Low brain activities

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  • TV
  • YouTube
  • Social media

People enjoy low brain activities because it gives them the option to unthink. Whether it’s movies or endless Instagram scrolling, the images are there telling us what to think.

Reading or listening to music, on the other hand, may take your mind places. As Ray Bradbury once put it, books create a ‘theater inside your head.’

When you pursue the answers out of passiveness, the mind takes a seat. Idleness is ok in moderation.

No one’s waiting for you to get off the couch and exercise your imagination. The door to exceptional wonder is open at all times.

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Applying the facts

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They once said that you could increase your wealth just by reading The Economist. What they didn’t say was that you still needed to apply what you learned to real life.

Gobbling facts increase your knowledge and at the same time, deaden your ability to think for yourself.

You can make a living off of other people’s opinions, but you’re more likely to be remembered if you can originate something on your own.

Knowledge multiplies in power when it’s chewed over multiple times, actuated, and then retested.

Ray Bradbury: Reading creates a ‘theater inside your head’


A book triggers the imagination. A movie tells all.

A book can change your life. A film can change your perception, but only momentarily.

Reading creates a theater inside your ahead.

When it comes to reading versus watching a screen, it’s all about mind control. You can either make your own mental movie or acquiesce to the images fed on a wall. Said Ray Bradbury in an interview with Bradbury scholar Sam Weller:

It’s different because when you read it, you’re creating it in your own theater inside your head. But a film is total realism. You can’t change it, it’s right there, there’s nothing you can do about it. You can change a book in your mind. Every book is like Japanese flowers that go into your head and they sink down through the water inside your head, and then open out. The difference between books and film is books are unreality. They open up inside the head. They become yours. They’re more personal. Films are immediate and insistent. They’re like a bully. They bully you with their brilliance and you can’t turn away from them. Later you may, in remembrance, change them, but you can’t have the immediate thing that the book does where it fantasizes in the head. After all, it’s only print, it doesn’t mean anything. You have to learn at a certain age how to read those symbols and turn them into paper flowers that open in the mind. A film makes you think you know everything — you don’t. You can’t escape film.

Read an excerpt from Listen to the Echoes: The Ray Bradbury Interviews

Newsletter: ‘Find the torture you’re comfortable with’

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Harper’s: July Edward Penfield (1866–1925): The MET

web gems

1

Why Do Anything? A Meditation on Procrastination

Procrastination is the purest form of idleness. Our brain’s neurons ultimately dictate what we decide to do. “Who you are depends on what your neurons are up to, moment by moment,” writes David Eagleman in his book The Brain: The Story of You.

We are stuck between thinking and action, for which we have little choice but to finish what we conjure up in our minds or actualize in real life. “The procrastinator is both contemplator and man of action, which is the worst thing to be, and which is tearing him apart.” Humanities professor and author Costica Bradatan explains why procrastination is more than doing nothing.

nytimes.com

2

From Ptolemy to GPS, the Brief History of Maps

One of the oldest surviving maps (the Babylonian Map of the World) is “about the size and shape of an early iPhone.” While maps continue to guide us, they also exploited to drive conquest, gentrification, taxes, and voting polls.also have always lied. To quote the author Mark Monmonier of How to Lie With Map, “No map entirely tells the truth. There’s always some distortion, some point of view.”

Smithsonianmag.com

3

How to Live With Critics (Whether You’re an Artist or the President)

Criticism is democratic, integral to an informed democracy. Argues literary critic and poet Adam Kirsch: “Everyone brings his or her own values and standards to the work of judging. This means that it is also, essentially, democratic. No canon of taste or critical authority can compel people to like what they don’t like.”

nytimes.com

4

Schedule Nothing

“We like lists because we don’t want to die,” said Italian novelist and philosopher Umberto Eco. But in the age of digital distraction, we make records of things we’ll simply never complete. This cartoon explains why.

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wellsbaum.blog

5

Tell Us 5 Things About Your Book: ‘The End of Advertising’

“Devoid of advertising, television was elevated to arguably the world’s most relevant mass art form.” Former advertising executive Andrew Essex tells the story about the dual nature of today’s ads, following the example of Bayer which developed both aspirin and heroin in 1898.

nytimes.com

quote of the week

“Your blessing in life is when you find the torture you’re comfortable with.”

Jerry Seinfeld


digging in the crates

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  1. Laurence Guy – Wichita Falls
  2. Laurence Guy – Drum Is A Woman (feat. Steve Spacek)
  3. Rothadam – I Was Born To Be A Rebel
  4. Bruce – Before You Sleep
  5. Sudan Archives – Come Meh Way

LISTEN


I spend a lot of time digging the web for cool stuff and remixing it here. If you dig the blog, please consider making a donation or buying a book. A cup of coffee to helping out with hosting goes a long way.

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via giphy

Taking an inner evaluation

 

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Photo by Wells Baum

 

We communicate through smartphones incessantly because we can’t stand the thought of talking to ourselves. We reserve all our inner chatter for an outer narrative.  Technology critic Sven Birkerts wrote in his 1994 book The Gutenberg Elegies: The Fate of Reading in an Electronic Age:

Everything in contemporary society discourages interiority. More and more of our exchanges take place via circuits, and in their very nature those interactions are such as to keep us hovering in the virtual now, a place away from ourselves.

On top of this, we hire and create our own bots to inflate our ego. The President is perhaps the most guilty of this.

Social media is a chaotic popularity contest where we forfeit authenticity and opt instead for the curated life. We keep our ailments offline, with exception to Google where we always admit our fears. Anyone who shares anything is considered an extrovert by default.

