Slower than a bee

This vignette, seen in a certain way—as though it is happening, but not happening to me—can be just what it is, without any entanglement with my own interests. None of my reflexive moral judgments are present. The angle of the sun doesn’t remind me of everything I still have to get done today. Seeing twenty-year-old students doesn’t make me wish I was younger. Because I’m not here. It’s just life unfolding, and on its own it’s beautiful.

~ David Cain, from

If you sit still, you can do what he’s describing anywhere. (You’ll have to go at least skim the article.) But if you sit still and do the visualization in nature, you will be immediately rewarded.

The world moves at its own pace. Somehow, it’s neither always faster nor slower than my normal pace. It’s a fundamentally different kind of pace that encompasses all the range of speeds. Regardless of speed, it’s unhurried. Meanwhile, it turns out that I’m completely capable of hurrying at various speeds. But sitting still and noticing the pace of the world always provides me with striking perspective.

There are so many varied speeds; Bees and birds, wind and trees, sun and moon, and there are slower speeds of course, but I can’t see those. If I pay extreme attention, in just the right situation, I can see a shadow cast by the sun moving. But that’s as slow as I can see—something that moves on the scale of one day.

Have you ever stopped to consider the speed of a bee? Do bees even notice we are moving? Are we just these large-ish pieces of their environment which are always in different places when they return “tomorrow” (aka, a minute later in our timeframe)? It seems obvious to me that the bees are going too fast and are missing EVERYTHING. (Well, sure, pollination and bee-production they’ve got.) But from my enlightened, lofty perch of slower-than-the-bee, I can see so much more.

Which makes me wonder: From my lowly perch of faster-than-a-lot-of-other-things, what am I missing?



Today, it’s alarmingly easy to find yourself antler-locked with some remote, faceless person who’s trying to tell you that universal healthcare is a communist plot, while you’re waiting for your potato to finish microwaving. This facelessness turns up our impulse to argue even more. You may have noticed it’s a lot less pleasant to argue with someone when you can see their eyes.

~ David Cain from

I find it, in fact, so unpleasant to argue with people that I’ve effectively given up the effort entirely.

The first phase comes of self-reflection once you think you might—at least some of the time—be wrong. The second phase comes when you realize that your sometimes-wrongness might apply to the interactions with other human beings. Phase three is when you wonder why it is important to change the other’s mind. Phase four is when you stop judging people at all.

This has the side effect that you also give up trying to get people to stop arguing at you. If I don’t argue, then the other person assumes their idea has carried the argument, when in reality I’m focused on how delightful my iced tea is, or the weather.

I’m reminded of the ages of roots, fire, water and air that I mentioned a few days back; Once you start flirting with the age of air, the only person left to argue with is oneself.


When is the last time you did nothing?

Blaise Pascal famously said that all human miseries arise from our inability to do this. But I think it’s really just an unwillingness. He’s right about the arising miseries though—not knowing how to deliberately do nothing is a crippling disease that leads to bizarre, self-defeating phenomena like workaholism, cigarette smoking, rude smartphone behavior (see below) and eventually war and pestilence.

~ David Cain, from

Not to be confused with, “doing something that doesn’t advance you towards a goal.” That’s still doing something. A lot of people spend a lot time doing all sorts of that busy-nothing; I see you on the street, in your car, at the cafe, the glow of the TV in your homes, and I can tell by the words that I overhear that all that stuff is important to you. There’s a good book, What Makes Your Brain Happy: And Why You Should Do the Opposite, which I offer for your consideration.

No, I’m asking about “doing nothing” as in sitting, or perhaps lying down, and being fully aware of the reality around you. For many years, I ran in terror from doing nothing. I ran to my todo lists or my goals or my habits designed to improve my life or my TV or my fiction books…

I started by intentionally setting out—if even for a few minutes—to do nothing. I’ve gotten pretty darn good at it these days. What I’m currently practicing is learning that doing nothing is the good stuff I should not feel guilty about.

Why not go do nothing right now?


In real life

Yet many modern-day Westerners — who will live their whole lives with freedom of speech and the means to talk to almost anyone about anything — remain convinced they are essentially powerless to improve human life around the world, and use their internet access primarily to share pictures of cats.

~ David Cain, from

I recently deleted my Facebook account; Not, “deleted the app from my phone,” but deleted my account so I am no longer on Facebook. That was the last of the social networks I was on.

My life is measurably better now without social networks. I still have this inconceivably amazing tool in my pocket which I use regularly to leverage the hard-won advantages of the human race in 2019. I still use that tool, (and other tools, including my feet and a bicycle,) to collapse the distance between me and those I want to communicate with.

