Here is some inspiration for a little morning brush pen drawing.
I’ve been thinking a lot about this metaphor of the side of the mountain versus the top over the past week.
“Mountains should be climbed with as little effort as possible and without desire. The reality of your own nature should determine the speed. If you become restless, speed up. If you become winded, slow down. You climb the mountain in an equilibrium between restlessness and exhaustion. Then, when you’re no longer thinking ahead, each footstep isn’t just a means to an end but a unique event in itself. This leaf has jagged edges. This rock looks loose. From this place the snow is less visible, even though closer. These are things you should notice anyway. To live only for some future goal is shallow. It’s the sides of the mountain which sustain life, not the top. Here’s where things grow.” (Robert M. Pirsig, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance)
This book was not the easiest read, but it keeps coming back to mind for me. I think I could re-read it another two or three times and still find new things within.
Another excerpt in the same categorey and from the same book that gets to the point more succinctly:
“The past cannot remember the past. The future can’t generate the future. The cutting edge of this instant right here and now is always nothing less than the totality of everything there is.” (Robert M. Pirsig, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance)
Finally, the only recording I’ve re-listened a number of times on the subject of recognizing that the most important thing is right now:
I like to think of art projects like little fires. First you gather your wood (the materials), you built it (get everything set-up) and then you light it. When inspiration strikes, you get burning.
I love the process of gathering the materials from the store (art, craft, book, hardware, etc) and have them all ready, meaning out and in view, so we can work when the mood strikes. Until I have a dedicated studio space this means transforming our dining table over the weekend, but here’s proof that it’s worth it: four projects done over the past four roughly four weeks that just sort of happened because the fire was ready to be lit.
I got this idea from Austin Kleon. I never knew how to fold and tear a piece of paper like this until now, and it’s a little detail that makes it super easy to transform any piece of paper into a mini-zine. No idea where the story came from either.
Mixing by hand
Me: “Sam you want to do some painting?” Sam: “Yes daddy!” Slide out some large sheets of card stock. Squeeze tubes of different color paints on. Watch him mix. Repeat!
The paper laptop
Vivian created this paper model of a laptop complete with fold out keyboard, sitckers on the case, kick stand, and laptop sleeve with handles. It’s just like what her parents use, and she even drew a browser on the screen showing “Google: Unicorns” on it with the search result.
No one helped her, no one even knew she was working on it. We were just going about doing chores while she was busy doing something at the dining-table-turned-studio.
The box critters
Kav made these with the kids, starting with some cutouts from a magazine and expanding into homemade hands and eyes and tails of all sorts. Reusing materials from around the house is a bonus, as it the fact that this art gets named and played with after. This genre of art project (box critter-making?) is an underrated wellspring that we’ll be sure to tap into more often.
Visited another new place in Scotland and spent much of the week there:
Islay and Jura are two isles (islands) off the west coast of Scotland known for being remote, sparsely populated, wild, beautiful and full of some of the best whisky in the world. My Dad and I ventured out to find all of this to be very true indeed.
Favorite new music: The latest from Makaya McCraven, We’re New Again: A Reimagining has been a great companion to lunches and sketching.
The Chicago drummer and producer transforms Gil-Scott Heron’s final album into a masterpiece of dirty blues, spiritual jazz, and deep yearning.
George Leonard and The Power of the Mind: this reference came up from a previous book note, and I read the Esquire article that provided the seed for his later book, Mastery.
This frontier thinking has venerable roots, especially in the Eastern martial arts, all of which share a common faith in an energy source called ki in Japanese, ch’i in Chinese, pneuma in Greek, and prana in Sanskrit. In the ancient tradition, ki is the fundamental energy of the universe that connects and relates all things. By controlling the flow of this energy in one’s own body or projecting it toward external objects, the martial artist can supposedly achieve extraordinary powers. Legends abound of masters who can stop an opponent in his tracks from
halfway across the room or even throw him head over heels. Karate practitioners generally claim that ki, even more than muscular strength, makes it possible for them to break bbards or concrete blocks.
Thus far, ki has proved difficult to measure, and skeptics tend to attribute its powers to suggestion, a sort of dynamic placebo effect. To the pragmatist, this distinction is unimportant. As a practitioner of aikido, an art in which ki plays an especially important role, I’ve generally found a strong correlation between my perception of personal ki and the power of my techniques. The idea of ki can offer the untrained person an effective way of gaining a sensation of increased energy along with relaxation, especially during times of fatigue and stress. Here’s an exercise designed to demonstrate the power that can come from visualizing ki.
I didn’t know much about George Leonard and his book prior, but based on a brief scan of notes from James Clear’s blog, I plan to pick it up.
