Stand out of our light


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Huxley predicted that the deliberate flood of information, perhaps a more lethal strategy than Orwellian censorship, would dent our interest in reading books, having active opinions, and therefore make us passive.

The internet, of course, puts information distribution on hyper-speed, skipping from one issue to the next. People consume and quickly forget what’s important, all the while externalizing everything onto the screen. We have lost our ability to pay attention, not just because of tweeting politicians but because of screaming merchants.

There’s yet another book dissecting this very topic of how technology hijacks the brain. Author James Williams of Stand out of our Light: Freedom and Resistance in the Attention Economy writes: 

“The liberation of human attention may be the defining moral and political struggle of our time. We therefore have an obligation to rewire this system of intelligent, adversarial persuasion before it rewires us.”

The former Google strategist has witnessed the intentional creation of distractive technologies that overpower human will so we no longer “want what we want to want.”

The Financial Times book review writes:

In an attempt to invent new linguistic concepts, the author plays with three types of attentional light: spotlight, starlight and daylight, pertaining to doing, being and knowing.

In this respect, Williams admires the free-speaking Greek philosopher Diogenes. One day, while sunning himself in Corinth, he was visited by Alexander the Great, who promised to grant him any wish. The cranky Diogenes replied: “Stand out of my light!” Williams wants a handful of West Coast tech executives to stop blocking out our human light, too.

Perhaps if we regain our detachment from irreality we’ll be able to look back and pinpoint attention distortion with fresh eyes.

The World’s Most Beautiful Libraries


The Italian photographer Massimo Listri’s new book The World’s Most Beautiful Libraries showcases 55 of the most gorgeous libraries across the globe dating as far back to 766.

Featured libraries include the Sainte-Geneviève library in Paris, France, the all-white  Mafra Palace library in Portugal (my favorite), and Trinity College Library, Dublin, Ireland which houses Book of Kells and Book of Durrow.

While mostly in Europe, Listri also captures the Library of Alexandria, once the largest library in the world to the camel bookmobiles seen in Kenya.

Sainte-Geneviève library, Paris, France
Sainte-Geneviève library, Paris, France
Vatican Apostolic Library, Rome, Italy
Vatican Apostolic Library, Rome, Italy
The Mafra Palace library, Mafra, Portugal
The Mafra Palace library, Mafra, Portugal
Rijksmuseum research library, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Rijksmuseum research library, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

See more images at Quartzy.

‘Think of drawing verbs instead of nouns’


A sure way to keep from making static, lifeless drawings is to think of drawing verbs instead of nouns. Basically, a noun names a person, place, or thing; a verb asserts, or expresses action, a state of being, or an occurrence. 

I speak often of shifting mental gears and here is another place to do it. The tendency to copy what is before us without taking time (or effort) to ferret out what is happening action-wise is almost overwhelming. 

Walt StanchfieldDrawn to Life: 20 Golden Years of Disney Master Classes

‘Space is closer than the sea’


Space is about 100 kilometers away. That’s far away—I wouldn’t want to climb a ladder to get there—but it isn’t that far away. If you’re in Sacramento, Seattle, Canberra, Kolkata, Hyderabad, Phnom Penh, Cairo, Beijing, central Japan, central Sri Lanka, or Portland, space is closer than the sea.

Randall MunroeWhat If?: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions  

Happy Bullet Journal Day!


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gif via Sharpie

If you look around Pinterest and Facebook groups, you’ll see that bullet journalling is all the rage but what most people don’t know is that Ryder Carroll is the originator of the Bullet Journal Method.

Today marks five years since Carroll introduced bulletjournal.com to the world, helping millions of people like myself organize and prioritize the right stuff in our personal and work lives in the face of the dopamine homing missiles of the distraction age.

I’m happy to share with you that he’s giving away two free chapters from his new book which comes out October 23.

You can download them for free here.

If you want to learn more about “intentional living” with the Bullet Journal Method, I encourage you to watch the video below:

Amusing ourselves to death


amusing ourselves to death

“Orwell feared those who would deprive us of information. Huxley feared those who would give us so much that we would be reduced to passivity and egoism. Orwell feared that the truth would be concealed from us. Huxley feared the truth would be drowned in a sea of irrelevance.”

Neil Postman, Amusing Ourselves to Death

Originally published in 1985, this book sounds strangely familiar today. For more on the rampant artifice and spin, read this piece from Vox

Tsundoku 📚


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Tsundoku is a Japanese word for collecting reading materials like books without ever reading them.

We thought the Kindle may have resolved the hoarding problem, but even that device can become bloated.

Physical or digital, the same rules apply: we often purchase books and forget about them. Perhaps surrounding ourselves with books isn’t a bad thing, but showcasing the ones we actually like could be life-changing.

“Imagine what it would be like to have a bookshelf filled only with books that you really love. Isn’t that image spellbinding? For someone who loves books, what greater happiness could there be?”

Marie Kondō, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing

(h/t Maria Konnikova)

‘There is no reason why good cannot triumph as often as evil’


There is no reason why good cannot triumph as often as evil. The triumph of anything is a matter of organization. If there are such things as angels, I hope that they are organized along the lines of the Mafia.

Kurt VonnegutThe Sirens Of Titan

‘The peak of peak attention…’


“The peak of peak attention can be assigned an exact date: Sunday, September 9, 1956, when Elvis Presley made his first appearance on television, on CBS’s Ed Sullivan Show. Its 82.6 percent share of viewers has never been equaled or bettered.”

— Tim Wu, The Attention Merchants: The Epic Scramble to Get Inside Our Heads

‘To write is to forget. Literature is the most agreeable way of ignoring life.’


To write is to forget. Literature is the most agreeable way of ignoring life. Music soothes, the visual arts exhilarate, and the performing arts (such as acting and dance) entertain. Literature, however, retreats from life by turning it into a slumber. The other arts make no such retreat — some because they use visible and hence vital formulas, others because they live from human life itself.

This isn’t the case with literature. Literature simulates life. A novel is a story of what never was, and a play is a novel without narration. A poem is the expression of ideas or feelings in a languages that no one uses, because no one talks in verse.

Fernando Pessoa, The Book of Disquiet

Nature, man and woman


We fail so easily to see the difference between fear of the unknown and respect for the unknown, thinking that those who do not hasten in with bright lights and knives are deterred by a holy and superstitious fear. Respect for the unknown is the attitude of those who, instead of raping nature, woo her until she gives herself. But what she gives, even then, is not the cold clarity of the surface but the warm inwardness of the body—a mysteriousness which is not merely a negation, a blank absence of knowledge, but that positive substance which we call wonderful.

— Alan Watts, Nature, Man and Woman

Down to Earth 🌎


Once it passed, they fell back to earth, and were crushed by the “triviality of everydayness.”

Gary Lachman, Beyond the Robot

‘A sad soul can kill you quicker, far quicker, than a germ.’


“A sad soul can kill you quicker, far quicker, than a germ.”

John Steinbeck, [easyazon_link identifier=”B01FKSTC3W” locale=”US” tag=”wells01-20″]Travels with Charley in Search of America[/easyazon_link]

How audiobooks are made


Susy Jackson is one of the narrators behind Audible’s audiobooks.

In this video, she shares some of the tips and trick she uses to record audiobooks, like underlining character names and noting places where she might need to alter her voice to match the verb (e.g. ‘whispering’).

“It’s this weird mental trick of staying really present and always kind of reading a little bit ahead.”

Take a look into her process for making audiobooks below.

Try Audible and Get Two Free Audiobooks