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

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?

Artificial constraints

A lot of my thinking, and sometimes even my problem solving, revolves around juxtaposition. What would the inverse of the current this be? Can I gain useful perspective from the other position? Big/small, loud/quiet, perfuse/sparse, etc.; there are many obvious qualities that create striking changes in perspective. However, I find particularly rewarding juxtapositions in unusual dimensions, and there’s one dimension in particular that pays off more than all others: Time.

Have a problem? …how would I solve it if I had 100 years? …what would have to be the case if I were going to solve it in 5 minutes?

It’s become common to talk about “minimum viable product” in the entrepreneurial space, and that’s a form of time constraint. (But it’s a useful idea because it also includes other constraints such as resources and people.)

The famous Getting Things Done system has many critical components. One in particular is paying attention to the next action for any given project. (And in GTD everything you do in your entire life is a ‘project’.) This too is a form of time constraint; it’s not, “I’ll move this project forward at some point in time,” (the perspective of unlimited time,) rather it’s, “if I was going to move this project forward in the next minute…”

Where in your life might a shift to expectation of greater or lesser time yield a huge benefit?

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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 http://www.raptitude.com/2014/05/okay-to-be-here/

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.

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Look at that

In outer space you develop an instant global consciousness, a people orientation, an intense dissatisfaction with the state of the world, and a compulsion to do something about it. From out there on the moon, international politics looks so petty. You want to grab a politician by the scruff of the neck and drag him a quarter of a million miles out and say, “Look at that, you son of a bitch.”

~ Edgar Mitchell