Sir William Osler and the power of work: Osler was one of the most important figures in the founding of modern medicine, and said the following in one of his books:
Let each hour of the day have its allotted duty, and cultivate that power of concentration which grows with its exercise, so that the attention neither flags nor wavers, but settles with bull-dog tenacity on the subject before you. Constant repetition makes a good habit fit easily in your mind, and by the end of the session you may have gained that most precious of all knowledge—the power of work.
From Cal Newport:
We don’t teach this any more.
Modern educational institutions care a lot about content: what theories we teach, what ideas students are exposed to, what skills they come away knowing. But we rarely address the more general question of how one transforms their mind into a tool well-honed for elite-level cognitive work.
Book excerpt that I loved:
Although the strategy of gaining happiness by working to get whatever it is we find ourselves wanting is obvious and has been used by most people throughout recorded history and across cultures, it has an important defect, as thoughtful people throughout recorded history and across cultures have realized: For each desire we fulfill in accordance with this strategy, a new desire will pop into our head to take its place. This means that no matter how hard we work to satisfy our desires, we will be no closer to satisfaction than if we had fulfilled none of them. We will, in other words, remain dissatisfied.” (William B. Irvine, A Guide to the Good Life)
How to be perfect: A poem by Ron Padgett that’s got some brilliant advice and a subtle power. I’m adding it to my regular re-read list. Here’s just a small sampling (it’s much longer):
Look at that bird over there.
After dinner, wash the dishes.
Visit foreign countries, except those whose inhabitants have expressed a desire to kill you.
Don’t expect your children to love you, so they can, if they want to.
Meditate on the spiritual. Then go a little further, if you feel like it.
My notes: It’s all about working out your confusion. What does good look like, get in sync. What’s your experience? Describe it. Find out more about the other persons experience. Then if there’s a gap, figure it out and look at it together. No blame.
Worth a listen
Concierge car buying:
Then a guy called wanting a car. Carroll said he didn’t work at the dealership anymore. And the buyer said he didn’t care. Carroll decided then he would go solo. Not as the usual car “broker,” who tends to charge a direct fee to shoppers, but as a car “concierge” who planned to charge customers $0. He would work on commission.
Side note: I had no idea that USA Today has a trimmed down, super fast site special for the European Union which is intentionally bland and simple and fresh air compared to the usual bloat and ads on most news sites:
1. Persuade the client to let you do great work. 2. Get better clients.
They dance together every day. You get better clients as soon as you act like the creator who deserves better clients.
The intelligence coup of the century:
For more than half a century, governments all over the world trusted a single company to keep the communications of their spies, soldiers and diplomats secret. The company, Crypto AG, got its first break with a contract to build code-making machines for U.S. troops during World War II.
But what none of its customers ever knew was that Crypto AG was secretly owned by the CIA in a highly classified partnership with West German intelligence. These spy agencies rigged the company’s devices so they could easily break the codes that countries used to send encrypted messages.
Americans are worse at The Price Is Right than they used to be. On the game show, which has been running since 1972, four contestants are asked to guess the price of consumer products, like washing machines, microwaves, or jumbo packs of paper towels. The person who gets closest to the actual price, without going over, gets to keep playing and the chance to win prizes like a new car. In the 1970s, the typical guess was about 8% below the actual price. People underestimate the price by more than 20% in the 2010s.
“Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional. Say you’re running and you start to think, Man this hurts, I can’t take it anymore. The hurt part is an unavoidable reality, but whether or not you can stand any more is up to the runner himself. This pretty much sums up the most important aspect of marathon running.” (Haruki Murakami and Philip Gabriel, What I Talk About When I Talk About Running)
Running = life in this context I think.
“Many people think they’ve determined the next action when they get it down to “set meeting.” But that’s not the next action, because it’s not descriptive of physical behavior. How do you set a meeting? Well, it could be with a phone call or an e-mail, but to whom? Decide. If you don’t decide now, you’ll still have to decide at some other point, and what this process is designed to do is actually get you to finish the thinking exercise about this item. If you haven’t identified the next physical action required to kick-start it, there will be a psychological gap every time you think about it even vaguely. You’ll tend to resist noticing it, which leads to procrastination.” (David Allen, Getting Things Done)
Boiling things down to the physical behavior is annoying and hard but makes such a difference. I’m trying to get better at it.
What I’m thankful for this week:
Almost every time Sam sits down to go to the toilet he tells me: “Daddy, boys have willies, girls don’t have willies.”
Playing cribbage with my Dad in the evening, hadn’t done that in a long time and had forgotten the simple pleasure of playing cards.