Featured

How to unthink

via giphy

Knowledge can be a hindrance. The more we know, the more likely we’re to hesitate in times of execution.

So the overthinking basketball player misses a wide-open layup, the tennis player misses an easy return, or the painter or writer can’t seem to get their inspiration to convert on a blank canvas.

Stalling is a symptom of facing the resistance. When we try too hard to be perfect, we may do nothing at all.


So how can we stem the tide of excess contemplation?

One of the ways to think less author Flann O’Brien once said was to act “calculatedly stupid” and to enjoy what we’re doing. As Vincent Van Gogh put it: “Just slap anything on when you see a blank canvas staring you in the face like some imbecile.”

We are at our best when we’re relaxed and instinctive, free from the chaos of the monkey mind.

Unthinking is the ability to apply years of learning at the crucial moment by removing your thinking self from the equation. Its power is not confined to sport: actors and musicians know about it too, and are apt to say that their best work happens in a kind of trance.

So do the work and let go, let God. Let inspiration be free-floating perspiration.

Read Non cogito, ergo sum

Support my blog

Your support goes a long way: for every contributed dollar, I can keep the blog running and continue to provide you interesting links.

$1.00

Advertisements

The undivided mind

2011-03-08-Science_Wonder_Art.jpg
Via The Imaginary Foundation

Wonder sits at the intersection of science and art. Combining the two disciplines is what fueled Leonard Da Vinci’s creative genius. The imagination needs time to daydream and gather string, letting the unconscious connect the dots between disparate things.

Said author Walter Isaacson on the artist in his new book Leonardo da Vinci, “procrastinating like Leonardo requires work: It involves gathering all the possible facts and ideas, and only after that allowing the various ingredients to simmer.”

“I roamed the countryside searching for answers to things I did not understand. Why shells existed on the tops of mountains along with the imprints of coral and plants and seaweed usually found in the sea. Why the thunder lasts a longer time than that which causes it, and why immediately on its creation the lightning becomes visible to the eye while thunder requires time to travel. How the various circles of water form around the spot which has been struck by a stone, and why a bird sustains itself in the air. These questions and other strange phenomena engage my thought throughout my life.”

— Leonardo da Vinci

Curiosity unites both art and science to help realize the improbable.

The law of reversed effort

giphy (34)
via giphy

“When you try to stay on the surface of the water, you sink; but when you try to sink, you float’ and that ‘insecurity is the result of trying to be secure.”

Alan Watts on the ‘law of reversed effort’, also known as the ‘backwards law’ when doing what’s right make things wrong (as featured in The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can’t Stand Positive Thinking)

 

Habits can change your life

giphy (31)
via giphy

A habit can change your life.

A book can change your life.

A piece of advice can change your life.

The internet can even save your life.

Of course, inheriting good genes can also be a boon.

The closed ear inoculates someone against self-improvement. But when the mind’s vault is left open, just a little tweak — what productivity author Charles Duhigg calls a ‘keystone habit’ in his book The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business — can lead from one positive change to the next. Take exercise for instance:

“Typically, people who exercise, start eating better and becoming more productive at work. They smoke less and show more patience with colleagues and family. They use their credit cards less frequently and say they feel less stressed. Exercise is a keystone habit that triggers widespread change.”

Small things, big change.

Art requires the long look

Photo by Wells Baum

Good art requires the long look, not for a lack of comprehension but for the growing realization of what the viewer fails to see.

Art is more about the space inside rather than the form of the envelope itself.

Artists put their life’s context into their craft. A poem, painting, a sculpture all contain intricacies of the mind that is profoundly personal but meant to be shared and understood by others.

Whether radical, nuanced and complex: the intriguing work passes onto trustful eyes an extended gaze.

A strange kind of progress

via giphy

A strange kind of progress permeates our world. While technology advances, privacy seems to take two steps back. Social media exploits openness.

While bitcoin promises to disrupt the financial industry to give power to individuals, it smells of chaos and distrust.

Perhaps the new world order takes getting used to. After all, it is habit that puts one to sleep. But also consider that those obsessed with solutionism — innovating on top of old world problems — can do more harm than good. For instance, Facebook is an around the clock newspaper that misinforms its users every day. A culture of fast-food consumption and ‘breaking news’ outpaces reality, slipping us into inanition.

Problem-solving technologies are bicycles for the mind. However, moving at warp-speed while ignoring the status quo puts our cognition into more fragile territory than ever. Unchecked change is the root of psychological damage.

