ Vincent Thibault 37:30

Throughout their exchange, Vincent and Craig explore the nuances of effort in training, highlighting the significance of finding ease alongside dedication. They go into the broader concept of ‘connection,’ extending beyond physicality to encompass energy levels, environment, and a respectful acknowledgment of both predecessors and successors in the discipline.

They discuss how cultivating internal ease can transcend into disciplined practices, fostering mindfulness and self-acceptance. Vincent underlines the necessity of adaptation, advocating for working with present circumstances rather than fixating on an idealized version of practice.

Takeaways

Effort and Ease — Vincent emphasizes the balance between effort and ease in training, stressing the importance of finding fulfillment in the process rather than solely fixating on results.

Connection Beyond Physicality — The notion of connection expands to encompass various dimensions, including relationships with training partners, acknowledgment of predecessors, and a connection to one’s own energy levels and environment.

Adaptation as Vital — The conversation underscores the significance of adapting to circumstances, encouraging practitioners to work with their current situation rather than against it.

Integration of Buddhist Philosophy — Buddhist principles blend with movement philosophy, highlighting mindfulness, authenticity, and self-acceptance as integral components of disciplined practice.

Authenticity in Practice — Being authentic with oneself and others in training is emphasized, encouraging individuals to be genuine about their abilities, limitations, and present state of being.

Resources

Parkour & Art du déplacement: Lessons in practical wisdom – Leçons de sagesse pratique — Vincent Thibault’s 2015 book discussed in the podcast. The book contains both the French and English text. Don’t confuse it with the similarly named, but completely different book, “Parkour and the Art du déplacement: Strength, Dignity, Community”, published in 2014.

L’Art du déplacement : Quatre-vingt-dix propositions philosophiques sur le franchissement d’obstacles — The 2020, French-language-only, edition of the book discussed in this podcast.

Vincent Thibault on LinkedIn.

Carrefours Azure (French-language site) — Vincent’s book publishing company founded in 2016. Fiction and nonfiction. A small publishing house with an innovative and ecological model: books are printed on demand, in Quebec or in France depending on the customer’s shipping address (no pulping, minimal transportation). For every book sold directly on Carrefours azur’s website, a percentage is given back to a green initiative or a humanitarian cause.

Vincent Thibault (French-language site) — Vincent’s personal web site.

Study inspired by… — A series of blog posts, circa 2015, written by Craig, mentioned in this podcast.

(Written with help from Chat-GPT.)

Bibliofervor

I recently cracked open Listening: Interviews, 1970-1989 by Jonathan Cott. The Introduction alone knocked one of my socks off; I leapt out of my reading chair to search the Internet hoping the Introduction might be published publicly so I could share it. Alas, instead I found this:

There ought to be a word in English that describes the nearly uncontrollable urge to leap out of a reading chair, race to find a friend, and press the book you are reading urgently into their hands. When they politely agree to take a look, you say no, no, you have to read this right now. Let me hold your coffee.

~ W. Scott Olsen from, https://www.startribune.com/review-listening-interviews-1970-1989-by-jonathan-cott/570698762/

Which—thank you W. Scott Olsen!—is an altogether different thing, which knocked my other sock off. I took a few moments to noodle it and didn’t have any good ideas. Then I asked Chat-GPT (v3.5 if you’re keeping score)…

Make up a new english word which describes the nearly uncontrollable urge to leap out of a reading chair, race to find a friend, and press the book you are reading urgently into their hands. When they politely agree to take a look, you say no, no, you have to read this right now while I hold your coffee.

How about “bibliofervor”? It combines “biblio,” relating to books or reading, with “fervor,” conveying intense passion or enthusiasm. This word captures the strong, almost irresistible impulse to share a captivating book with a friend, urging them to read it immediately, even going as far as offering to hold their coffee just so they can dive into the story right away. It’s that delightful moment when a book is so enthralling that you can’t help but share it with someone else in real-time.

Oi! That is a superlative answer. NEW WORD: Bibliofervor :)

ɕ

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?

