Impermanence

I don’t know why we long so for permanence, why the fleeting nature of things so disturbs. With futility, we cling to the old wallet long after it has fallen apart. We visit and revisit the old neighborhood where we grew up, searching for the remembered grove of trees and the little fence. We clutch our old photographs. In our churches and synagogues and mosques, we pray to the everlasting and eternal. Yet, in every nook and cranny, nature screams at the top of her lungs that nothing lasts, that it is all passing away. All that we see around us, including our own bodies, is shifting and evaporating and one day will be gone. Where are the one billion people who lived and breathed in the year 1800, only two short centuries ago?

~ Alan Lightman from, The Accidental Universe

It seems obvious to me that apprehending the impermanence of everything is necessary in order to remain sane. Obviously my entire existence is an immeasurably tiny fraction of an instant. Obviously there is no ultimate “point” to all of this. Obviously there is no one true meaning of life.

It removes a lot of baggage and struggle once you realize that reality is in fact the real situation you are in.

…and then you’re free. Free to create, conjure, combine, laugh, love, learn, run, ramble, perable, talk, commiserate, procreate, invent, integrate, mix, mingle and just generally ENJOY LIVING.

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Reading is a superpower

The genuine love for reading itself, when cultivated, is a superpower. We live in the age of Alexandria, when every book and every piece of knowledge ever written down is a fingertip away. The means of learning are abundant—it’s the desire to learn that’s scarce. Cultivate that desire by reading what you want, not what you’re “supposed to.”

~ Naval Ravikant

Just a chair

It’s all about the context. I find that having certain spaces where I do certain things works wonders. For example, if I want to do certain kinds of work, I sit here and all my tools are arrayed. In general, the act of showing up at the designated area and having the environment pre-set to be conducive to the activity is often enough to get my brain to shift into the mode I need.

Have you ever tried to find a chair for reading?

For about a decade I’ve had a typical Pöang chair from Ikea that I sit in to read. It’s absolutely horrible for reading. But it’s better than any chair I have in my house. So buy a chair Craig! …if only I could find one.

High enough at the back so I can rest my head. The whole chair tipped back far enough that I can completely relax and have all of my body settle into the chair. Feet flat on the floor. Padded arm rests. Arm rests high enough that when I hold the thing I’m reading it’s up at eye level.

Sorry. This quest is driving me bonkers.

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Books

I read now for the same reasons I read then — to feel less alone. But I read for more than that: Reading teaches me the answers to problems I haven’t had yet, or to problems I didn’t even know how to describe. And when I feel less alone with what troubles me, it is easier to find solutions. A book to me is like a friend, a shelter, advice, an argument with someone who cares enough to argue with me for a better answer than the one we both already have. Books aren’t just a door to another world — each book is part of a door to the whole world, a door that always has more behind it. Which is why I still can’t think of anything I’d rather do more than read.

~ Alexander Chee, from A Velocity of Being, which I found via, https://www.brainpickings.org/2019/06/11/alexander-chee-a-velocity-of-being-letter/

I’ve mentioned elsewhere that growing up, it was a 20-minute drive to anything. A true bookstore, or even a public library, was farther still.

But I do distinctly remember the feeling of being among books. At a book store, at my high school’s library, at the closest [small] city’s public library, and eventually at my university’s two libraries. To be honest, I don’t know when last I thought of that feeling, until it bubbled up, just now as I write. The lighting. The sound-scape. The smells. The furtniture. And of course the books. Knowledge and experiences and surprises and questions beyond belief.

(Woa! I just remembered the huge amount of time I spent thinking about one day having a proper study. My own personal library, meets workspace, meets inner sanctum. And I’m reminded that I’m currently obsessed with finding a good chair for reading.)

But it’s all about the books.

Carl Sagan captured it best when we said, “Humans work magic.

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On being wrong

I’ve come to realize that I love being wrong.

I spent so many years reinforcing the thought that I could be the guy; The guy who swoops in and solves the problem when things get technically complicated, the guy who swoops in and creates order and process out of the chaos, the guy who swoops in and gets things done. Setting aside the analysis of whether or not I was actually particularly good at that, I did “I can be that guy” so much that I had convinced myself that I am that guy.

In The Coaching Habit, Michael Bungay Stanier talks about the Karpman drama triangle. I’ve certainly played all three roles of Persecutor, Victim and Rescuer. But I realize now that I’m addicted—or perhaps I can be hopeful enough to say was addicted?—to being the Rescuer. In the past year or so it’s become clear to me that it’s vastly more healthy and fun(!) to be part of a team that solves problems and gets things done.

To be the person who asks a question that opens a flood gate of discussion.

To be the person who understands that one’s purpose was to have been instrumental in creating the environment last week, so this week the team solves the problem on its own.

To be the person who is a complete and utter success, by having simply contributed a small addition here, a minor adjustment there.

