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Newsletter: ‘Reality is an Activity of the Most August Imagination’

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Interior with a Man Writing on a Long Table (Anonymous, French, 16th century)

Below are five links I think you’ll find interesting. As always, listen to a new tune and old gem after the jump.

web gems

Aziz Ansari has great advice for people in creative slumps. When he’s uninspired,  comedian Aziz Ansari does nothing at all: “I’m not gonna make stuff just for the sake of making stuff. I want to make stuff ’cause I’m inspired. Right now I don’t really feel inspired.” Should we force creativity? I think we know how Steven Pressfield would respond to this.

The Intuitive Thing: Ray Bradbury on the Arts. I love what Ray Bradbury said about books versus movies in this interview: “when you read…you’re creating it in your own theater inside your head. But a film is total realism. You can’t change it, it’s right there, there’s nothing you can do about it.”

Inside the husband-and-wife architecture duo’s sprawling Cape Town home. South African architect Gawie Fagan built his house in 1965 into the surrounding natural environment. At 91-years-old, he still lives there with his wife and still goes to the office every day.

Reality is an Activity of the Most August Imagination: Tim O’Reilly“Our job is to imagine a better future, because if we can imagine it, we can create it. But it starts with that imagination.” Tim O’Reilly explains why we should avoid envisioning a dystopian society where robots wipe out humans.

10 Einstein Quotes to Fire Up Your Creativity. “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.” The genius was on to something.


Thought of the week

“A mind is like a parachute. It doesn’t work if it’s not open.”

— Frank Zappa

New track on loop

Nathan Fake — REMAIN (Olga Wojciechowska Rework)

Digging in the crates

Erick Sermon – Music (2001)

Thanks for reading. Have a great weekend!

Wells Baum (@bombtune)

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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

Newsletter: ‘No worry before its time’

Below are five links I think you’ll find interesting. As always, listen to a new tune and old gem after the jump.

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Edward Penfield, 1896 (via The MET)

Kiss The Good Times Good Bye. We’ve gone from horses to cars to what will be, ‘standardized modules.’ The former product head of General Motors predicts the inevitable future of the auto industry that everyone knows is coming but no one wants to talk about: “nobody will be passing anybody else on the highway. That is the death knell for companies such as BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Audi. That kind of performance is not going to count anymore.”

Podcast: Ellen Langer with Krista Tippet. Ellen Langer is a social psychologist who has spent 35 years studying mindfulness. She argues that most people go on living mindlessly, not noticing their surroundings until they go on vacation. Instead of forcing ourselves to be present “which doesn’t mean anything,” she encourages people to pursue “the simple act of actively noticing things.” She also agrees with the Stoics that the imagination is always worse than reality; our labeling of experiences (bad or good etc.) shapes our reality. Her adage for treating anxiety: “No worry before its time.”


What Boredom Does to You. Treat boredom as a process, a skill essential to the 21st-century hyper-speed of mobile internet addictiveness. As Steve Jobs once said: “I’m a big believer in boredom. … All the [technology] stuff is wonderful, but having nothing to do can be wonderful, too.”

Why Leonardo da Vinci wrote backward? Leonardo da Vinci wrote backward (mirror writing) because he didn’t want others stealing his ideas. Writes Da Vinci biographer Rachel A. Koestler-Grack: “The observations in his notebooks were written in such a way that they could be read only by holding the books up to a mirror.” But did a genius who combined art and science so brilliantly really need to hide his work? Some authors think he did it to avoid smudging his writing.

Video: Religion Is Nature’s Antidepressant. American neuroendocrinologist and author Robert Sapolsky is an atheist who still believes in the health benefits of religion, highlighting its benevolent and social qualities. “If it is a totally heartless indifferent apathetic universe out there you are far more at risk for all the logical things which is to conclude it is an utterly depressing universe out there. Rates of depression are much higher among atheists… Go figure.”

Thought of the week

“Every book is the wreck of a perfect idea.”

Iris Murdoch

New track on loop

Chaos In The CBD – Pressure (2017)

Digging in the crates

Burial – Shell of Light (2007)

Thanks for reading. Have a great weekend!

