Eggs and omelettes

There is no angst. There is no disease, suffering, and death. There is no killing. There’s no lust or envy or avarice of pride. There are no eviction notices or IRS audits.

In other words, it isn’t real life.

~ Gaping Void from,

But that’s particularly difficult to remember when you are the down-the-stairs end of something monsterous and the up-the-stairs person is going s l o w l y and futzing with their grip. Or when you are traffic. (My omission of the word “in” is intentional.) Or the queue at the security check point is crazy. The children on the bus are unruly. The tire goes flat. The microwave craps out. And on and on. Because it’s precisely in those moments that we choose what sort of person we want to be.

Presume good intent. Trust, (but verify. My fave Russian proverb, btw.) Everyone we meet is fighting a great battle. No one knows how hard I work—read that as “I” in your mind’s reading voice, so it really refers to yourself—therefore, I know not how hard others work. There are lots of ways to aphorize the sentiment, and I use every single one of them, every day, as I don the armor of the Angel of my Better Nature and try.




The point here is that I think this is one part of what teaching me how to think is really supposed to mean. To be just a little less arrogant. To have just a little critical awareness about myself and my certainties. Because a huge percentage of the stuff that I tend to be automatically certain of is, it turns out, totally wrong and deluded.

~ David Foster Wallace, from


As usual, therein lies a collection of thoughts nicely arranged into a constellation. I sometimes repeat the phrase, “assume positive intent,” to myself and to others as a caution against defaulting without thinking. It seems a base part of our nature—although the ancient benefits seem obvious it’s still only anecdotal evidence—that I default to defense. “Dead last” seems aptly named from the historical perspective, and “first” feels like we’re missing a catchy adjective. (“first fatality” maybe?) What might be called “herd middle” simply feels like the right choice most often. But that’s still defensive; Don’t stand out means blend in means wait and see means be cautious means they’re out to get me.

Boundaries? Yes, please. Rights and safety? Yes, and yes. But if the vast majority of us are really just like me… how great would it be if we assumed positive intent? …or, well, maybe we could do that at least half the time?


Finding meaning in the mundane

Everyone here has done this, of course. But it hasn’t yet been part of you graduates’ actual life routine, day after week after month after year.

But it will be. And many more dreary, annoying, seemingly meaningless routines besides. But that is not the point. The point is that petty, frustrating crap like this is exactly where the work of choosing is gonna come in.

~ David Foster Wallace from,


It occurs to me that I’ve no idea who gave the commencement address at my graduation. After a bit of digging…

Robert W. Galvin, chairman of Motorola, delivered the main address yesterday to the 1,150 graduates at the 125th commencement of Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pa.

Mr. Galvin received an honorary Doctor of Engineering degree.

~ from the May 31st NYT archives listing several school’s commencement addresses.