Low brain activities

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  • TV
  • YouTube
  • Social media

People enjoy low brain activities because it gives them the option to unthink. Whether it’s movies or endless Instagram scrolling, the images are there telling us what to think.

Reading or listening to music, on the other hand, may take your mind places. As Ray Bradbury once put it, books create a ‘theater inside your head.’

When you pursue the answers out of passiveness, the mind takes a seat. Idleness is ok in moderation.

No one’s waiting for you to get off the couch and exercise your imagination. The door to exceptional wonder is open at all times.

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Applying the facts

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They once said that you could increase your wealth just by reading The Economist. What they didn’t say was that you still needed to apply what you learned to real life.

Gobbling facts increase your knowledge and at the same time, deaden your ability to think for yourself.

You can make a living off of other people’s opinions, but you’re more likely to be remembered if you can originate something on your own.

Knowledge multiplies in power when it’s chewed over multiple times, actuated, and then retested.

Teju Cole on the flood of images in a mobile-first world

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Photo by Wells Baum

There is a photograph coming at you every few seconds, and hype is the lingua franca. It has become hard to stand still, wrapped in the glory of a single image, as the original viewers of old paintings used to do. The flood of images has increased our access to wonders and at the same time lessened our sense of wonder. We live in inescapable surfeit.

— Teju Cole, from ‘Finders Keepers’ in Known and Strange Things

Ray Bradbury: Reading creates a ‘theater inside your head’


A book triggers the imagination. A movie tells all.

A book can change your life. A film can change your perception, but only momentarily.

Reading creates a theater inside your ahead.

When it comes to reading versus watching a screen, it’s all about mind control. You can either make your own mental movie or acquiesce to the images fed on a wall. Said Ray Bradbury in an interview with Bradbury scholar Sam Weller:

It’s different because when you read it, 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. You can change a book in your mind. Every book is like Japanese flowers that go into your head and they sink down through the water inside your head, and then open out. The difference between books and film is books are unreality. They open up inside the head. They become yours. They’re more personal. Films are immediate and insistent. They’re like a bully. They bully you with their brilliance and you can’t turn away from them. Later you may, in remembrance, change them, but you can’t have the immediate thing that the book does where it fantasizes in the head. After all, it’s only print, it doesn’t mean anything. You have to learn at a certain age how to read those symbols and turn them into paper flowers that open in the mind. A film makes you think you know everything — you don’t. You can’t escape film.

Read an excerpt from Listen to the Echoes: The Ray Bradbury Interviews

Why we need sleep 😴

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“Scientists have discovered a revolutionary new treatment that makes you live longer. It enhances your memory, makes you more attractive. It keeps you slim and lowers food cravings. It protects you from cancer and dementia. It wards off colds and flu. It lowers your risk of heart attacks and stroke, not to mention diabetes. You’ll even feel happier, less depressed, and less anxious. Are you interested?”

That revolutionary new treatment is sleep. Even jellyfish get sluggish when they don’t get enough. 

Looking forward to reading this: Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker. Read The Guardian’s review.

‘You break experience up into pieces…’

“You break experience up into pieces and you put them together in different combinations, and some are real and some are not, some are documentary, and some are imagined…It takes a pedestrian and literal mind to be worried about which is true and which is not true. It’s all of it not true, and it’s all of it true.”

— Author Walter Stegner in an interview with Richard Etulain

Fact or fiction, our lives are but are an amalgamation of experience and imagination, neither of which explains the factual nature of our origins. Context fence-sits to prove no foreseeable answer, one that needs no seeking anyway.

The above quote is lifted from the afterword in Wallace Stegner’s novel Crossing to Safety, a highly recommended read.

The Lazy Guru’s Guide to Life

9780316348706_p0_v3_s1200x630 What if we could be, or at least feel like we were on vacation all the time?

That vibe is at the core of Laurence Shorter’s new book The Lazy Guru’s Guide to Life, a book he wrote by being bored out of his mind.

Instead of practicing mindfulness and meditation, Shorter took 3 months off let his brain just wander, taking walks and unplugging from the internet, just waiting until an idea struck him. That idea was drawing.

Since releasing his book, he’s developed some core tenets that are central to his philosophy of living in relaxation mode.

“To live life not just in pursuit of our dreams, but as if we have already achieved them. To put it plainly, I am declaring myself on permanent vacation: relaxed, at ease, creative — always.

In his manifesto, he outlines three ways to help inculcate the feeling of doneness.

1. Don’t try to fix things

2. If you can’t be bothered with something, there’s always a good reason

3. Give yourself space

As I wrote a few months ago, we try too hard. We push ourselves for no reason other than to live up to the habit of always being on. As Shorter puts it, “We live in a world obsessed by action and success. And in a world hooked on action, the only way to be different is to stop.”

