How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives. What we do with this hour, and that one, is what we are doing. A schedule defends from chaos and whim. It is a net for catching days. It is a scaffolding on which a worker can stand and labor with both hands at sections of time. A schedule is a mock-up of reason and order—willed, faked, and so brought into being; it is a peace and a haven set into the wreck of time; it is a lifeboat on which you find yourself, decades later, still living. Each day is the same, so you remember the series afterward as a blurred and powerful pattern.
— Annie Dillard, The Writing Life
“It is six A.M., and I am working. I am absentminded, reckless, heedless of social obligations, etc. It is as it must be. The tire goes flat, the tooth falls out, there will be a hundred meals without mustard. The poem gets written. I have wrestled with the angel and I am stained with light and I have no shame. Neither do I have guilt. My responsibility is not to the ordinary, or the timely. It does not include mustard, or teeth. It does not extend to the lost button, or the beans in the pot. My loyalty is to the inner vision, whenever and howsoever it may arrive. If I have a meeting with you at three o’clock, rejoice if I am late. Rejoice even more if I do not arrive at all.
There is no other way work of artistic worth can be done. And the occasional success, to the striver, is worth everything. The most regretful people on earth are those who felt the call to creative work, who felt their own creative power restive and uprising, and gave to it neither power nor time.”
— Mary Oliver, Upstream: Selected Essays
“Every sentence is a wispy net, capturing a few flecks of meaning. The sun shines without vocabulary. The salmon has no name for the urge that drives it upstream. The newborn groping for the nipple knows hunger long before it knows a single word. Even with an entire dictionary in one’s head, one eventually comes to the end of words. Then what? Then drink deep like the baby, swim like the salmon, burn like any brief star.”
— Scott Russell Sanders, Staying Put: Making a Home in a Restless World
“In practice it is the negative that’s used by the pros, those selected by evolution: chess grandmasters usually win by not losing; people become rich by not going bust (particularly when others do); religions are mostly about interdicts; the learning of life is about what to avoid. You reduce most of your personal risks of accident thanks to a small number of measures.”
— Nassim Nicholas Taleb, Antifragile
Below is a couple time management tips excerpted from New York Times Opinion writer Pamela Druckerman in her new book There Are No Grown-ups: A Midlife Coming-of-Age Story.
Follow your verve
When you’re trying to decide between several options, pay attention to which one energizes you and which one makes you feel tired just thinking about it. (I learned this from a life coach, Janet Orth.) This isn’t always feasible; practical factors can intrude and there are things you must do. But it’s worth weighing the “energy” factor, too. Even as a grown-up, it’s okay to choose the option that seems like more fun.
Don’t let the internet eat your life
Rules help. A children’s book author tells me that he only returns emails on Thursdays. Another writer tells me he never goes online between nine a.m. and five p.m. (“If I look something up, it’s an hour.”)
Focusing on the long term helps, too. The British writer Zadie Smith got a flip phone and installed internet-blocking software on her computer once she realized that she didn’t want to be 86 “and think that a large part of the life had been spent on Mr. Jobs, in his universe, on his phone, with his apps. I didn’t want that for my life.”
“Confronting the worst-case scenario saps it of much of its anxiety-inducing power. Happiness reached via positive thinking can be fleeting and brittle; negative visualisation generates a vastly more dependable calm.”
— Oliver Burkeman,
“Learning to let go should be learned before learning to get. Life should be touched, not strangled. You’ve got to relax, let it happen at times, and at others move forward with it. It’s like boats. You keep your motor on so you can steer with the current. And when you hear the sound of the waterfall coming nearer and nearer, tidy up the boat, put on your best tie and hat, and smoke a cigar right up till the moment you go over. That’s a triumph’
— Ray Bradbury, Farewell Summer
“Love is a form of prejudice. You love what you need, you love what makes you feel good, you love what is convenient. How can you say you love one person when there are ten thousand people in the world that you would love more if you ever met them? But you’ll never meet them. All right, so we do the best we can. Granted. But we must still realize that love is just the result of a chance encounter.”
— Charles Bukowski, Hot Water Music
“Writing turns you into someone who’s always wrong. The illusion that you may get it right is the perversity that draws you on.”
— Philip Roth, American Pastoral
In 2016, Roth donated 3,500 of his books to his hometown library in Newark, his ‘other home.’ Among those were the fifteen books Roth said influenced his life the most.
