Just beautiful stuff from the late, great, Alan Watts:
What do you do when somebody says “pay attention”? What is the difference between looking at something and taking a hard look at it? Or between hearing something and listening intently? What’s the difference? What’s the difference between waiting while something goes on and enduring it? Why the difference is this:
When you pay attention instead of just looking, you screw up your face. You frown and stare. When you will, you grit your teeth or clench your fists. When you endure, or control yourself, you pull yourself together. Physically. And therefore you get uptight. You hold your breath. You do all kinds of muscular things to control the functioning of your nervous system.
And none of them have the slightest effect.
Seth Godin on the gap between something of value being created, and that value being recognised by others.
There’s often a significant lag between the creation of something useful and when the market recognizes it.
That’s an opportunity for speculators and investors, who can buy before the recognition happens.
And it’s an opportunity or a trap for creators, who might get disheartened about the lack of applause and upside immediately after they’ve created something.
In addition to this, there’s the problem of the taste gap, that inevitable period of time where the work you’re producing doesn’t live up to the standards that inspired you to create it in the first place.
The only solution is to trust that you have something inside you that is worth sharing with the world, and to refuse to stop until the world has recognised it.
In 1979, psychologist Ellen Langer and her students carefully refurbished an old monastery in Peterborough, New Hampshire, to resemble a place that would have existed two decades earlier. They invited a group of elderly men in their late 70s and early 80s to spend a week with them and live as they did in 1959…Her idea was to return the men, at least in their minds, to a time when they were younger and healthier—and to see if it had physiological consequences.
Fascinating article about the effects of mindset on not only the perception of ageing, but the physiological realities of it.
A really excellent piece from Blake Smith on Judith Shklar’s 1989 essay, “The Liberalism Of Fear“.
Everywhere around us, people are acting cruelly in the name of eradicating physical harm and arbitrary power. Anyone working in a university, cultural institution, or large corporation today has spent recent weeks reading emails, attending meetings, and participating in conversations that are theaters of moral cruelty. White people in such contexts are asked—or required—to admit that they are culpable, that they lack ethical and epistemic authority, that they must listen to and heed the demands of victims of racism. They humiliate themselves, literally kneeling in propitiation.
Shklar found such acts of self-debasement no less cruel and terrifying than the violence that they are supposedly meant to resist. Healthy minded people, she urged, do not want to suffer in this way—nor do they want to attain power and self-respect at the cost of presenting themselves as a “model of moral victimhood.”
We seem to be in danger of forgetting the lessons history offers about overlooking cruelty just because it is being pitted against the cruel or behaving unjustly in an attempt to overthrow injustice.
An absolute gem from Ira Glass on the the challenges of starting out doing creative work.
All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you.
A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit.
More people than ever (including myself) are branching out into creative projects, and sadly, most of us will fail.
Remember, creative people don’t fail because they aren’t any good, they fail because they quit before they figured out how to be.
In the age of internet addled attention spans I’m slightly reluctant to recommend a twenty minute video, but if you’re interested in the nature of the mind this talk by Rupert Spira really is worth a watch.
This comparison between an email on a screen and a thought in consciousness (at 14:22) particularly stood out:
…the email doesn’t actually come from somewhere, because the email is not a thing in itself. It is just a temporary colouring of what is already there.The screen doesn’t suddenly appear, the screen just takes a new colour, a new name and form. And when the email disappears, the stuff it is made of doesn’t disappear, all that happens is the the screen loses a certain colour, but the stuff the email is made of remains.
When a thought appears, no new substance, no new object, appears. The stuff that was already present, which is consciousness, just takes the shape of thought. The only stuff that is present in a thought is consciousness, or knowing…and then when the thought disappears, the knowing out of which it was made doesn’t go anywhere, it just ceases taking that name and form, and takes the next name and form, which is the next thought.