We need to be more like the tortoise rather than the hare. It’s not for lack of care, but in slowing down, disconnecting, and not letting the small things eat away at us, we’re able to liberate our sense of fulfillment and unleash our creative thinking selves.

 

Writing by walking

41NKNoExnqL“With writing as with walking you often find that you’re not heading exactly where you thought you wanted to go. There’ll be missteps and stumbles, journeys into dead ends, the reluctant retracing of your steps. And you have to tell yourself that’s just fine, that it’s a necessary, and not wholly unenjoyable, part of the process. It’s an exploration,” writes Geoff Nicholson in his book The Lost Art of Walking.

Writing, like walking, is getting lost but at the same time, trusting that wherever the pen and feet go as you ramble and amble around will be met with strange discoveries.

As Rebecca Solnit writes in Wanderlust: A History of Walking, “Language is like a road; it cannot be perceived all at once because it unfolds in time, whether heard or read.”

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The value of making up stuff

Art is what we do with our extra time. It is more leisure than life. “Art is everything you don’t have to do,” as Brian Eno put it.

The starving artist is compelled to have a day job. We can’t make art without the backbone of cash. 

However, the cashless value of writing a poem, painting a picture, or photographing the trees could save your life. 

It is in making up stuff we find meaning. The canvass enhances our lives, inspires us to express ourselves. That freedom can be liberating. 

Writes Louis Menand in his latest New Yorker piece entitled Can Poetry Change Your Life?

“But I got the same painful pleasure out of writing prose that I did out of writing poetry—the pleasure of trying to put the right words in the right order. And I took away from my experience with poetry something else. I understood that the reason people write poems is the reason people write. They have something to say.”

Art translates life. It takes us places. We need stories and memes in order to keep the everyday exciting. 

“Stare at the world, not at your model.”

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Photo by José Martín

Continually learning, constantly changing. The human mind is as fickle as the seasons. It is not mathematical models that predict the future but the law of nature.

Writes Richard Bookstaber in his book The End of Theory“The world could be changing right now in ways that will blindside you down the road.”

Nothing is linear and predictable; rather, everything emerges from its highest, heuristic probability — the upshot of the freedom of trial and error.

“Humans are not ergodic, however. We move through the world along a single path, and we get only that one path. Where we are on that path, our experiences, our interactions, the view we have of the world at that moment all determine the context for our actions. That path is not repeatable; we are not taking draws from a distribution.”

Even the rare anomaly becomes the impetus for our actions. People try stuff on a whim to check their pulse.

It is futile to aggregate behavior so we can algorithmicize systems. The world is unpredictable, especially the economic one.

“Chaos is the law of nature; order is the dream of man.”

— Henry Adams

Read The Practitioner’s Challenge


This is my daily collection of interesting reads and new music. I spend a lot of time digging the web for cool stuff and remixing them here. If you dig the blog, please consider making a donation or buying a book. A cup of coffee to helping out with hosting goes a long way.

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We’re all weird

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We’re All Weird by Seth Godin

Inspired by Alain de Button’s tweet, below is a collection of highlights of the word weird from Seth Godin’s 2011 book, We’re All Weird.

Weird by choice, on the other hand, flies in the face of the culture of mass and the checklist of normal.

The epic battle of our generation is between the status quo of mass and the never-ceasing tide of weird.

It’s human nature to be weird, but also human to be lonely. This conflict between fitting in and standing out is at the core of who we are.

The way of the world is now more information, more choice, more freedom, and more interaction. And yes, more weird.

The weird are weird because they’ve foregone the comfort and efficiency of mass and instead they’re forming smaller groups, groups where their weirdness is actually expected.

The next breakthroughs in our productivity and growth aren’t going to be about fueling mass. They’re going to be relentlessly focused on amplifying the weird.

Pre-historic cultures, not nearly as productive as ours, show little evidence of the weirdness our culture has recently developed.

When you don’t feel alone, it’s easier to be weird, which sort of flies in the face of our expectation that the weird individual is also a loner.

We don’t care so much about everyone; we care about us—where us is our people, our tribe, our interest group, our weirdness—not the anonymous masses.

The weird are now more important than the many, because the weird are the many.

There’s a long tail of channels, and at least one matches every person’s precise definition of weirdness (if there’s no match, go ahead and start another channel).

My proposed solution is simple: don’t waste a lot of time and money pushing kids in directions they don’t want to go. Instead, find out what weirdness they excel at and encourage them to do that. Then get out of the way.

It’s human nature to be weird, but also human to be lonely. This conflict between fitting in and standing out is at the core of who we are.