Nostalgia

Longing for the past is generally referred to as nostalgia – a gentle, tender feeling that might make these stories seem like nothing more than harmless sentimentality. But it is crucial to distinguish between wistful memories of grandma’s kitchen and belief in a prior state of cultural perfection.

~ Alan Jay Levinovitz from, https://aeon.co/essays/nostalgia-exerts-a-strong-allure-and-extracts-a-steep-price

You may or may not like that particular essay; There are 2,000 others to choose from over on Aeon. I was poking around, found this one, and pinned it for later reading. Figuring out how to pin things for later reading is a huge force multiplier. When I want to read good stuff, I never spend time looking for good stuff. I just go to the pile of good stuff—twitch at the 700+ items, veer back over into “that’s an embarrassment of riches, long live the open Internet—and start reading. Hmmm… nostalgia?

I remember, back in The Day, when I used to really enjoy reading— wait, no. That’s today, and without the 20-minute car ride to the Hall of Books.

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Step 2

People – especially really smart people – have a tendency to attempt solving big problems (like earning a profit) without first solving more basic ones (like how you’ll get there). This is why the “Step 1, Step 3” joke resonates. And it’s why understanding the hierarchy of earning profit is so important.

~ Morgan Housel from, https://www.collaborativefund.com/blog/the-hierarchy-of-earning-profit/

Oh, crikey! That’d be me. I too–frequently get frustrated when my “awesome idea” isn’t received the way I’d like it to be. I think it’s exactly the same step–two problem that Housel points out. I’m jumping over step 2. But in cases where I try to figure out step 2… *crickets* It occurs to me that there’s another way to address the issue: Stop chasing ideas that solve a problem that I have, and instead try to chase an idea that solves a problem someone else has.

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Kino Lorber

Go to this YouTube channel: Kino Lorber, click Playlists and then view the Free Documentaries (80 feature-length films) or the Free Movies on Demand playlist (145 films.) Kino Lorber is an international film distribution company; I thought it was a person when I first heard mention of this.

Now try this experiment: Pick a documentary (try Filmworker if you know who Stanley Kubrick is, M.C. Escher: Journey to Infinity if you have eyes, or Hieronymus Bosch: Touched by the Devil if painting is more your thing.) Watch the movie. Then reflect on the experience of watching a feature–length documentary, versus say, modern “serial” shows. I’ve relearned just how bad modern entertainment can be, when I reminded myself just how good film can be. (Surprise bonus-round: Watch The Atomic Café and be gobsmacked, horrified, and… some-other-feeling-I-can’t-quite-find-the-right-word-for in repeated cycles.)

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Techno-optimism

What follows is an attempt to consider some of the aspects and implications of techno-optimism. It is an attitude that has become somewhat taken for granted, which is precisely why it is important to consider what it is and how it functions.

~ “Z.M.L” from, https://librarianshipwreck.wordpress.com/2021/06/10/theses-on-techno-optimism/

This is an interesting thesis. I generally don’t like creating new labels for things. But “techno-optimism” just weaseled into my vocabulary.

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Basic values

There are some consistencies in what we all value. For example, most of us tend to prioritize caring for others more highly than dominating and controlling others—the latter two “are among the least important values to most people in most societies.”

~ Chris Bailey from, https://alifeofproductivity.com/there-are-just-10-basic-values/

I really enjoy sipping a cup of tea and taking a stroll through the gardens of others’ minds. Seeing the topiaries they’ve created never ceases to amaze me. Integration of knowledge is a hard problem (the hardest of all as a mere mortal?) Being able to see how someone has organized their thinking helps me examine how I’ve organized my thinking. Certainly, there are gardens I don’t bother visiting. But generally, being open and curious has led me to countless conversations of both the actual kind and the kind to which Niccolò Machiavelli refers.

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An addition to your knowledge

If you come across any special trait of meanness or stupidity […] you must be careful not to let it annoy or distress you, but to look upon it merely as an addition to your knowledge—a new fact to be considered in studying the character of humanity. Your attitude towards it will be that of the mineralogist who stumbles upon a very characteristic specimen of a mineral.

