Nameless joys

That particular experience—abundant warmth and dryness with dampness at the fringes, and a well-earned touch of fatigue—is exactly the same feeling I had as a kid every time I came in from playing in the snow. It still summons images of snowball fights, toboggan rides, and the ribbon of exposed grass you make when you roll up a snowman-ball.

~ David Cain from https://www.raptitude.com/2019/10/a-million-nameless-joys-await/

Anybody else feel like looking back at all the ones I can think of seems almost inappropriately decadent? The more I thought about it, the more I came up with, until I started to think, “maybe I should become monastic for at least a short while, since I seem to have been gorging myself on joy.”

haha no

More seriously, his idea of the intersection—a Venn diagram as he put it—of place, time, and culture leading to unique moments of joy, is a succinct description of what I love about traveling; I’m not trying to escape from “here,” but rather I’m trying to see what’s outside my normally tiny Venn diagram.

ɕ

I am the crowd

This moment of forgetting always begins with a thought that you’re somehow different, morally speaking, than the rest of the crowd. That guy didn’t signal when he changed lanes. I always signal. That car could’ve made the light—I would’ve been quicker. I am always very efficient with overhead bin space.

~ David Cain, from http://www.raptitude.com/2017/12/the-crowd/

It’s been a long time since I‘ve gotten upset about crowds (of any sort.) But there was a time when stuck in traffic, or held up by a crowd, etc. really pushed my buttons.

Now I just feel sympathy for everyone who is in the crowd, (as I am as well,) but who doesn’t yet realize it.

ɕ

Renunciation

Renunciation is one of ten trainable qualities known traditionally as the paramis (the others being generosity, resolve, patience, morality, effort, insight, loving-kindness, equanimity and truthfulness).

~ David Cain, from https://www.raptitude.com/2017/11/opting-out/

This feels—perhaps—like a more nuanced version of my, “just say no to everything,” theme for 2019. That may should harsh, but it’s not. I say, “yes,” to many many things. When I try to say, “no,” to everything, I end up saying, “yes,” to only one-many things.

I’m not a Buddhist by any stretch of the imagination. So I’m not about to take up the paramis as an explicit practice. But the idea of actively renouncing things gives me a positive practice; something I can actively do, rather than something I have to avoid doing.

If you have an elephant problem, “don’t think of a pink elephant,” isn’t going to help. “Just say no,”—despite it’s possible utility as a drug use prevention program—isn’t working very well for my problem. So instead, “think of flowers,” works better for the elephant problem.

So maybe, today I can practice keeping space.

Also…

The solution is simple and difficult.

We can turn it off.

If it’s not getting you what you need or want, turn it off for a few hours.

~ Seth Godin, from https://seths.blog/2017/10/the-engine-of-our-discontent/

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

ɕ

That’s easy, but it doesn’t count

In other words, the only way for a person to experience that particular place and time was to experience that particular place and time, and I although I was in the right place, I spent much of that time goofing with my phone.

~ David Cain, from https://www.raptitude.com/2019/09/nothing-can-be-saved-for-later/

I have become a master of not goofing around with my phone. I have become a master of experiencing certain moments; leaning into the present one might say. Engage with random dogs. Wander that interesting side street. Stop and actually smell that flower. Take off my shoes and play barefoot in this tree. Pause and enjoy the sunshine and blue sky during this nice walk.

But that’s trivial. And it doesn’t make my life terrific. I’m still profoundly unhappy and stressed out.

Know what’s hard? Leaning into, and enjoying, the experiences which are stereotypically the things I dis-prefer. (I’d prefer them to be otherwise, but in fact I have no control over.) That chunk of boring software I have to write. Staying up until 1am, (I’m normally asleep at 9:30,) to babysit a computer system that has to be rebooted in off-hours. Dealing with burnt-out headlamps on the car… when it’s raining, and I had an appointment to get my Mac fixed. Pouring my life into a project and watching no one support it. And so on. Lots and lots of moments that suck the joy of life right out of me.

Yeup, lots more moments I need to lean into.

ɕ

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 https://www.raptitude.com/2019/08/how-to-see-things-as-they-are/

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?

ɕ

Antler-locked

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 http://www.raptitude.com/2016/02/the-art-of-letting-others-be-right/

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.

ɕ

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 http://www.raptitude.com/2016/03/4-absurdly-easy-things/

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?

ɕ

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 http://www.raptitude.com/2014/11/the-gift/

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!

ɕ

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 http://www.raptitude.com/2014/06/two-ways-viewing-world/

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.

ɕ