Take my advice and throw it away,
As far as the wind can blow,
The cycles of life are temporary,
There is always a pendulum,
Ask the questions and then live them,
A ghoulish curiosity amps the restless,
Calm is happiness,
Not too fast nor too slow,
The seashore ebbs and flows,
Avoid shaping the wave.
The original Jumpman wasn’t Michael Jordan; it was Mario! But the name didn’t stick because it wasn’t marketable enough according to Minoru Arakawa, Nintendo’s American boss in the early 1980s. Luckily, he got some outside inspiration.
“His name was an afterthought. Top billing on the game was always going to go to the gorilla. (“Kong”, in the context, was more or less a given; “Donkey” was found by consulting a Japanese-English dictionary for a word meaning silly or stupid.) The protagonist was simply called “Jumpman” for the one thing he was good at. But Minoru Arakawa, the boss of Nintendo in America, wanted a more marketable name. Around that time, writes David Sheff in “Game Over”, an authoritative account of Nintendo’s rise, Mr Arakawa was visited at Nintendo’s warehouse outside Seattle by an irate landlord demanding prompt payment. He was called Mario Segale, and he had a moustache. Thus does destiny call.”
By 1990, the pudgy plumber who gained energy from mushroomfluff became more recognizable than Mickey Mouse. And if the lost hat from a Halloween costume I found on the street yesterday morning is any proof, Mario is still king!
“The zoo is the epitaph to a relationship,” once wrote John Berger. And while this analogy pertains to human domestication of animals in faux environments, it also serves as a metaphor for the fragility of today’s human bonds.
We are alone together separated by a fence of technology. We sit next to each other but share our true thoughts online, hiding behind the protective masks of our glowing devices. We emphasize the “I” without the confidence to look at each other eye to eye.
Combine this narcissistic phenomenon with the hyper-speed race to the bottom of name-calling and provoked antagonism plus the inability to focus on one issue at a time and we lose all sense of objectivity. Compassion, respect, and gratitude vanish into artifacts of the past.
How do we build ourselves back up? For starters, we can slow down and cultivate human decency. After all, we’re all in this together. Recall that the birds turned into fishes only out of the urge of curiosity.
Photographer Eiji Ohashi spent nine years capturing images of Japan’s vending machines on his late-night commutes home from work.
“At the time, I was living in a town in the north of Japan that would get hit by terrible blizzards during the winter months. I’d drive my car in (these) conditions and use the light of the vending machines to guide me.”
Well-maintained even in harsh winter conditions, the machines stand out in Japan’s remote towns like ‘roadside lights’, the eponymous title of Ohashi’s photography book.
For a country that produces “300-plus flavors of KitKat,” the vending machines not only look the same, they all sell the same items. Said Ohashi: “I wanted to capture the standardized form of the vending machines. I thought you could see the differences between the regions through the scenery around them.”
Walter Isaacson: The Greatest Genius Of Them All. Isaacson’s Leonardo da Vinci book is out (Amazon). The author proclaims da Vinci the truest polymath of them all, even amongst Einstein, Benjamin Franklin, and Steve Jobs because he excelled in a furious curiosity that helped him combine disciplines.
+ Isaacson also offers his two cents on America’s current political environment, using Einstein to illustrate his point: “Einstein wrote to his son that American democracy was like a gyroscope, that just as soon as you feel like it’s going to fall over it has the ability to right itself. I believe that’s the case; I believe that America is looking wobbly at the moment but it has a magical ability to right itself, and it will do so.”
Boiling Lead And Black Art. The printing press — considered the ‘first internet’ along with human language — was always a slow process, especially when it came to printing mathematics. But it also ensured that what got published was thorough, unlike the surfeit of the internet’s blog posts and tweets. “Slowing down requires better thought technology. It requires a willingness to draft for the sake of drafting. It requires throwing away most of what we think because most of our thoughts don’t deserve to be read by others.”
A New Theory Explains How Consciousness Evolved. We developed consciousness to deal with information overload. “Neurons act like candidates in an election, each one shouting and trying to suppress its fellows.” It sounds like democracy.
thought of the week
“The greatest impediment to creativity is your impatience.”
It was surreal. Standing in the face of General Colin Powell at Madame Tussaud’s in DC had a dream-like quality too it.
A window stood between us, the reflective glare merging our bodies. See my arms?
Powell’s face seems to conceal my iPhone; the stage-lighting effect of portrait mode paints a dark outline. Yet, everything was unintended. There were no tricks, just a play on consciousness at the magic wand of technology.
Wrote Teju Cole in his piece Strangely Enough: “But the surreal image — which, at its most resonant, breaks through consciousness instantaneously and surprisingly — is an elusive thing.”
We worry as a ‘preventative’ — to thwart any future stress. We try to control the situation with a surfeit of possibilities that we mentally prepare for, most of which never occur.