~ Arthur Schopenhauer

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On empathy

This was a particularly interesting (and difficult) post to research and write. There is a wealth of literature about empathy, and I found a lot of it surprising. I feel kind of like the kid who opened up the back of dad’s watch to see how it works and now is sitting amidst a cubic yard of springs and gears wondering how to put it all back together.

~ David Gross from, https://www.lesswrong.com/posts/SMziBSCT9fiz5yG3L/notes-on-empathy

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At 19,000 words and 77 minutes of reading, this is a small book. If you click through, you’ll quickly discover that it is also one of 50–or–so, similarly–sized “posts” by Gross on lesswrong.com. Fortunately, he didn’t let his “wondering how to put it all back together” stop him from taking it all apart. Entirely apart, dissected from every direction, and including diagrams.

Even if this topic, author, and specific linked-article aren’t of interest, I encourage you to click over to Lesswrong. It is a magnificent web site, beautifully simple to behold, and easy to read for hours on end. It is one of the very few websites on the Internet that I don’t instinctively glip to my browser’s show-reader-view. Lesswrong is jammed full of useful features for a reader. Lesswrong is quite literally what Wikipedia should be in terms of user experience and appearance.

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It matters that I am my work

[The common refrain is t]hat what you do for work doesn’t define you. That the health, hobbies, and relationships you cultivate outside the office are more important. That you’re a human being, and not a human doing, damnit.

It’s the kind of thing that sounds great in the abstract. Yet, no matter how often we rehearse it cognitively and rhetorically, it never entirely resonates viscerally.

~ Brett McKay from, https://www.artofmanliness.com/career-wealth/career/you-are-kind-of-your-job/

I define “work” as: The things I do so that I can trade the results with others. We can all trade in many ways, but a common way to trade is to use money as a way of storing and exchanging value. I don’t think I’m veering off into economics. That definition is critical. There are an enormous number of things which I do that, by that definition are not what I’d consider “work.” How much work one does in terms of hours-spent is going to vary tremendously (and it’s going to vary for countless reasons). There are 168 hours in a 7-day week. If one works 50 hours a week, that’s fully 30% of your total time. Conversely, if one works 5 hours, it’s 3%.

Let’s take it as true that what one does for work matters. That it matters in a real way, which affects your physical and mental health. I do believe that one is able to outgrow this need for meaningful work; I do think one can grow from our inherent nature of a being in need of meaningful doing, to become simply a human being as Mckay (and many others through history) has pointed out.

As one works less, doesn’t it become increasingly important that each moment of work be good work? A couple good hours a week used to make those 50-hours-a-week good. Where’s the “good work” balance for 5-hours-a-week? This inherent need to do work that matters gets stronger as one’s trading-with-others needs diminish. This seems to me, to suggest that the necessity of shifting to the “human simply being” becomes more urgent.

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Harmony and understanding

People are wise beings; they possess the ability to live according to the dictates of their intellect, and sooner or later, they will evolve from a state of violence to a state of complete harmony and understanding. And every act of violence makes this time more distant from today.

~ Leo Tolstoy

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Microstructures

We are well aware that structures such as buildings and organizational policies and operating processes support and constrain our activities. We tend to be much less conscious of smaller structures that influence our interactions with other people. In contrast to more tangible macrostructures, we call them microstructures. You have no choice. Every time you have a conversation or a meeting you are using microstructures.

~ Keith McCandless from, https://www.liberatingstructures.com/design-elements/

Once you see the solutions, you can’t unsee them. You—like me—probably think you do a good job of engaging other people. But there’s a great explanation in this little introductory article. It listed off all the ways… ways for which I was congratulating myself knowing… in which the microstructures we use today fail. And then it goes on (in brief in the article and at length through that web site, and a book) to show some beautiful ways to create and use structures which liberate us. That’s rather nice.

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