The cheeky faces of Mexico City

From the masks of Mexico City’s cheeky lucha libra wrestlers to the walls of art in dive bars and parks, to the boyhood fervor of an old man in his special puppet, Mexico City is very much a lived experience. To quote Edward Burnett Tylor:

“Taking it as a whole, Mexico is a grand city, and, as Cortes truly said, its situation is marvellous.”

Doubt your fears

Photo by Wells Baum

Depower them. Calm them with their own doubt.

Fears are the mind killer. They taunt the lizard brain into fight or flight. They thrive on ‘what if’ scenarios that haunt the imagination. There are no limits to what the mind can fabricate.

But the head is psychologically safe, psychologically sound.

Fright tries to wrestle with human insecurity and scratch away the varnish of bravery.

Can you endure the storm?

Fears are in their very nature abstract. Face them in their stark simplicity and they lose potency.

The artist never graduates

giphy (27)
via giphy

Years elapse with no apparent intention of an end.

They want you to finish it to find closure, but they don’t understand that moving on to the next ‘big’ thing curbs the appetite of the maker.

Creators are slow cookers and even slower chewers, interspersed with periods gorging. They expect as many mistakes and regrets as discoveries– overall, full acceptance the unpredictable. It takes time to go forward and ship things, to hurry slowly unless you’re Picasso’s Guernica.

The artist never graduates, trying to be clever without being pretentious. In a cycle of learning, the beginner wades like water over rocks and tweaks days on end.

Mishearing things

ilya-ilyukhin-281346Listening seeds ideas. Overheard dialogue, especially misheard words, are auditory stimulants for the imagination. Said Joan Didion in her essay “On Keeping a Notebook:”

“See enough and write it down, I tell myself, and then some morning when the world seems drained of wonder, some day when I am only going through the motions of doing what I am supposed to do… on that bankrupt morning I will simply open my notebook and there it will all be, a forgotten account with accumulated interest, paid passage back to the world out there…”

From the dull to the senseless, an ambient awareness latches on to snippets of interestingness in any conversation. The journal archives and then whispers for a second look. Simply rereading our notes gives them a new form, turning the slightest quip into a saintly significance.

Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind

VuopobCt0BTmgHB57“We control the world basically because we are the only animals that can cooperate flexibly in very large numbers. And if you examine any large-scale human cooperation, you will always find that it is based on some fiction like the nation, like money, like human rights. These are all things that do not exist objectively, but they exist only in the stories that we tell and that we spread around. This is something very unique to us, perhaps the most unique feature of our species.

You can never, for example, convince a chimpanzee to do something for you by promising that, “Look, after you die, you will go to chimpanzee heaven and there you will receive lots and lots of bananas for your good deeds here on earth, so now do what I tell you to do.”

But humans do believe such stories and this is the basic reason why we control the world whereas chimpanzees are locked up in zoos and research laboratories.”

Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari

Storytelling, language, memes, all released humans from the prison of biology.

What’s your Everest?

theodor-lundqvist-364382.jpg
Photo by Theodor Lundqvist

What’s your Everest? What is the one event you’ve been training for that would justify all your hard work?

Everyone’s got their Everest — that one far-reaching goal that takes everything out of them to get it.

Of course, there’s no guarantee of success but you have to be willing to go forward anyway.

Both failure and success share the same result: they take you places you wouldn’t have achieved through idleness. Even false starts produce traces of data and contain lessons in disguise.

Remember to be kind to yourself and others along the way. As Neale Donald Walsch observes, “The struggle ends when the gratitude begins.”

Anything worth fighting for disrupts your life. With the right attitude, it also improves it.

 

My Inventions: Nikola Tesla

“My method is different. I do not rush into actual work. When I get a new idea, I start at once building it up in my imagination, and make improvements and operate the device in my mind. When I have gone so far as to embody everything in my invention, every possible improvement I can think of, and when I see no fault anywhere, I put into concrete form the final product of my brain.”

My Inventions by Nikola Tesla

Hidden by what we see

Processed with VSCO with tech preset
Photo by Wells Baum

The combination of perception and imagination can turn the ordinary into the extraordinary. But we strive to go deeper into the details, beyond what is manifest. Said René Magritte:

“Everything we see hides another thing; we always want to see what is hidden by what we see.”

The more we look, the more realize what we can’t see. Such ignorance drives our curiosity to identify new blind spots.

What’s unknown remains a haunting beauty.

ABD9D1DE-A925-4C0F-80EE-06F0F4DB4B49.jpg
Photo by Wells Baum