“I’ve suffered a great many catastrophes in my life. Most of them never happened.” — Mark Twain
Anxiety is a thinking problem that rides around the racetrack of uncertainty. It imagines issues that don’t yet exist. Caught in the worry loop, imagining fear stimulates discomfort.
But when a worry becomes a reality we realize how capable we are in dealing with it. We grow more resilient. Once we develop the courage to face our problems, like a lighthouse, we develop the energy to share our experience to console others.
To worry or not to worry, whatever happens, happens.
The forces that bind together meaning aren’t always strong, nor are they credible. Your inner-dialogue is like a bank: the more you put into it, the more it wants to synch patterns between disparate events.
We look at the world through the context of our collected experiences. We choose what sticks around to arm us for the uncertainty that the future brings. Carl Jung once said, “In all chaos there is a cosmos, in all disorder a secret order.” But what if our mind manufactures stories of coincidental events? Imagination tends to hyperbolize reality.
Perhaps there are no gravitational forces; everything is just a game of chance despite our aim to corroborate our beliefs with supposed facts. When we try to find meaning in everything, we often end up with an incomplete picture.
Certainty tries to assert itself as the dream of man. But when we learn to relax our beliefs, we realize that there are only a few items in life that deserve our scarce attention. Everything else should be left to chance.
There’s a still of rhythm to be found in between the cacophony of noises where we decide what we want to hear.
It doesn’t take too much convincing to bend the will of the well-intentioned.
People are fickle. Show them a better deal, and they’ll chase it, jettisoning their commitment to trusted relationships.
Care and experience are the first to go in exchange for convenience. Having your books and groceries delivered to your doorstep saves time, but it also prevents the happy accidents of bumping into a friend at the market or overhearing an interesting chat in the philosophy aisle.
The compromise for conveniency — texting over calling, shopping in your pajamas, etc. — is a loss in real human exchange. It’s easier to tweet when you’re hiding behind a mask.
Its rectangular glow,
It sucks your 👀 into the screen,
The mind into a ludic loop,
Another spin at the wheel,
Stuck in a trance of dopamine,
It feels too good to let go,
So good it’s bad,
Until it’s embedded,
Amid the retina, Expect smart contacts.
Give the drummer some! Below are some interesting reads in creativity, culture, and tech from this week. Listen to the track ‘Something More’ from UK artist Nabihah Iqbal after the jump.
A Night at the Garden by Marshall Curry. On February 20, 1939, 20,000 Americans gathered at Madison Square Garden in New York City to celebrate the rise of Nazism. Film producer Marshall Curry worked with an archivist to pull together the clips of footage to tell a cohesive story that is eerily similar to today, lies and all! History is a GIF loop.
Thinking Like a Mountain. Nature writers endeavor to make sense of the land dominated by humans to see if it’s just as conscious as themselves. “What is looking back at us through other species’ eyes? Could we ever escape our own heads and know the viewpoint of a hawk? Is there such a thing as thinking like a mountain?”
thought of the week
“A caterpillar who seeks to know himself would never become a butterfly.”
We are obsessed with the first-person because we live in a culture that emphasizes the individual. The selfie generation makes “I” the predominant jargon for almost everything we post on social media and talk about in real life.
Me-ness has shrouded our ability to step outside the self and see the world objectively. It’s not all about us. We view ourselves in the reflection of other people. The looking glass self is external. Writes Adam Price in defense of third person.
It worries me that we may be slowly losing the cultural ability or inclination to tell stories in third person. Why does this matter? Because, I believe, third-person narration is the greatest artistic tool humans have devised to tell the story of what it means to be human.
“I think therefore I am.”
Our inner-narrative predicts how we’ll act in real life. It controls the outer stage of actions. As narrators, we can be more thoughtful of how to talk to about ourselves despite the egotism reinforced by the dizzying pace of status updates. We find deeper meaning when we can see and express a world bigger than ourselves.
We constantly divide our attention between the first- and third-person points of view, between desiring the shiny object in front of us and figuring out what it means for us to take it: who else wants it, what we have to do to get it, and whether it’s worth taking it from them.
“A caterpillar who seeks to know himself would never become a butterfly.”
— André Gide
You may not be a morning person now. But you might be when you have kids.
You may not think of yourself as a meditator, but after listening to Tara Brach, you may become hooked.
You may have loved drinking chocolate milk and eating fruity pebbles as a kid. But do you still consume them as an adult?
You may order an espresso each morning until someone introduces to you the Americano or flat white.
And so forth…
You’re made to change, in small and significant ways. To think who you are today is final is nonsense, an illusion that falsely imagines the end of your own history.
“We all think that who we are now is the finished product: we will be the same in five, 10, 20 years. But, as these psychologists found, this is completely delusional – our preferences and values will be very different already in the not-so-distant future.”
Perhaps instead we should ‘practice becoming,’ as Kurt Vonnegut so wisely encouraged.