ɕ

Frustration

Learning to distinguish the map versus the territory is an essential step. It’s critical to learn what a map is, and what maps are good for, in order to proceed with one’s life. Maps enable me to see and do things otherwise impossible; maps reveal unknown unknowns. Maps can also frustrate me endlessly. Sometimes I don’t want to have an opinion; I don’t want to spend the energy to have an opinion. I don’t care how I get from here to there. Just. Tell. Me. how to get there. And of course nothing in this paragraph has to do with literal maps of the world— I’m not talking about cartography nor driving directions.

On closer examination, it turns out there are many things wrong with it. Thousand True Fans is a hollow philosophy. It is Chicken Soup for the Digital Creator’s Soul, ultimately devoid of any real nutritional value.

~ Dave Karpf from, https://davekarpf.substack.com/p/the-hollow-core-of-kevin-kellys-thousand

Kevin Kelly’s 1,000 True Fans is a map, before it there was another map, The Cluetrain Manifesto, and there were others. When you find a new-to-you map it opens your mind to new possibilities. I would assume the first children’s books I encountered were astounding, but wouldn’t have the same effect today. (I’m not denigrating either of those works; I’m not suggesting they are “children’s books”.)

But I do get frustrated. I see a terrific map, and then I want to make a terrific next “move”. That’s not how maps work, Craig. You look at the map, then you take the next small step informed by everything you know, including the new perspective from the new map. You write one sentence (for example, on a page soliciting support for your work) and that’s informed by all the maps you’ve previously seen. Big picture. Little steps.

ɕ

Calmness is needed

There is a time and place for maximum effort—yes, that’s a Deadpool reference—and there’s a time and place for stillness and calm. I’m fascinated by the relationship and interaction between physicality (as movement versus stillness) and mentality (as agitation versus calmness.) I’ve had transformational experiences at both extremes of physicality, with mental calmness. I do get mentally agitated. But I fear that too many people experience calmness far too rarely, possibly never.

This often means working more thoughtfully, and maybe even more slowly. Slow work is not unproductive work. What we lose in speed we more than make up for in deliberateness—as well as in undistracted attention, a critical factor of productivity.

~ Chris Bailey from, https://chrisbailey.com/the-productivity-payoffs-of-a-calm-mind/

Sometimes people ask me about Stoicism, and I suck at explaining it. Thinking and writing about calmness today, I’m struck that I should probably mention eudaimonia (eu̯-dai̯-mon-ía). Eudaimonia is a key value Stoicism advocates striving for.

[…] is a state of being and consciousness that is consistent with the active, effective activity of ideal agency and in general is characterized by the calm (equanimity; tranquility) that comes from the absence of further moral struggle and the absence of retrospective regret or prospective alarm about things outside one’s control, together with the confidence that comes from the effortless persistence of moral purpose.

~ Lawrence Becker from, A New Stoicism p91

2.5 millenia later… calmness, equanimity, tranquility?

ɕ

Which spiral?

To this day, if I realize I’m in a downward spiral I bring my attention to my next decision. (“Realize” being the important word there. I am too often actually in a downward spiral without realizing it is so.) Left foot, or right foot next? Take a nap, or continue what I’m doing? What’s the smallest next thing I can do, which would be a positive? Maybe the best thing I can do is to simply cease everything and pause.

Bodies start to hurt when they aren’t moved enough, but also because when they are moved, some parts aren’t moving with ease. This then makes it harder to move enough, and our movements get more diminished, immobility and pain arises, and we think it’s all inevitable.

~ Katy Bowman from, https://www.nutritiousmovement.com/get-ready-to-rethink-your-position/

I find it empowering to know that making small, simple decisions about movement can profoundly affect my overall health and mobility. I’m not taking Bowman’s word for it though (she does have lots of great things to say about movement) I’ve simply taken note of what happens. Sometimes (often?) the better, small choice is the slightly more difficult now option. As Jerzy Gregorek put it, “easy choices, hard life. Hard choices, easy life.” Choose wisely.

ɕ

What came before

I have several projects where there’s no end-game. (I’d argue all of my passion projects have no end-game.) The process of doing the creative work is the entire point. Do the thing, because doing the thing is some combination of “I enjoy it”, “I can rationalize the necessary parts I don’t enjoy” and “it’s making the world a better place.”

So you start. You do these trivial first actions, because they’re so stupidly easy, and then you’re working on the task. You’re inside the compound. You’re no longer trying to “get started.” Most of the resistance is gone, it’s clear enough what to do next, and it feels good to continue.

