Paralysis

I’ve been up for more than two hours today. I’m completely paralyzed by too many things to do. At this point—this point right here where I’ve opened the text box to write a blog post—I’m simply flailing. Simply grasping at any action.

Where’s the actual problem though? The paralysis isn’t from external pressures; it isn’t that I cannot figure out how to get things done in time, or on budget, to meet other’s expectations. All the expectations come from myself. This is a theme which has come up previously here multiple times.

Luke 4:23 springs to mind. What would I suggest if someone came to me with these exact symptoms, and asked me for help? I’d suggest visualizing what would success look like.

“It would be not this feeling!”

Yes, okay. Can you describe the current feeling?

“It’s a frenetic, cacophony of ideas and options, making me feel like progress—progress is clearly possible upon each idea and option, but progress upon any idea or option feels pointless.”

I notice you said, ‘feels pointless’, … why use ‘feels’ rather than ‘is’?

“Because I know that I could easily finish, at an awesome level of execution, any one of these things. So just picking one of them, arbitrarily, for discussion, progress on that one would move it towards completion.”

Are you saying that working on any of one of them— when you focus on that line of action alone— that actually feels like a good idea?

“Well, yes.”

If considering one feels okay, but considering all of them makes working on them feel not okay…

“But how do I choose? How do I be sure that I can finish all of them— all of these projects?”

You are aware that you cannot be certain to finish anything. This last thing you’ve said is a fact of life, because of the dichotomy of control. If you’ve only chosen to work on virtuous things— let’s take that as a given— then all these things you’re struggling to pick among… they’re all nothing more than preferred indifferents. Pick one, since they are all equally awesome. Chop wood. Carry water.

ɕ

Alert watchfulness

We equate being smart and being driven as the ways to get ahead. But sometimes, an attitude of alert watchfulness is far wiser and more effective. Learning to follow your nose, pulling on threads of curiosity or interest, may take you places that being driven will never lead you to.

~ Tim O’Reilly

slip:4a678.

In the end

Not just that every day more of our life is used up and less and less of it is left, but this too: If we live longer, can we be sure our mind will still be up to understanding the world—to the contemplation that aims at divine and human knowledge? If our mind starts to wander, we’ll still go on breathing, go on eating, imagining things, feeling urges and so on. But getting the most out of ourselves, calculating where our duty lies, analyzing what we hear and see, deciding whether it’s time to call it quits—all the things you need a healthy mind for… all those are gone.

So we need to hurry.

Not just because we move daily closer to death but also because our understanding—our grasp of the world—may be gone before we get there.

~ Marcus Aurelius, Med. 3.1

slip:4a674.

Understanding

The speed with which all of them vanish—the objects in the world, and the memory of them in time. And the real nature of the things our senses experience, especially those that entice us with pleasure or frighten us with pain or are loudly trumpeted by pride. To understand those things—how stupid, contemptible, grimy, decaying, and dead they are—that’s what our intellectual powers are for.

~ Marcus Aurelius

slip:4a664.

It’s the little things

That even though we evolved as ruthless replication machines, we’ve somehow risen out of the muck and we currently find ourselves running cultural software that’s way out of sync with what game theory would dictate, and perhaps we can seize the moment and build a civilization that can tame the brutal dynamics that created us.

~ Dynomight from, https://dynomight.net/about.html

Eliding a long explanation, I’ll just say: I hope that’s still accessible by the time you read this. Also, my normal routine is to bookmark stuff and to later—often much later—write a blog post around it. But not this time. This one caused me to drop what I was doing and blog about it… before even having finished reading it.

You’ll instantly see (once you go there… why are you still here?) why it appeals to me. You’ll be way ahead of the average level of science knowledge if you just skim the list. But the big take-away for me is: It’s not at all hard to find things to be thankful for, and I don’t just mean insanely technical things like that which are on that list. No, I mean…

All you have to do is look around, and start imagining changes. Completely realistic changes. Small changes even. And every single thing that we think, “oh, that’s nice,” becomes something to be thankful for.

ɕ

Richard Feynman

I hesitated. “I’m sad because you’re going to die.”

“Yeah,” he sighed, “that bugs me sometimes too. But not so much as you think.” And after a few more steps, “When you get as old as I am, you start to realize that you’ve told most of the good stuff you know to other people anyway.”

~ Danny Hillis and Richard Feynman from, https://blog.longnow.org/02017/02/08/richard-feynman-and-the-connection-machine/

slip:4a813.

When I’m reading, pull-quotes leap out. It hard to catch the actual process, but what I think happens is that my mind free-associates to something that resonates. I think it’s the strength of the resonance that slams my attention onto the particular bit I’m reading. My mind races off along connections. It is rare that I read something through, and then think: “I should share this,” or, “I should write about this.” It is rare that I have to hunt around for something to quote; Rather it’s the usually metaphorical blinding flash, but sometimes visceral embodied flash, of the pull-quote that tells me I should share it.

After the third blinding flash of, “that’s a pull-quote I have to share,” I stopped counting. I spent an hour with this short read—it’s only a few minutes of reading. Over and over I was struck by some bit, and my mind raced off. Each time, delighted to see where I was going, and with no intention of reigning in my train of thought.

…but this bit that I pull-quoted — I really hesitated. It’s almost a bit of spoiler. I certainly hope you don’t feel like it’s a spoiler. I certainly hope you do go over and read it.

ɕ

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, https://www.gapingvoid.com/blog/2021/07/19/the-power-of-culture/

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.

ɕ

slip:4a123.