Looking at new things

The third reason is that looking at new things, even if they’re just new streetcorners or deer trails, helps me recover a certain uncomplicated way of looking at things that used to be automatic when I was a kid.

~ David Cain from, https://www.raptitude.com/2022/05/how-to-get-the-magic-back/

Just as I read this, it occurred to me that a big part of the “magic” of my experience with Art du Déplacement (aka parkour) came from the effect that Cain is describing. I’ve always felt that when I decide to “just go out” and try to train, there was always some component of magic missing. By myself, it always felt simply as if I was slogging away at “exercise.” When I’m invited by others to join them, quite often somewhere I’ve not previously been, there’s a lot of “looking at new things” that happens automatically. Randonautica (click through to Cain’s article) is clearly one way to force that novelty upon oneself.

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Sedimentation and erosion

I have this image of our home as a bunch of related-rates problems: There’s inflow and outflow. Energy: In through my electric meter, out through lighting, waste heat and heating/cooling, water heater, etc.. Climate control: Heat flow in from heating/cooling system, the wood stove, the sun, versus losses through the attic, windows, doors, etc.. Mass: The balance of the rates of the flow of all the stuff.

Ever stop to think of that? Think of your home as a sealed balloon which has two, (or more of course,) doors, (garage doors count,) through which everything passes. Everything—no exceptions—passes in first, and then out second. Everything–every single thing, including the people–is only inside temporarily. The people come and go most frequently, (some pets might exceed some people I suppose,) and some things might remain inside for decades. But still, inside only temporarily.

You know that at some point you, (and everyone else if you share your home,) will go out for the last time. You might carry some things with you on your last exit, or you might arrange for someone else to come in, (and go out and in and out and in and out one last time,) to remove things after you go out for the last time. And of course eventually the entire structure will be removed and certainly at that point, everything you brought in—everything that was temporarily still inside—will go out at that point.

Where does everything you carry in from the market and grocery store go? Where does the furniture go? The books? The nick-naks? The packages and packing material from purchases? The clothes? The postal mail? The firewood you carry in is vastly more massive than the ashes you carry out; where does all that mass go?

Based on how the things around me make me feel, I know I have too much stuff. When I think of our stuff this way—as just a mass of stuff that’s temporarily inside our home—it’s much easier to keep my life under control. Too much stuff? …all I need to do is make sure more goes out than comes in, on average, and the problem will subside.

…and I can have fun with it. If something breaks, is worn out, or I’m done with it, that’s the outbound mass for today! Can I recycle this random thing? Can I FreeCycle this random thing? I no longer feel bad about sending things out, (wether that means landfill, recycle, giveaway, whatever… as appropriate.) Instead, I now find I feel bad about bringing things in. Each time I consider buying something, I think: Do I want to bring that into my life?

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It’s not important

It is difficult to imagine what wonderful changes would occur to human lives if people would stop poisoning themselves with brandy, wine, tobacco and drugs. […] Some people say, “It is not important if you drink or smoke.” If it is of no importance, then why not just stop, if you know that you harm yourself and, with your example, others?

~ Leo Tolstoy

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Our perspectives

The world simply exists as it is—things or events are not good or bad, right or wrong, ugly or beautiful. It is we, with our particular perspectives, who add color to or subtract it from things and people. We focus on either the beautiful Gothic architecture or the annoying tourists.

~ Robert Greene

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Learning to see

Most people to this day think of [the sciences and the arts] as so radically different from each other. But I want to posit a different way to look at it. It comes from what I think is a fundamental misunderstanding of art on the part of most people. Because they think of art as learning to draw or learning a certain kind of self-expression. But in fact, what artists do is they learn to see.

~ Ed Catmull

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Now

What we miss about our own beloved Good Old Days isn’t so much the material things they remind us of—wholesome 1980s sitcoms, or musty thrift-store sweaters—it’s the particular feelings those days gave us, feelings which are now impossible to experience.

~ David Cain from, https://www.raptitude.com/2022/03/the-good-old-days-are-happening-now/

Cain rightly goes on to point out, that while we can’t feel those exact feelings again, there’s no reason we can’t—right this very instant—enjoy These Good Days. Ten years from now—presuming, of course—I can look back and think with a chuckle: Remember when I spent a couple years going really deep experimenting with knowledge systems. That was a fun exploration.

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Perspective and awareness

The thing about status dynamics, though, is that they aren’t in one spot. There isn’t a whole world that is being fully and accurately perceived, except for one blank space that’s being glossed over.

~ Duncan Sabien from, https://www.lesswrong.com/posts/7Pq9KwZhG6vejmYpo/the-metaphor-you-want-is-color-blindness-not-blind-spot

This is an interesting unpacking of some metaphors. If one has a blind spot in vision, simply shifting your gaze or moving slightly, will reveal what one is not seeing. This is a key way in which the “blind spot” metaphor is inaccurate and insufficient for systemic differences (in people, culture, society, etc.). The metaphor of red-green color blindness carries more utility because it points out that the things, or the distinctions, which one can’t see are everywhere; they are not literally in one stationary location (the problem is not simply under this X on this map), and no matter what one does—gaze shifting, moving around, thinking a great deal—those invisible thing are not going to appear.

The only way I’ve found to get through such problem is to engage with others whose literal and conceptual perspectives differ from my own. I’ll sum that up as: Discovery.

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Perspective

Age. Age brings perspective in the fine clarity one gets at midnight, on the tracks, looking into the lights of an oncoming train. It dawns on you rather quickly: There’s only so much time left. Only so many star-filled nights, snowfalls… brisk fall afternoons, rainy midsummer days. So how you conduct yourself and do your work matters. How you treat your friends, your family, your lover. On good days, a blessing falls over you. It wraps its arms around you and you’re free and deeply in and of this world. That’s your reward: Being here.

~ Bruce Springsteen

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