~ David Cain from, https://www.raptitude.com/2023/01/the-right-now-list/

Rest. Reflect. Recalibrate. …was a wonder-filled takeaway from Trust Yourself by Melody Wilding. There was a little diagram of those three in a circle: Rest pointing to Reflect pointing to Recalibrate pointing to Rest. I am forever and ever imagining my projects as some sort of steady-state of affairs. Start the thing and then “just” do the thing. Forever. Forever? No. “What came before?” is, for me, the wrong question. How am I honestly feeling about whatever-it-is right now? That’s right. That just is. That’s how I am today. Okay, what comes next? Do I need to rest, reflect, or recalibrate?

slip:4c2se1a9.

ɕ

Fragmentation

What if I don’t know how to take something apart? One option is to apply excessive force and break the thing open. That works, but obviously sacrifices the thing; this is particularly useless if I wanted to take something apart because I need to fix it, or understand it. Generally, the smash method always works, but is almost never useful.

Yet thought also goes wrong somehow, and produces destruction. This arises from a certain way of thinking, i.e., fragmentation. This is to break things up into bits, as if they were independent. It’s not merely making divisions, but it is breaking things up which are not really spearate. It’s like taking a watch and smashing it into fragments, rather than taking it apart and finding its parts. The parts are parts of a whole, but the fragments are just arbitrarily broken off from each other. Things which really fit, and belong together, are treated as if they do not. That’s one of the features of thought that’s going wrong.

~ David Bohm from, On Dialogue p56

I’m perpetually on a journey of self-awareness. I’m quite often applying my mind to understand things. This idea from Bohm about fragmentation, and in particular fragmentation being bad because it misses out on the relationships and inherent properties of the natural parts (in the sense of disassembled-watch parts versus smashed-watch bits). This idea of fragmentation is a warning against my running with the first way I manage to understand something; just because I’ve found one way to understand (smash) something into understandable pieces, doesn’t mean that’s the best way.

ɕ

Becoming a Supple Leopard

…is both the title of a book, and a thing I’d very much like to do. What’s stopping me?

It’s not genetics, because that only sets the boundary parameters. Sure, I’ll never literally be a leopard. But the set of genes I’ve been dealt seem pretty choice. Bonus, I can even change my genetic expression. So genetics is not what’s holding me back.

There are two things holding me back: My mindset and knowledge.

Mindset — I like to think of it like this: See this body? This is the body which results from all my choices and my mindset up to this moment. I don’t want a different body so that I can do this or that. (Well, I do but that’s exactly the problem.) Instead, I need to make better decisions. Here are a few ways that I use to steer my life…

  • “I’m not currently able to do that. To do that, I would first need to work on this, strengthen this, and learn this other skill.” (Never simply, “I can’t do that.“)
  • That isn’t a priority for me now.” (Never simply, “I don’t have time for that.“) Saying, “Sleep isn’t a priority,” or “Healthy eating isn’t a priority,” sorts my mindset out quickly.
  • “I am the sort of person who…” …is barefoot, until I have a reason to add things to my feet. …goes to bed early and regularly. …enjoys spending time preparing healthy meals. …is willing to say that isn’t a priority so that I can have a larger yes for things which are important to me.

Knowledge — There are many things which are a priority for me. Learning everything about each of the fields of human biology, physiology, kinesiology, nutrition, etc. is not a priority. I’ve made great strides in figuring out solutions to many of my problems, but it’s too enormous of a knowledge space for me to learn everything in every field.

Years ago (h/t Jesse!) I first saw a copy of Kelly Starrett’s book Becoming a Supple Leopard. It was an impressive book, and was well recommended. But I was still at a place in my journey where I wanted to carve my own path, and went on my way trying to figure everything out on my own. But no more!

Recently (h/t Andrew!) I was gifted a big, beautiful 2nd edition of the book. Which dovetails nicely with my no longer wanting to figure everything out on my own. So I’ve been diving into Starrett’s Becoming a Supple Leopard.

