‘Be the bamboo tree which bends toward the wind’

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“Alive, a man is supple, soft; in death, unbending rigor. All creatures, grass and trees, alive are plastic, but are pliant, too, and [in] death all feeble and dry. Unbending rigor is the mate of death, and yielding softness, [the] company of life. Unbending soldiers get no victories, the stiffest tree is readiest for the ax. The strong and mighty belong to the bottom, the soft and yielding rise above them all.

The strongest is he that makes use of his opponent’s strength—be the bamboo tree which bends toward the wind; and when the wind ceases, it springs back stronger than before.

— Bruce Lee, Bruce Lee: Artist of Life

You’ve got to play to win

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“There was once a man named Goldberg who wanted nothing more than to be rich. So each day he went the synagogue and prayed to God to win the lottery. This went on for days, weeks, months, and years, but Goldberg never won. Eventually, Goldberg was at his wit’s end. Praying to God, he said, “You have really let me down.” Suddenly the silence was broken and God responded in a booming voice, “Goldberg, you’ve got to help me out here. You could at least buy a ticket!”

Tina Seelig, What I Wish I Knew When I Was 20

Speculative biology

In 1981, Scottish geologist Douglas Dixon wrote a book about what creatures may evolve to look like 50 million years from now post humans. The book entitled entitled After Man, came with drawings of biomorphs to illustrate his vision.

Check out the ‘flunkey’ above, a flying monkey that glides like a squirrel.

From Evolution After Humans:

Imagine a game of biogeographical musical chairs in which penguins have evolved comb-like beaks to sieve plankton as whales do, rats have replaced the big cats as dominant carnivores, cats swing through the tropical canopy chasing monkeys, and monkeys glide on flaps of skin like flying squirrels. The book’s central idea is convergent evolution: that similar traits arise independently in different species, to perform similar functions in similar environments.

‘Mankind = manikin = mannequin’

Memory Theatre book cover

 

Let me put this in a simple linguistic formula: Mankind = manikin = mannequin. Like Plato’s demiurge or creator-deity in the Timaeus, the fashion designer takes the old rags of matter and forms them into something sublime. God is the great fashion designer in the sky and the fashion designers here on earth are his prophets, his true disciples: mortal portals to his immortal power.

Simon Critchley, Memory Theatre

‘I can disagree with your opinion, it turns out, but I can’t disagree with your experience’

Krista Tippet, Becoming Wise: An Inquiry into the Mystery and Art of Living

I can disagree with your opinion, it turns out, but I can’t disagree with your experience. And once I have a sense of your experience, you and I are in relationship, acknowledging the complexity in each other’s position, listening less guardedly. The difference in our opinions will probably remain intact, but it no longer defines what is possible between us.

Krista TippetBecoming Wise: An Inquiry into the Mystery and Art of Living

‘Intention without action is an insult to those who expect the best from you’

Andy Andrews, The Noticer

Despite popular belief to the contrary, there is absolutely no power in intention. The seagull may intend to fly away, may decide to do so, may talk with the other seagulls about how wonderful it is to fly, but until the seagull flaps his wings and takes to the air, he is still on the dock. There’s no difference between that gull and all the others. Likewise, there is no difference in the person who intends to do things differently and the one who never thinks about it in the first place. Intention without action is an insult to those who expect the best from you.

— Andy Andrews, The Noticer

Skim reading is the new normal

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Ziming Liu from San Jose State University has conducted a series of studies which indicate that the “new norm” in reading is skimming, with word-spotting and browsing through the text. Many readers now use an F or Z pattern when reading in which they sample the first line and then word-spot through the rest of the text. When the reading brain skims like this, it reduces time allocated to deep reading processes. In other words, we don’t have time to grasp complexity, to understand another’s feelings, to perceive beauty, and to create thoughts of the reader’s own.

Read Skim reading is the new normal. The effect on society is profound

We are cultivating impatience, begetting callousness and ignorance. We need to go deeper. Huxley forewarned us.

‘We have built our great and towering civilization on the wreckage of a past’

“In coming to New Mexico, I had unexpectedly felt myself an alien—an immigrant—in my own country, and this lithic scatter reinforced this feeling. I was reminded that we Americans are interlopers on this continent; that we have built our great and towering civilization on the wreckage of a past that we know almost nothing about and can scarcely comprehend.” 

Douglas Preston, Cities of Gold

‘Technology isn’t bad. If you know what you want in life, technology can help you get it’

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Technology isn’t bad. If you know what you want in life, technology can help you get it. But if you don’t know what you want in life, it will be all too easy for technology to shape your aims for you and take control of your life. Especially as technology gets better at understanding humans, you might increasingly find yourself serving it, instead of it serving you.

Yuval Noah Harari21 Lessons for the 21st Century

Beware that one of technology’s biggest threat is that it undermines your will so you will no longer want what you want.  But you can reverse the stakes and like a hammer, use it as a tool for building the life you want.

‘Awakening is not a thing…It is not something to be attained’

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Awakening is not a thing. It is not a goal, not a concept. It is not something to be attained. It is a metamorphosis. If the caterpillar thinks about the butterfly it is to become, saying ‘And then I shall have wings and antennae,’ there will never be a butterfly. The caterpillar must accept its own disappearance in its transformation. When the marvelous butterfly takes wing, nothing of the caterpillar remains.

— Alejandro Jodorowsky, Where the Bird Sings Best

Success is the result of what sociologists like to call “accumulative advantage”

It is those who are successful, in other words, who are most likely to be given the kinds of special opportunities that lead to further success. It’s the rich who get the biggest tax breaks. It’s the best students who get the best teaching and most attention. And it’s the biggest nine- and ten-year-olds who get the most coaching and practice. Success is the result of what sociologists like to call “accumulative advantage.” The professional hockey player starts out a little bit better than his peers. And that little difference leads to an opportunity that makes that difference a bit bigger, and that edge in turn leads to another opportunity, which makes the initially small difference bigger still—and on and on until the hockey player is a genuine outlier. But he didn’t start out an outlier. He started out just a little bit better. Malcolm Gladwell, Outliers

The reading brain in a digital world

Reader, Come Home by Maryanne Wolf book cover

How often do you print something out just so you can take the time to read it with more focus?

In an interview with The Verge, UCLA neuroscientist and author of the forthcoming book Reader, Come Home: The Reading Brain in a Digital World, Maryanne Wolf explains what tech does to the reading brain.

This is a question that requires a very careful attempt at explanation. It’s not zero-sum, but we have grown used to skimming. People like you and me who spend six to 12 hours a day on a screen are led to use the skimming mode even when we know we should use a more concentrated, focused mode of reading.

It’s an idea I call “cognitive patience.” I believe we are all becoming unable to take the time to be patient because skimming has bled over into most of our reading.

The consequences of skimming:

Skimming has led, I believe, to a tendency to go to the sources that seem the simplest, most reduced, most familiar, and least cognitively challenging. I think that leads people to accept truly false news without examining it, without being analytical. One of my major worries is that when you lose the novel, you lose the ability to go into another person’s perspective. My biggest worry now is that a lot of what we’re seeing in society today — this vulnerability to demagoguery in all its forms — of one unanticipated and never intended consequence of a mode of reading that doesn’t allow critical analysis and empathy.

A fascinating read throughout. But books are not the only medium with an attention problem.