I look forward to seeing you in the big room with the ceiling that’s sometimes blue and sometimes black!


Intentional about people

People who cultivate an inward orientation on purpose are still relegated to the “alternative” fringes for the most part. Only a minority of people I know seem to have any interest in mindfulness and meditation, which are really just ways of practicing inwardness so that we can stay receptive in ordinary moments — which probably don’t contain hot tubs or ice cream or cocktails or anything else that’s exceptionally agreeable.

~ David Cain, from

I’ve said this before, and I’m sure I’ll say it again: I’m lucky to be surrounded by a network of people who are exceptional.

Where by “lucky” I mean: The harder I work, the luckier I seem to be. I’m intentional about the people I spend time with. Time is short, and there are countless people. By choosing who I spend time with, I’m controlling one facet of the experiences to which I’m exposed, and that’s one part of actively guiding who I become.


I am aware

This makes an argument for two particular life skills:
1) Learning to notice the feeling of wanting something, without buying the mind’s story that it is necessary for happiness, and
2) Learning to pay attention to the present moment without habitually evaluating it — analyzing how it could be better, more secure, cleaner or fairer or otherwise more gratifying.

~ David Cain, from

I’ve spent so much time—all of my life so far in fact—trying to figuring it out, that it’s probably impossible to believe myself when I think I have something figured out.

The present moment is perfect, and I am blissfully aware of the present moment. I could write a full page right here and now detailing the last moment. And in the past, I’ve done exactly that in my journal as a pop quiz to verify that I “get this.”

Meanwhile my problems remain, and they are quite real. I’ll not share details because this blog is about me and my journey, not the others in my life. Suffice it to say that I am simply serving out my remaining days. They’re very nice days, to be sure, full of very nice moments which I enjoy. But those enjoyed days and moments aren’t related to making progress on the problems because they are orthogonal ideas.


This too shall pass

This is a news flash to some: It’s okay to experience unpleasant feelings. It’s okay for things to happen that you don’t want to happen. It is possible to notice these things happening and consciously allow them to be there. And it makes a huge difference to how traumatic or not-so-bad the experience ends up being.

~ David Cain, from

I believe that in some people circumspection develops with age.

I love to remind myself: If things are not going as I’d wish, relax because they won’t last. Also, if things are going as I’d wish, relax because they won’t last either.

There will be a last time that I awake from sleep. There will be a last time I have dinner with my mom. There will be a last line of software I write. There will be a last parkour jump I do. There will also be a last wasp sting, a last broken bone, a last heart-break, and the hottest and stickiest time I’ve ever experienced.

Why exactly should I be affected by the flat tire on my bicycle, the traffic jam, the cancelled flight or the irate customer?

In the end, it is all the same.


Unfollowing everyone

No matter what we think of each other, maybe it isn’t at all important that I follow you, or that you follow me. We are both elsewhere, in more complete forms. Let’s find each other there.

~ David Cain, from

Having recently completed the last step of a complete exodus from my personal participation in social networks, I can now say: I have no idea wether I’m interacting more or less with other humans, and I do not care. I’m less stressed and I don’t miss it. I feel so much better just never going to those spaces.

But, wow did I used to spend time there.

It’s almost as if the multi-billion-dollar companies know so much about manipulating human behavior that I was literally unable derive benefit. It’s almost as if I was simply a battery plugged into their matrix.


Deciding versus doing

Doing a pushup isn’t that hard, and with a fully defined program, once I’ve decided to go with it, a pushup is all I ever have to do. Push the floor away, and I will get there. On the action level that’s all I need to be thinking about. Trying to do a pushup while you’re simultaneously deciding whether it’s worthwhile is about ten times harder than just lifting your body off the floor.

~ David Cain, from

Hear! Hear! and once more, louder, for those in the back!

I’ve come to the conclusion that for me, the desired ratio for the time spent deciding versus doing is infinite. I strive to spend all of my time deciding. I try to never do anything. I try to always sit with the thinking and the deciding. …stay with it. …wait. …keep thinking. …no, I’m not yet done deciding. …no, do not initiate action.

Because no matter how hard I try to stay with the deciding, my urge to do eventually forces me into action. I never have trouble shifting from deciding to doing.

This is very closely related to my touch-stone phrase for 2019, which is, “no.” In 2018 I tried the classic, “HELL YES! …or no,” and I still said yes far too often. So for 2019 I’m trying to always say, “no.” I’m trying to spend all my time deciding.

Halfway through 2019 and I’m still getting far too much done.