The third and most notable problem with our current thinking is that it continues to be based on a model that prioritizes task completion above everything else. It’s a sort of one-or-zero, task-done-or-not, weight-lifted-or-not, distance-swum-or-not mentality. This is like saying, “I deadlifted 500 pounds, but I herniated a disc,” or, “I finished a marathon, but I wore a hole in my knee.” Imagine this sort of ethic spilling over into the other aspects of your life: “Hey, I made you some toast! But I burned down the house.”

~ Kelly Starrett from, Becoming a Supple Leopard

I’m still reading the entire book-worth of information in the first part of the book. Plus, the middle parts are an encyclopedic compendium of gargantuan proportions with hundreds of mobility exercises. I skimmed through all of it, and resigned myself to never being able to try, let alone learn, all of them in a systematic fashion. Instead, in the back of the book there is a 14-day system for cherry-picking things to do, and that is the thing I’m digging into. In fact, I expect I’ll simply repeat the 14-day thing (changing what specific activities I’m picking) until I become bored or a supple leopard.

To make that a little easier, I made this PDF so I could print and write directly on it:

ɕ

Listening

I was reading a single post, Waste time, from Mandy Brown’s aworkinglibrary.com. It’s worth reading just to realize there are two, contradictory suggestions for how to live a life depending on how you interpret this deceptively simple sentence:

There is so little time to waste during a life.

And then Brown led me to her reading notes from a book by Mary Rueflé where this left me gobsmacked:

I used to think I wrote because there was something I wanted to say. Then I thought, “I will continue to write because I have not yet said what I wanted to say”; but I know now I continue to write because I have not yet heard what I have been listening to.

~ Mary Rueflé from, Madness, Rack, and Honey

It is indeed unfortunate that there is so little time to waste during a life! I am redoubling my efforts to find more time to waste.

ɕ

Lazy summer afternoons

If I want to recall peace, serenity, pleasure, I think of myself on those lazy summer afternoons, with my chair tipped back against the wall, the book on my lap, and the pages softly turning. There may have been, at certain times in my life, higher pitches of ecstasy, vast moments of relief and triumph, but for quiet, peaceful happiness, there has never been anything to compare with it.

~ Isaac Asimov

slip:4a1184.

Then you read

You think your pain and your heartbreak are unprecedented in the history of the world, but then you read. It was reading books that taught me that the things that tormented me most were the very things that connected me with all the people who were alive, or who ever had been alive. An artist is a sort of emotional historian.

~ James Baldwin

slip:4a1154.

Ridiculous

The moral? That there is no greater homage we could pay Proust than to end up passing the same verdict on him as he passed on Ruskin, namely, that for all its qualities, his work must eventually also prove silly, maniacal, constraining, false and ridiculous to those who spend too long on it.

“To make [reading] into a discipline is to give too large a role to what is only an incitement. Reading is on the threshold of the spiritual life; it can introduce us to it: It does not constitute it.”

Even the finest books deserve to be thrown aside.

~ Alain de Botton

slip:4a1107.

Heroism

Heroism is more fun but less reliable than good planning.

~ Seth Godin from, https://seths.blog/2023/03/simple-techniques-for-complex-projects/

It’s a good point.

And it took me a long time to realize that heroism isn’t even fun. Long ago I used to rush in, sometimes literally, and save the day. I’ve played the theme song from Mission: Impossible while rushing to fix computers in the middle of the night. One time, although I wasn’t rushing but was en route to fix things, I was nearly killed in a car crash, in the middle of the night, on a highway that was deserted, until I was hit from behind, at extreme speed, by two people who were racing side-by-side. I think I just channeled Proust. I digress. Where was I?

It took me a long time to realize that heroism isn’t even fun. Years later, I was reading M. B. Stanier‘s The Coaching Habit (which I recommend, but I more highly recommend his, The Advice Trap) where I found his mention of the “Karpman Drama Triangle”. I’m not even sure if that’s a real thing; It should be a real thing and I’m not going to spoil it by actually looking. Karpman, apparently, identifies the “Rescuer” as one of the three types of people in his dramatic triangle. (When I first read that I thought, “Oh my gawd, I used to always be that person. I’m so glad I’ve totally outgrown that,” while chuckling nervously.) The Rescuer’s core belief is, “Don’t fight, don’t worry, let me jump in and take it on and fix it.” Crap. I’m pretty sure I still have this problem.

ɕ