Archive for September 2012
I like the frankness with which this article from Michael Finkel strips away the glamorous blissfulness people so often expect when they hear the term meditation.
I try to relax and focus on my nose, but the waterfall continues. I think about home, where it’s getting-the-kids-ready-for-bed hour, and I envision the whole process, the bath and the splashing, the argument over which video to watch – no, it’s not a SpongeBob night – the brushing of teeth, the reading of books – Harold and the Purple Crayon, something about mermaids – the complaints about needing to pee, the Band-Aids pasted over hidden owies, a round of ?”Twinkle Twinkle.” And in this way an hour passes.
Using the portrayal of Antonio Salieri in Amadeus as a jumping-off point, Sven Brikerts says a great many good and interesting things about envy.
[His taking in of Mozart’s heavenly] music stops. [Salieri] is back inside what he now knows more than ever to be his demonstrably inferior self. He is, he understands, no Mozart — a recognition paradoxically more painful by the fact that Mozart is no Mozart, either. The Mozart of the heavenly music has no relation to the giggly buffoon who makes fart-jokes. What Salieri must swallow is that God — in whom he absolutely believes — has seen fit to give to impish Mozart the gift of making beauty, and to him only the secondary gift, no gift at all, of being able to recognize it.
I meant what I said about how Justin Wehr killing it. Here he is again:
But there’s a problem. We feel strongly – or at least believe without questioning – that we are ultimately responsible for our actions, but we also know that who we are is a product of our environment and our heredity. We aren’t responsible for our environment, and we aren’t responsible for our heredity. So we aren’t responsible for who we are. How, then, can we be responsible for what we do?
Be sure you stay tuned for the final paragraph. It’s really just about perfect, and it took a lot of will power not to pull it here.
Nice to see, from time to time, a solid takedown of life-controlling 80 hours a week careerism. Is this a strictly American affliction?
If we were honest about what these jobs entail, we’d talk less in terms of success and more in terms of sacrifice and seclusion from the world. If we recognized the single-minded focus that drives [careerists] to think of intimacy as obstacle, as life-thwarting, we might not hold it up as the ideal, the logical next step for the best and the brightest.
(via Mark Larson)
This Ask MetaFilter thread turned out to be amazingly great. The question:
What are some examples of things that people without experience do, while attempting what you do or know well, because they don’t know any better that make their lack of experience obvious?
So much interesting stuff across such an array of fields that I won’t even try to excerpt it here.
I liked this essay from Tim Parks about his various public idententies around the world. He expands the idea of his unchosen identities to even says a few interesting things about what globalizaiton meaning about authorship and identity going forward. But his identities are themselves intersting:
Thus in 1980, aged twenty-five, already writing novels that were regularly rejected, I married an Italian and moved to Italy. Unable to publish, I translated, first commercially, then, with a lucky break, novels. At last in 1985 a novel of my own was published in London and I began to build up a small reputation as a novelist. However, my living in Italy prompted publishers to ask me to write about the place, luring me with offers of “a great deal more money than you will ever earn with the kind of novels you write.” After ten years I gave in, writing first about the street I lived in and some years later about Italian children, schools, and families. It was great fun and all at once I was Mr. Italy.
But if this reputation made sense to the English—one of their ilk decoding another country–-it didn’t attract the Germans, Dutch, and French who seemed to feel that serious novel writing was not compatible with this kind of ironic anthropology. In Germany, where my novels were outselling English editions by many times, the critics invited me to intensely earnest debates on Europe and fiction, and in general everybody felt it would be unwise to insist too much on this other material. I was now quite different people in England, Germany, and Italy, where I had begun to write newspaper articles in Italian on Italian issues for Italians, without the framing and contextualizing needed when talking about such matters to those who don’t know the country.
Aaron Swartz has been publishing a series whose founding idea is very resonant with the kind of thinking that’s dominated my life for the last few years. The series itself isn’t bad (but mostly a review of already-known stuff to someone who’s been furrowing in the same field) but the introduction states the issue rather well:
Life comes with no instruction manual and the advice parents give is all over the place. TV and the newspapers don’t offer much more than narrow Quick Tips and I never saw a course in this stuff at school. There are self-help books and self-improvement courses, of course, but … they’re usually less about working through tough problems and more about energizing you to Get Up And Go!
This is the first episode of A Show with Ze Frank that really made me grateful to see him doing it again. It was kind, tender, and taught me things I didn’t know.
The thing I didn’t know was about the work of Brené Brown, from whom Mr. Franks linked to two talks. (There’s a third on YouTube, but it’s video quality is low, and it largely overlaps with the other two.) Her work with shame, vulnerability, meaning, and “heartfulness” seems like it’s 80% of some very profound thing. (I can’t escape the feeling that she’s not fully completed a loop inside her own mind that would make it a complete profound thing.)
My old internet pal Justin Wehr’s been killing it again lately, so I’ll just pick one example:
Those who focus on relationships rather than people are likely to be nice and inoffensive and a little overly-complimentary. (I do that. I hate myself for doing that.) Those who focus on relationships are concerned with maintaining a connection, being liked, having the support/comfort/fun of a friend. For them, the “choice” of friends is about who can provide the biggest boost in status/comfort/fun, rather than about who possesses qualities that they admire.
In short, if you are focused on relationships, you are focused on your own bounty (“what’s in it for me?”)—even if it’s only a mild antidote to loneliness.
While I hardly love the idea that what’s good for business is automatically good for your life, Greg McKeown manages to get some good ideas out of this observation about companies that fail to build on their successes. The process, for both companies and people:
Phase 1: When we really have clarity of purpose, it leads to success.
Phase 2: When we have success, it leads to more options and opportunities.
Phase 3: When we have increased options and opportunities, it leads to diffused efforts.
Phase 4: Diffused efforts undermine the very clarity that led to our success in the first place.