Wells Baum (@bombtune)

The word salt ‘was the origin of the world salary’ 💰

salt“The first of the great Roman roads, the Via Salaria, Salt Road, was built to bring this salt not only to Rome but across the interior of the peninsula. This worked well in the Roman part of the Italian peninsula. But as Rome expanded, transporting salt longer distances by road became too costly. Not only did Rome want salt to be affordable for the people, but, more importantly as the Romans became ambitious empire builders, they needed it to be available for the army. The Roman army required salt for its soldiers and for its horses and livestock. At times soldiers were even paid in salt, which was the origin of the word salary and the expression “worth his salt” or “earning his salt.” In fact, the Latin word sal became the French word solde, meaning pay, which is the origin of the word, soldier.”

Salt: A World History by Mark Kurlansky

The freedom of unforced attention

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gif by Wells Baum

We end up aligning with nature’s intent. We see the world through the lens we grow up with. We are the products of our environment, the sum total of our existence.

Yet, we can become a variety of human. We can develop an expanded toolset that includes others. We can shut off stray thoughts and ignore droll distractions, replacing them with dreams of boredom. However, we stay light and loose.

We set the brain roaming with no clear destination in mind, only a feeling of intuition. The freedom of unforced attention makes harmony in the auditory wilderness. The brain functions in a mysterious way to find parity between the blind and the deaf.

Religion is an antidote to stress

American neuroendocrinologist and author Robert Sapolsky is a self-proclaimed atheist but he still believes in the health benefits of religion, with an emphasis on its benevolent and social qualities.

When you’re religious you have fewer lifestyle risk factors. The mere ability to perceive causality, reason, benevolence—“Benevolence especially for people like me if I say the right combination of words and fervently believe in it”—that’s wonderfully protective and there’s health benefits to it.

If it is a totally heartless indifferent apathetic universe out there you are far more at risk for all the logical things which is to conclude it is an utterly depressing universe out there.

Rates of depression are much higher among atheists… Go figure.

It feels good to believe

Religion is a useful tool that provides comfort against the unpredictable nature of life. If it works for you, keep practicing it.

 

Running through the Alps

For runner Joe Grant, freedom is the rhythm of effort colliding with focus. The ability to unthink and just do it sets him free.

“When your mind lets go of things and attentiveness is not forced…that’s when you tap into a feeling of freedom.”

It can be challenging to tame the incessant honking from the monkey mind, especially when we’re roaming ahead with no destination in mind.

But we can achieve flow, moving like water over rocks in stride with the magnetic forces of the land.

Andy Warhol: ‘As soon as you stop wanting something you get it’

“At the times in my life when I was feeling the most gregarious and looking for bosom friendships, I couldn’t find any takers, so that exactly when I was alone was when I felt the most like not being alone. The moment I decided I’d rather be alone and not have anyone telling me their problems, everybody I’d never even seen before in my life started running after me to tell me things I’d just decided I didn’t think it was a good idea to hear about. As soon as I became a loner in my own mind, that’s when I got what you might call a ‘following.’ As soon as you stop wanting something you get it. I’ve found that to be absolutely axiomatic.”

Here today, gone tomorrow

All gifs/videos by Wells Baum

Standing in Grand Central Station reminds us of the temporariness of life, that what’s here now can be gone in a flash.

We should be dubious of ephemerality, especially in the internet world where things get consumed and promptly forgotten. Good feelings are equally fleeting.

Instead, the overall wager should be on long-term serotonin rather than one-off surges of dopamine.

Here now, gone in an instant

Better to find our feet in the urban wilderness rather than orbit around a flock of sheep. In the hierarchy of happiness, stillness plays the long game by persisting through noisy places.

Why Leonardo da Vinci wrote backward

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Leonardo da Vinci wrote backward (mirror writing) because he didn’t want others stealing his ideas. Writes Da Vinci biographer Rachel A. Koestler-Grack:

“The observations in his notebooks were written in such a way that they could be read only by holding the books up to a mirror.”