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§19 – One word

(Part 31 of 34 in Study inspired by Pakour & Art du Déplacement by V. Thibault)

What is it, in this sport or project, that moves me, motivates me, nourishes me—and helps me thrive and shine?

~ Vincent Thibault

What facilitates my flourishing? Today, I’m going to say it’s space.

Not physical space—although there’s a nice metaphor here about having things planted too closely in a garden and how that affects the plants’ flourishing. No, not physical space; I’ve plenty of that.

Perhaps not even mental space—I’m certainly buffeted about by the myriad winds of demands and responsibilities. But with very few exceptions, I’ve created all of those zephyrs. No, although I have left myself no mental space, I am able usually to create it on demand.

Most likely it’s emotional space. The idea that we need room to soak in the emotional experiences that go along with the reality of things, events, and people, and to do that with no specific “why” in mind.

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§17 – Be that guy

(Part 29 of 34 in Study inspired by Pakour & Art du Déplacement by V. Thibault)

After too many readings to remember, I’m still at a loss to summarize my thoughts. The difficulty is that this is an area of my life with which I currently struggle daily.

There is a basic challenge-level to reality: There is a stone in my shoe. It’s time to mow the lawn. This bill should be paid. I’m great at handling huge numbers of these basic sorts of challenges. Unfortunately, the positive thinking of chapter 17 doesn’t give me a handle on solutions to basic challenges. …and I am completely swamped with these sorts of basic challenges.

Don’t conflate basic with easy. All of the easy, basic challenges I have under control; They are already done, or are managed by reliable systems. What I’m left with are the remainders—a pile of difficult, basic challenges. Things for which positive thinking still gives me no purchase.

I don’t have much of a grasp on this chapter. But then, that’s why I’m studying this book and using its chapters as jumping-off points for my thoughts.

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What feels right is probably wrong

This leads me to the point I wish above all to emphasize, namely, that when a person has reached a given stage of unsatisfactory use and functioning, his habit of ‘end-gaining’ will prove to be the impeding factor in his attempts to profit by any teaching method whatsoever. Ordinary teaching methods, in whatever sphere, cannot deal with this impeding factor, indeed, they tend actually to encourage ‘end-gaining.’ The instruction given to the golfer of our illustration to keep his eyes on the ball is typical of the kind of specific instruction given by teachers generally for the purpose of eradicating specific defects in their pupils, and, as we have seen in this case, this instruction was a stimulus to him to try harder than ever to gain his end, and so to misdirect his efforts worse than ever.

~ FM Alexander, The Use of the Self, pp66-67, 1932 (emphasis added)

I think there’s a lot more context necessary for that to make sense. One could go read the book; It’s small. But setting that aside for the moment.

Alexander raises the important point that what feels right may in fact be wrong. So the harder I try to do something correctly, by trying to do what feels right, the more likely I am to reinforce doing what is wrong. This starts to make more sense once I understood that the Brain is a Multi-layer Prediction Model. Once something is modeled incorrectly—when I move this way, it feels right—it’s going to be really difficult to change that model.

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That royal road to the physical and mental derangement of mankind

https://www.librarything.com/work/181654

And here I would like to add a word of warning to those I am trying to help, for a study of the letters in which the writers tell of experiencing difficulty in understanding, show signs of having been written after a quick reading rather than a close and careful study of the subject matter. I read recently an article suggesting that people should practise reading quickly, although the habit of too quick reading in which understanding becomes dominated by speed — that royal road to the physical and mental derangement of mankind — is an only too common failing today. This is only one example of the habit of too quick reaction to stimuli in general, and to its prevalence may be traced most of the misunderstandings, misconception and misdirecrion of effort manifested by the great majority of people today in conducting matters relating to the body politic.

~ F Matthias Alexander, in the 1941 preface to new edition of “The Use of the Self”

There is nothing new under the sun.

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Sleep smarter

https://www.librarything.com/work/17512525/150336148

The International Agency for Research on Cancer has now classified overnight shift work as a Group 2A carcinogen. This means that staying up late repeatedly, and working overnight, is a strong enough cancer-causing agent to be lumped in with lead exposure and UVA radiation. That might sound crazy, but there s now a ton of scientific data showing exactly how this happens.

~ Shawn Stevenson, pg 43 of Sleep Smarter

Shift work that involves circadian disruption? Carcinogen.

A while back I wrote a piece on Sleep. It turned into three parts and after writing it, I felt I had only scratched the surface. Then I stumbled over this book.

I read the book and it’s really good! I blasted through it agreeing all the way. If you know everything about sleep, you’ll still enjoy seeing it all laid out in an approachable fashion. If you have NOT YET MASTERED SLEEP — wait, what is wrong with you?! Sleep is the single most important thing in your life. It is the activity you spend the most aggregated time doing. Remind me why you have not spent time studying sleep and improving yours?

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