- Citizen Tom Paine by Howard Fast, first read at age 14
- Finnley Wren by Philip Wylie, first read at age 16
- Look Homeward Angel by Thomas Wolfe, first read at age 17
- Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger, first read at age 20
- The Adventures of Augie March by Saul Bellow, first read at age 21
- A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway, first read at age 23
- The Assistant by Bernard Malamud, first read at age 24
- Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert, first read at age 25
- The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner, first read at age 25
- The Trial by Franz Kafka, first read at age 27
- The Fall by Albert Camus, first read at age 30
- Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky, first read at age 35
- Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy, first read at age 37
- Cheri by Colette, first read at age 40
- Street of Crocodiles by Bruno Schulz, first read at age 41
Benedict Cumberbatch reads an extract from Carlo Rovelli’s book The Order of Time:
I stop and do nothing. Nothing happens. I am thinking about nothing. I listen to the passing of time. This is time, familiar and intimate. We are taken by it. The rush of seconds, hours, years that hurls us towards life then drags us towards nothingness … We inhabit time as fish live in water. Our being is being in time. Its solemn music nurtures us, opens the world to us, troubles us, frightens and lulls us. The universe unfolds into the future, dragged by time, and exists according to the order of time. What could be more universal and obvious than this flowing?
In a physics laboratory, a clock on a table and another on the ground run at different speeds. Which tells the time? The question is meaningless. We might just as well ask what is most real – the value of sterling in dollars or the value of dollars in sterling. There are two times that change relative to each other. Neither is truer than the other. But there are not just two times. Times are legion: a different one for every point in space. The single quantity “time” melts into a spiderweb of times. We do not describe how the world evolves in time: we describe how things evolve in local time, and how local times evolve relative to each other.
Time is always moving at different speeds, a subjective interpretation.
It only takes a few micrograms of LSD to expand our experience of time to an epic and magical scale. “How long is forever?” asks Alice. “Sometimes, just one second,” replies the White Rabbit. There are dreams lasting an instant in which everything seems frozen for an eternity. Time is elastic in our personal experience of it. Hours fly by like minutes, and minutes are oppressively slow, as if they were centuries.
Before Einstein told us that it wasn’t true, how the devil did we get it into our heads that time passes everywhere at the same speed? It was certainly not our direct experience of the passage of time that gave us the idea that time elapses at the same rate, always and everywhere.
“Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”
That’s the short and sweet dietary advice offered by journalist
Michael Pollan. But after writing Cooked, now he’s back with a new challenge: psychedelics.
Pollan’s autobiography on his first-hand experience with LSD and mushrooms are sure to interest people once more. He tells the Financial Times:
“There is a reason this book came into my life at this time,” he says. The author was turning 60, and felt the need to break mental habits, to “shake up the snow globe”: “taking the drugs and writing the book came from the same impulse: to try something new”.
Despite one bad experience smoking venom of the Sonoran Desert Frog, most of his trips were like enhanced meditations.
The highlight was going through “ego-dissolution”. Ego is, in many ways, the villain of Pollan’s book — a vigilant, tyrannical force that gets things done and looks after one’s interests, but is fearful and prevents “a fusion of the personal self into a larger whole”. As he writes in How to Change Your Mind, on mushrooms Pollan felt “a merging with other people, with nature . . . I realised that the ground of your ego is not the only ground on which you can stand. And that was a mind-blowing idea.” Channelling Aldous Huxley, he felt that “a door . . . opened for me on to a realm of human experience that for 60 years had been closed”.
In addition to seeking his own personal ‘reboot,’ Pollan’s other ambition was to shake up the stigma around psychedelic therapy and microdosing popularized in Silicon Valley. Keep in mind that Steve Jobs said that taking LSD was one of the “two or three most important things” he did in life.
While Pollan is not advocating for the legalization of LDS and other potent drugs, his experience suggests that their mental benefits are worthy of more research.
A good book review from Bill Gates on Walter Isaacson’s latest book Leonardo da Vinci.
More than any other Leonardo book I’ve read, this one helps you see him as a complete human being and understand just how special he was. He came close to understanding almost all of what was known on the planet at the time. That’s partly because scientific knowledge was relatively limited back then, partly because he had a high IQ, but mostly because he was insatiably curious about pretty much every area of natural science and the human experience. He studied, in meticulous detail, everything from the flow of water and the rise of smoke to the muscles you use when you smile.
Curiosity is king.
Leonardo Da Vinci: Thinking with an extra wrinkle in the brain
Why Leonardo da Vinci wrote backward
The imagination of Leonardo da Vinci
Below is an excerpt from The Daily Stoic, a book I always tend to when I get frazzled:
Pay attention to what’s in front of you—the principle, the task, or what’s being portrayed.
— Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, 8.22
It’s fun to think about the future. It’s easy to ruminate on the past. It’s harder to put that energy into what’s in front of us right at this moment—especially if it’s something we don’t want to do. We think: This is just a job; it isn’t who I am. It doesn’t matter. But it does matter. Who knows—it might be the last thing you ever do. Here lies Dave, buried alive under a mountain of unfinished business.
There is an old saying: “How you do anything is how you do everything.” It’s true. How you handle today is how you’ll handle every day. How you handle this minute is how you’ll handle every minute.