But did a genius who combined art and science so brilliantly really need to hide his work? Perhaps it was practical: as a lefty, he didn’t want to smudge the link. As a contrarian, Da Vinci also strived to be different. As blogger Walker’s Chapters writes:

“Do you really think that a man as clever as Leonardo thought it was a good way to prevent people from reading his notes? This man, this genius, if he truly wanted to make his notes readable only to himself, he would’ve invented an entirely new language for this purpose. We’re talking about a dude who conceptualized parachutes even before helicopters were a thing.”

Read more: Why Did Leonardo da Vinci Write Backwards? A Look Into the Ultimate Renaissance Man’s “Mirror Writing”

‘Everybody sees it coming, but no one wants to talk about it’ 🐎🚗📱

There inevitably comes a time when our ideas, no matter how prolific, become extinct and get replaced by new ones. Just look at the emergence of autonomous cars. Writes former product head of General Motors Bob Lutz:

“The auto industry is on an accelerating change curve. For hundreds of years, the horse was the prime mover of humans and for the past 120 years it has been the automobile.”


There will always be a niche of traditionalists that want hands-on control, just as people still prefer to read hard books, string a brilliant guitar riff, and think with their hands in writing analog.

But the volcano of ideas are all digital. As Lutz quips: “I think probably everybody sees it coming, but no one wants to talk about it.”

There is no cart, there is no horse, there is no wheel. As Steve Jobs once discovered in Scientific American: “The man riding a bicycle was twice as good as the condor.” Humans build tools to maximize efficiency.

Ta-Nehisi Coates on words that don’t belong to everyone

On a book tour for his lates tbook We Were Eight Years in Power: An American Tragedy, bestselling author Ta-Nehisi Coates answers a white student who asks if it’s acceptable to sing along with songs that feature the n-word.

Watch how he tees up the answer.

“For white people, I think the experience of being a hip-hop fan and not being able to use the n-word is insightful. It will give you a little peek into the world of what it means to be black. To be black, is to walk through the world and watch people doing things that you cannot do.”

Sean Parker: Facebook exploits a “vulnerability in human psychology”

Social platforms are casinos, and likes, replies, comments, shares, etc. are the poker chips. We are addicted to social currency on top of our psychological desire to solve for loneliness.

The main reason I blog is to get away from the hyper-activeness and dopamine-hitting fast food of social media, so I can slow down and gather my thoughts.

How often do you get stuck in the ludic loop?

Temporary foliage

All photos by Wells Baum

Constant and changing, the Fall comes around and whips durable trees into seasonal characters, reminding us that everything is temporary.

The form is ephemeral, the roots are permanent. The colorful autumn foliage tree jettisons its leaves, falling without regret.

The ‘e’ in leaf stands for effortless; its intuition accepts the will of the wind. Those that remain appear vivid under the flash of light. The season’s cycle into GIF loops.

Photo by Wells Baum

Guiding a neophyte mathematician to name the biggest number 🔢

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via giphy

People are afraid of big numbers because they have no spatial understanding; the largest numbers are beyond comprehension, as the multitude of chess moves or the unfathomable number of sand grains in the desert. Infinity appears impossible to count!

University of Texas computer science professor Scott Aaronson believes the answer to naming the world’s biggest number lies within the deepest paradigm, some of which is solvable by exponentials, language, and sheer imagination:

“When thinking about 3, 4, or 7, we’re guided by our spatial intuition, honed over millions of years of perceiving 3 gazelles, 4 mates, 7 members of a hostile clan. But when thinking about BB(1000), we have only language, that evolutionary neophyte, to rely upon. The usual neural pathways for representing numbers lead to dead ends. And this, perhaps, is why people are afraid of big numbers.”

Read Who Can Name the Bigger Number?

‘Trust that your intuition is leading you somewhere.’

The Love Mindset

“A leaf does not resist the breeze. A goose does not resist the urge to fly down south. Is this not happiness? Is this not freedom? To access this incredible state, we need only one thing: Trust. Trust that, when you are not holding yourself together so tightly, you will not fall apart. Trust that it is more important to fulfill your authentic desires than listen to your fears. Trust that your intuition is leading you somewhere. Trust that the flow of life contains you, is bigger than you, and will take care of you—if you let it.”

 
— Vironika Tugaleva, The Love Mindset: An Unconventional Guide to Healing and Happiness