“Remember our rule of thumb: The more scared we are of a work or calling, the more sure we can be that we have to do it.” (Steven Pressfield, The War of Art)
A commencement address delivered remotely:
I’m not so worried about the dangers of mental junk food. That’s because I’ve found that many of the true intellectuals I’ve met take pleasure in mental junk food too. Having a taste for trashy rom-coms hasn’t rotted their brain or made them incapable of writing great history or doing deep physics.
No, my worry is that, especially now that you’re out of college, you won’t put enough really excellent stuff into your brain
In college, you get assigned hard things. You’re taught to look at paintings and think about science in challenging ways. After college, most of us resolve to keep doing this kind of thing, but we’re busy and our brains are tired at the end of the day. Months and years go by. We get caught up in stuff, settle for consuming Twitter and, frankly, journalism. Our maximum taste shrinks. Have you ever noticed that 70 percent of the people you know are more boring at 30 than they were at 20?
This really made me think. Do you think you are more interesting now than you were 10 years ago?
“Feelings are just visitors. Let them come and go.”
Thoughts on running and marathons…and a lot more:
Ok, I love this subject of course, but this was truly a great read.
And so, in the spirit of experimentation, I decided to see if I could run fast marathons back to back. One of the great mysteries of running is the level of effort that breaks you. To a point, going harder makes you stronger, like blowing air into a tire that gets ever firmer. But there’s a limit, and when you cross it the tire pops. Your muscles collapse and your motivation falters. Each marathon made me feel like a rag doll. It could take months before I was ready to run hard again. But maybe, I thought, this year would be different. Perhaps there was air left in the tire for running the New York City Marathon just three weeks after Chicago.
My two older boys had come to cheer me on in Chicago, but the youngest one, then 4, had stayed in New York. I had a feeling that I would never be this fast again, and I wanted him to see me running well too. Parents can never know for sure what will inspire their kids or scar them, and few people are better at seeing through our vanities and pretensions than our children. Still, at the very least, he would get a sense of this thing I do when I put on my running shoes.
“Around the world and throughout the millennia, those who have thought carefully about the workings of desire have recognized this—that the easiest way for us to gain happiness is to learn how to want the things we already have.” (William B. Irvine, A Guide to the Good Life)
A great sci-fi short story:
Her tree was growing in a lab near Toronto. It was technically a ginkgo, but it didn’t look like a ginkgo; its genome had been altered, so its leaves were larger and darker than a regular ginkgo’s, with barely the ghost of a cleft. More importantly, the structure of this new tree’s trunk and limbs had been modified to make room for a mind. Those long skeins of cells weren’t human neurons, exactly; but they weren’t NOT human neurons, either. Their weave was dense, and correspondingly expensive.
Ever since I read Ted Chiang’s Exhalation I’ve had a renewed appreciation for fiction and science fiction as well. I love it when stories leave it to you to fill in the gaps. When you sense there is a whole universe imagined that is surrounding a story.
Krisp adds an additional layer between your physical microphone/speaker and conferencing apps, which doesn’t let any noise pass through.
I’ve been doing a lot of Zoom calls over the past week (this would have been unchanged even if Corona wasn’t happening) and am really liking this little app: Krisp.ai.
Here is a link that will get you a month of their “pro” service (free is capped at 120 mins a week):
Some drawing about prioritizing:
I’m not sure how this became a longer thing than it is. Maybe that’s because prioritization, the subject of this piece, is a longer, harder thing to do than it seems at a distance. Anyway, this illustration started as a little morning drawing of an idea that I revisited from a book excerpt and grew into the series of illustrations
Why we listen to new music:
I’ve thought about this a lot for some reason. I love listening to new music. There is always the risk that you won’t like something, that it will be “meh”, but those times when new music grabs you, those can be unmatched.
Listening to new music is hard. Not hard compared to going to space or war, but hard compared to listening to music we already know. I assume most Americans—especially those who have settled into the groove of life after 30—simply don’t listen to new music because it’s easy to forgo the act of discovery when work, rent, children, and broadly speaking “life” comes into play. Eventually, we bow our heads and cross a threshold where most music becomes something to remember rather than something to experience. And now, on top of everything else, here we all are, crawling through this tar pit of panic and dread, trying to heft some new music through historic gravity into our lives. It feels like lifting a couch.
I thought this was really interesting and useful. I’ve noticed the effects of moving to different rooms for different activities makes a big difference.
We’ve seen how our experience of time is rooted in our apprehension of space, and how this is reflected in memory. So when we stop moving around over the course of the day, we shouldn’t be surprised that it messes with our experience. And this is why a day spent all in one spot will tend to feel like it’s passed quicker: as we experience the sequence of activities in our day, each is a little bit less distinctive and differentiated than it would be under normal conditions because it lacks spatial context, and the different portions of the day then bleed into each other.
Some really cool art:
Reminded me of the electric-theme series of images I’ve been doing as of late.
Kindness is more important than wisdom, and the recognition of this is the beginning of wisdom.
Theodore Isaac Rubin
Tools and gear for the distributed:
Lots of good stuff (published by the company I work for) from folks that have been working in a fully-distributed fashion for years.
Also very-related and useful is this summary for headsets and advice for online meetings.
One heterodox recommendation I have for audio and video calls when you’re working in a distributed fashion is not to mute, if you can help it. When you’re speaking to a muted room, it’s eerie and unnatural — you feel alone even if you can see other people’s faces.
Approaching your computer time (or phone time) intentionally:
A good reminder, because this topic always needs reminding.
Ultimately this is about you. You need to approach your computer, and other devices, as a tool for accomplishing a specific job, then be intentional about using it for that job. It’s a skill, and learning it takes time.
What if aliens visited in the midst of coronavirus?
A book excerpt i enjoyed:
“Work hard, work passionately, but apply your most precious asset-time-to what is most meaningful to you. What are you willing to do for the rest of your life? does not mean, literally, what will you do for the rest of your life? That question would be absurd, given the inevitability of change. No, what the question really asks is, if your life were to end suddenly and unexpectedly tomorrow, would you be able to say you’ve been doing what you truly care about today? What would you be willing to do for the rest of your life? What would it take to do it right now?” (Randy Komisar, The Monk and the Riddle)
Some words of wisdom to ponder:
From a recent Recomendo newsletter, these have stuck with me.
“If all you did was just looked for things to appreciate, you would live a joyously spectacular life.” ― Esther Abraham Hicks
“Let go or be dragged.” — Zen Proverb
“Be messy and complicated and afraid and show up anyways.” — Glennon Doyle Melton