Golden down

Sitting on the patio one morning, in the cool humidity and calm air of what was going to be a blazing-hot summer day, this single down feather drifted down. It skimmed along the tabletop and disappeared off the edge taunting me to chase it.

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Expectations

When you start something, don’t raise other people’s expectations. What is highly praised seldom measures up to expectations. Reality never catches up to imagination. It is easy to imagine something is perfect, and difficult to achieve it. […] Honorable beginnings should serve to awaken curiosity, not to heighten people’s expectations. We are much better off when reality surpasses our expectations, and something turns out better than we thought it would.

~ Baltasar Gracián

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Numbered days

Try this: Hop over to https://wolframalpha.com and type in the following using your birthday…

how many days between m/d/yyyy and today

Study that number while looking for some perspective. Don’t tip into the yawing chasm of self-doubt, but rather strut towards the fertile plain of , “I’m awesome.” Finally, read this:

For this reason philosophers exhort us not to be contented with mere learning, but to add practice also, and then training. For we have long been accustomed to do the opposite of what we should, and the opinions that we hold and apply are the opposite of the correct ones. If, therefore, we do not also adopt and apply the correct opinions, we shall be nothing more than interpreters of the judgements of others.

~ Epictetus, Discourses 2.9.13-14, circa 700,000 days ago.

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Mind your own

Not to support this side or that in chariot-racing, this fighter or that in the games. To put up with discomfort and not make demands. To do my own work, mind my own business, and have no time for slanderers.

~ Marcus Aurelius, med. 1.5

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I recently had a run-in— well, to be accurate, I drove off the road… But I’ll call it a “run-in” with reality. (No injuries, no serious damage, just a bit of unexpected adventure in what should have been a boring car ride.)

First, as I touch-typed that previous sentence, I ended that parenthetical note by typing, “…a boring car die.)” If that’s not a Freudian slip, (where you mean one thing but say your mother,) I don’t know what it is. I stared at it for a moment and then corrected it, as it now appears above. Driving off the road didn’t scare me, but it has clearly been rattling around my thoughts recently.

Second, after more thought in the days after: Yeah, I’m ok with what I’m up to these days. Doing my own work. Working on minding my own business. Not making demands. Putting up with discomfort. …and that last one is not a passive-aggressive, “that’s ok I’ll just sit here in the dark.” (How many grandmothers does it take to change a light bulb? in case you didn’t catch that.) I mean simply putting up with discomfort; it’s hot, I’m sweaty and the gnats are annoying, sort of discomfort.

Anyway, I’ve just added this wonderful reminder from Aurelius to my collection of daily reflection prompts. There were 57, and now there are 58. It also becomes quote number 652 in my growing collection. If you’re curious about how these posts are created, it’s a mixture of scheduled posts and daily writing. Instead of scheduling this one out somewhere in the future—which does have the advantage of surprising me when they do pop out… Instead, I’m opting to drop it here to give me some room for more thoughts.

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The span we live is small

Forget everything else. Keep hold of this alone and remember it: Each of us lives only now, this brief instant. The rest has been lived already, or is impossible to see. The span we live is small—small as the corner of the Earth in which we live it. Small as even the greatest renown, passed from mouth to mouth by short-lived stick figures, ignorant alike of themselves and those long dead.

~ Marcus Aurelius, Meditations 3.10

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The clock of the Long Now

There is a Clock ringing deep inside a mountain. It is a huge Clock, hundreds of feet tall, designed to tick for 10,000 years. Every once in a while the bells of this buried Clock play a melody. Each time the chimes ring, it’s a melody the Clock has never played before. The Clock’s chimes have been programmed to not repeat themselves for 10,000 years.

~ Kevin Kelly from, http://longnow.org/clock/

The Long Now Foundation was started in 01996. They always include the leading zero in years as just another subtle way to get one to think long-term. I can’t say for sure that I’ve been following them since they started, but it’s got to be darn close. I will be going to Texas, (and to Nevada if I live long enough to see the second clock built,) to visit.

The 10,000-year clock is just one project. Grab your favorite beverage, put your phone on do-not-disturb and go spend an hour or so reading what the Long Now Foundation is up to.

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Stretched out before me

I was aching for what came next. I felt my whole life stretched out before me like an invisible buffet. I turned toward my future, mouth watering.

~ Amy Poehler from, https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2013/10/14/take-your-licks

Partly I simply wanted an excuse to quote some well-crafted prose.

But mostly I like the image she conveyed. The visceral potential of it all. The feeling that at any moment—but I’m not quite hurrying—I will intentionally turn a corner and I’ll be able to see down the next street. There’s nothing particularly wrong with this street of course.

But do you recall what it was like to long to look around that corner?

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It’s really hard to see from another’s perspective

In such a simple situation, I placed a message in what I thought was the best position: The door knocker.

~ Steven Pressfield from, https://stevenpressfield.com/2014/10/stick-it-to-the-doorknob/

It used to be that when someone asked me to look at something, or for feedback, I took it very seriously. Not “gravely” serious, but appropriately serious. I allocated what I felt would be sufficient time to give the task my undivided attention. I gave the whatever-it-was a deep thinking-through and tried to melt my mind into all the nooks and crannies(*).

No more!

Why? Because what do I desperately want when I ask someone for feedback? I want their fresh perspective.

I’ve already thought about it six ways to Sunday—I don’t even know what that means. I’ve a reason for every minuscule feature, every character, every color, … I don’t want you to ask me what sort of feedback I want… I don’t want you to get a pencil and pad out to write an outline… I don’t want you to think about what would be he best feedback to make the thing better… And these days I’m figuring that’s what everyone else wants too.

Just my first reaction. If I’m on my game, maybe my first few reactions; bonus points if I can muster a few positives and negatives. But either way, just *pow*, no holds barred. RFN (right now). As Pressfield said, hang the note right on the doorknob: “Your baby is ugly.” “That’s the most elegant Rube-Goldberg device I’ve ever seen.”

And then maybe ask a question or three once I’ve done the hard work of doing what I was asked.

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* Anyone else always associate that phrase with butter and Thomas’s English muffins?