The placebo creates a ceremony of expectation. It builds off novelty and reinvigorates confidence in the possibility of recovery.
We all fall victim to the soft mental implantation of a placebo, the oldest medicine in the world. One simple belief kickstarts a chemical revolution. But in reality, the answer just needed to be poked from dormancy.
Reawakened, the inner narrative thrives on hedonic editing.
We certify the belief in our internal storage. Over time, it gains credibility and records the transaction on the human block chain of the genetic code. Truth happens to the idea
If at first, we expect, then we can succeed. It is faith that moves mountains.
The internet never ends. Mountains of content are piling up as we speak.
The hook is neither in our control or that of technology. We pull the lever, the slot machine spits out a variable reward.
It’s impossible to disentangle ourselves from the mindlessness of a ludic loop. With more data, the machine grows smarter and more manipulative.
But we can’t fault our own blindness, zombie scrolling in the sorcery of screens.
All the while, the trees are abundant, pumping oxygen into nature and encouraging humans to rejoin the broken.
Tethered to the magic of screens, we feed the data distilleries with our oil and reap cheap entertainment pellets in return. There is no quid pro quo. We are competent and conscious only in our dreams, awaiting that return to an archaic form of life.
We suffer from a surfeit of choice. Stuck in indecision, we end up doing nothing at all. Perhaps intertia is the best solution in these dizzying times. Instead of forcing the issue, we let nature take its course.
But more often than not, life doesn’t move unless we do. It begs for action and a subsequent reaction. Even more, in doing, we realize how much more is invisible.
Passivity and dynamism coexist
Surrounded by a morass of distraction machines, it’s no wonder we permit the frustration of ‘what’s next’ chip away at our patience. “Patience is the key to joy,” wrote Rumi.
Staring into nature’s green space may not solve our problem, but it will help us think expansively. We can assume that the best answer lies beyond us. That is until we realize that the answer cramped inside us all along.
The wait never means never if we never get tired of waiting it out right now.
On average, how many times do you actually finish the book you’re reading?
Artist and journalist James Bridle encourages us to be honest with ourselves on answering that question. Here’s what he says:
I don’t read like I used to—although that’s not necessarily a bad thing. I rarely finish books. I’ve always had a habit of abandoning novels 50-100 pages before the end. I don’t know why, I’ve always done that. I think I’m doing it more and I don’t mind because I think my critical senses have improved and by eradicating book guilt I’ve reached a point where I am happy to cast things aside. I read 5, 10 books at once. I read them on paper and electronically as the mood takes me.
I read with continuous partial attention and I don’t care that I am frequently interrupting my own reading. I despise the discourse that says we are all shallow, that we are all flighty, distracted, not paying attention. I am paying attention, but I am paying attention to everything, and even if my knowledge is fragmented and hard to synthesise it is wider, and it plays in a vaster sphere, than any knowledge that has gone before.
Two thoughts —
No need to beat yourself up for not finishing a book. Just don’t blame it on the heat-seeking missiles of tweets and push notifications.
Focus on your reading but keep an open mind on how it all connects. You might get interested in something else instead. That’s ok, you can always return to the book later.
The good books stick. If you read it all the way through, you could say you were hooked!
If your inability to finish books is a time issue, consider this advice from Stephen King: ‘I take a book with me everywhere I go, and find there are all sorts of opportunities to dip in. The trick is to teach yourself to read in small sips as well as in long swallows.’
One hundred years ago, all fighter pilot seats were the same size until there became unnecessary deaths. The US Air Force adapted and customized its seating options.
The mass markets ushered in by industrialization standardized our style. The factory mindset kicked in. But then the internet came along and let people shop in niches. The bell curve flattened, and we felt special.
But the algorithms that run the world today have once again undermined our uniqueness.
The machines determine what we wear, listen to, and read.
We have no choice but to partake in an algorithmic world. We get it: There are too many resumes for one job, a surfeit of photos, new music, and so on.
But picking the mathematical best obviates the outlier and the error. It is the spontaneity that makes us human. Context matters.
If we’re already living in a simulation, let’s not be afraid to be random. We know what we like, the rest is thrown at us by optimizing bots.
Leonardo da Vinci obsessed with water more than any of his multidisciplinary interests: architecture, science, painting, and sculpture.
For Leonardo da Vinci, the current represented that perfect chaos that separated air from water. In his Book on Waters, he wrote:
Nothing shares a surface with something and something shares a surface with nothingness. And the surface of something is not part of that thing, whence it follows that the surface of nothingness is part of nothingness, whence it follows that a single surface is the limit between two things that are in contact. Since the surface of water is not part of the water, and hence is not part of the air or of other bodies placed between them, what is it then that divides the air from the water?
Below is one of Leonardo’s sketches on the movement of water from 1508. It demonstrates the paradox of water in, around, and again itself.
…water in percussion: that is, water is itself the obstacle to water, and in this case the contrast is between the resulting currents on the surface, under the surface, and surging upward carrying bubbles of entrapped air. The relationship between air and water, both in combination and as analogous media, was also a subject that greatly preoccupied Leonardo and played a critical role in the development of his thought that concerns me here.
The structure of a stream lies within its anti-structure. There’s the unpredictable and disruptive movement of its flow. Yet freshwater slithers over rocks, persisting unperturbed all the way into the mouth of the river.
The chaos of running water seems to be why it works.
Art is where our mind’s eye merges with reality to create a theater inside our head, resulting in the form of a diary. This was especially true for Pablo Picasso.
Picasso was perhaps best known for his practice of public journaling via painting. “My work is my diary. I have painted my autobiography,” he said.
Picasso grasped his inner thoughts and projected them on canvass. His art gave us a peek inside his head, such as his relationship with partner Marie-Thérèse Walter in his formative years.
Art is therapy
Art is an instrument for coping, part mental therapy part expression. Bottling his thoughts without letting them go would’ve driven Picasso insane. Whether it is painting, writing, or playing sports, we exercise our bodies to verify that we’re still alive.
“To be or not to be. That’s not really a question,” quipped film director Jean-Luc Godard back to Shakespeare’s most famous line.
To be is rather a false start. We think that success breeds confidence, but it’s actually the little lessons along the way that build up our future.
Struggle makes us human
Similarly, it is our impairments that deem to weaken us that actually but end up making us stronger. As we overcompensate for our flaws, we excel in creating our own unique survival methods that are almost impossible to replicate.
Humans should march slowly, unattached to the cult of action, tolerant to their defects.
Said Malcolm Gladwell: “A lot of what is beautiful and powerful in the world arises out of adversity. We benefit from those kind of things,” but “we wouldn’t wish them on each other.”
We are all underdogs in something, a compromise that gets us out of bed in the morning and back to work.