Archive for June 2012
Ben Jackson spends some time with an under-regarded question: how does spirituality fit into internet culture? And while I understand your concern that all you’ll get on that topic at BuzzFeed is snark masquerading as value, but I’d encourage you to give him some of your time.
Religion was a pervasive theme during the panel, with Vasquez [of Double Rainbow fame] stating, “I need to bring spirituality to humanity.” He explained that his repeated cries of “Oh my god” were caused by the rainbow forming what appeared to him to be a giant eye, which he considered to be the eye of god.
Austin Seraphin’s story of learning how to use echolocation to compensate for his lack of sight it awesome. It’s like reading someone describe learning how to see:
The muscles in the back of my neck would start to hurt because I did not need to move my head as much before. Now the direction of my gaze actually meant something.
(via Waxy, I think)
Two things are relevant to this piece:
- Venkat Rao has been writing amazingly deep and intelligent analyses on his site since the biography of the corporation one I linked a while back.
- While I’ve been meaning to read him for most of intervening months, my time-available vs value-to-gain calculus usually means I don’t get more than a few paragraphs in.
This then, is one of the few pieces I read in its entirety, and recommend. It’s an interesting idea with a pretty neat analysis on top. The thesis:
My new explanation is this: we live in a continuous state of manufactured normalcy. There are mechanisms that operate — a mix of natural, emergent and designed — that work to prevent us from realizing that the future is actually happening as we speak. To really understand the world and how it is evolving, you need to break through this manufactured normalcy field. Unfortunately, that leads, as we will see, to a kind of existential nausea.
It’s just a reddit comment, but it’s a damn good one.
In response to a fond reminisce — of less generously, a repost — of the “How to be Alone” video that made the rounds a few years ago (I posted it here), itsCHOWDAH posted a comment that includes these wise words:
When you’re alone, there’s nobody to impress but yourself, nobody to judge you but you. Soon you start to realise just how much of the way you act, the things you say and who you eventually become is based on a sort of a subconscious performance that you put on in this strange effort to appeal to others, because deep down you don’t value yourself. You rely on their validation and appreciation to survive. Learning to break this addiction to social validation and appreciate yourself solely for who you are is immensely powerful.
Have I told you how much I love Oliver Burkeman? Because it’s a lot. In this excerpt from his latest book, he says so many sensible things that people rarely do about life, failure, contentment, and consumer goods innovations.
The water-visualisers experienced a significant reduction in their energy levels, as measured by blood pressure. Far from becoming more motivated to hydrate themselves, people responded to positive visualisation by relaxing. They seemed, subconsciously, to have confused imagining success with having already achieved it.
(via The Browser, which I also love)
My internet pal Justin Wehr’s been raving about Gene Weingarten for a while, but it wasn’t until I randomly Instapapered this piece that I learned his assessment was correct. This is just an excellent portrait of people living their lives on the very edge of human habitability, a place only now being forced to come to terms with the soft comforts of the modern world.
This David Brooks editorial is by now a little old — as editorials go — but it’s really quite good and I’d be sad if it never got here. He touches on the essential thing I wish more people understood about life:
In whatever field you go into, you will face greed, frustration and failure. You may find your life challenged by depression, alcoholism, infidelity, your own stupidity and self-indulgence. So how should you structure your soul to prepare for this? Simply working at Amnesty International instead of McKinsey is not necessarily going to help you with these primal character tests.
It’s worth noting that you can devote your life to community service and be a total schmuck. You can spend your life on Wall Street and be a hero. Understanding heroism and schmuckdom requires fewer Excel spreadsheets, more Dostoyevsky and the Book of Job.
You really don’t know yourself until you know how other people see you. Whether or not that’s true, I really enjoyed this brief description of how travel books seek to explain my country to the world.
But maybe the topic that gets the most attention in these books is food, which they praise for its quality and variety (and portion size) in a tone of near-disbelief. As in any culture, the niceties of dining — especially at someone’s home — can get complicated. Here, from Wikitravel, is some sage advice on a ritual that even I did not realize was so complicated until I read this passage:
When invited to a meal in a private home it is considered polite for a guest to ask if they can bring anything for the meal, such a dessert, a side dish, or for an outdoor barbecue, something useful like ice or plastic cups or plates. The host will usually refuse except among very close friends, but it is nonetheless considered good manners to bring along a small gift for the host. A bottle of wine, box of candies or fresh cut flowers are most common. Gifts of cash, prepared ready-to-serve foods, or very personal items (e.g. toiletries) are not appropriate.