Anyone who shares anything online is viewed as an extrovert by default. In fact, inwardness is the impetus for even more sharing. We replace loneliness with tweets and Instagrams to get others to confirm that we exist.

The second we put the phone away boredom and loneliness strike us hard. The best we can do is embrace these moments to remind what was, a knowledge of self.

 

One page at a time

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Reading a book, preferably a physical one, is a good way to get your attention back.

The problem in reading on smartphones is distractibility. You’re a notification away from checking Instagram, email, or a text.

If you’re going to read on a digital device, make it a Kindle. Its lack of functionality — just try web browsing on it — is its best feature.

Reading is an escape from the endless buzz of the digital world. It builds focus. In today’s world, single-tasking is more important than ever.

Things fall apart

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The default state of humanity is to do nothing but compete. The world is both territorial and disorderly.

‘Coercion is natural; freedom is artificial.’ It takes energy to turn individuals into niches that make peace. It’s even harder to sustain it. Things collapse when they don’t cooperate, a psychological practice just as much as a scientific one.

“In all chaos there is a cosmos, in all disorder a secret order.”

Carl Jung

More things go wrong than right, especially when we stop trying to keep them all together. The only way to decrease entropy is to apply some communal effort.

Read The Second Law Of Thermodynamics

Keep them guessing

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What does it all mean? (Image via James Douglas)

They say write to be understood. But what’s the point in spelling it all out?

It doesn’t hurt to make an obscure reference here and there to keep the reader guessing. Said author Jonathan Franzen in lunch with the Financial Times:

“I think you have to have a few things that you have to kind of chew on to get.”

When you first listen to a new Radiohead song, something about it sounds off. But after a few listens, the sounds in between become just as important as Thom Yorke’s lyrics. Nothing makes sense, but the emotional tug works.

It shouldn’t be the author or musicians goal to demystify everything. The maker is often still figuring it out himself, going against their own interpretation.

Reading into book statistics 

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Back in the 1830s, ten thousand people bought Harriet Martineau’s book Illustrations of Political Economy. It’s a remarkable statistic that one hundred and forty thousand read it. Each family owned a copy and passed it around.

Each of those one hundred forty thousand readers in 1950 went on to own their own copy. Fast-forward to today and one copy of the book can sell that many times over.

But despite infinite shelf-space, fewer people are reading novels. Our attention clings to news with little substance. As a result, we fatten our minds with misinformation that has no utility. Instead, its serves as fodder for banter within our worlds of influence.

Technology eases distribution, yet it doesn’t guarantee people will read in depth.

“We’re spending ten times as much time with a device, and one-tenth as much time reading a book.” — Seth Godin

Filtering out clickbait

Filter wisely
Filter wisely (via imgur)

Clickbait is the result of a 24/7 news cycle. Media companies create stories of unimportance so that they can get another click to drive up revenues. The entire operation intends to suck your attention and waste your time, along with depleting your brain cells.

In short, the news makes your brain fat. That’s why you have to step away from Twitter and reset your RSS feeds every six months. Delete the newsletters that contain links to useless articles. Or just read books. Consuming all the headlines makes none of them significant, leaving little room in your head for remembering what is actually important. Shane Parrish of the educational Farnam Street blog recently dissected the abundance of media in an article entitled ‘The Pot-Belly of Ignorance‘:

“Clickbait media is not a nutritious diet. Most people brush this off and say that it doesn’t matter … that it’s just harmless entertainment.

But it’s not harmless at all. Worse, it’s like cocaine. It causes our brains to light up and feel good. The more of it we consume, the more of it we want. It’s a vicious cycle.”

Be careful what you take in as it directly influences what you put back out. Even more, reflect on what you read since that’s where you connect ideas and start to develop your own. Of course, you need to identify the trustworthy sources. Start with the publication and curators you trust and make a list of potential resources based off of their hyperlinks.
Fill your mind with less, not more. And most importantly, work it off, trying to make sense of what you absorbed in the attempt to craft an original thought.

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Nostalgic for bookstores

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Slow media

Our online identities have become our real life identities, one where the rapidity of instant communication breaks down the slow pace of life. Tech makes us impulsive and drains our patience–we demand things with a click of a button and expect a drone drone to deliver them the same day.

So it’s no surprise that some people want to feel what it’s like to slow down again. The record store may be dead–selling CDs at least–but the bookstores continue to fight against the frenzied activity. Amazon just opened its second bookstore on the West Coast. The Shakespeare and Company bookstore in Paris is thriving, offering “an antidote to commercialism.” Some readers prefer personal recommendations over algorithmic ones.

For some, there will always be an allergic reaction to the rapidity, convergence, and intangibility of digital life, and a nostalgic desire to visit places that that encourage us to think, browse, and chat. We will not salvage or recreate everything pre-digital, but we will prop up those spaces that give us an escape from the velocity of ourselves.

Writing vs. blogging

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Let it all out

If you want to feel like you’re losing, write a book. If you want to feel like you’re winning, blog. With a blog, you can publish every day to get your hit of dopamine. A book is a practice in delaying gratification.

Writing or blogging is a matter of preference. Seth Godin publishes a blog post every day in addition to writing books and working on his altMBA program. Maria Popova is a blogger that specializes in digging through old print books to inspire blog posts but admits that she has no appetite to pen a novel herself.

The most important thing is to write and enjoy the practice, even if your writing never sees light of day. You should write for yourself anyway. Just don’t write so hard in your turtle shell that you remember to be a human being.

“Those who work much do not work hard.” – Henry David Thoreau

News makes your brain fat

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via Peekasso

News can be toxic. When consumed in excess, it can make your mind fat like eating fast food. You need to leave space in your brain for thinking, which means you need to reduce cognitive load. Writer and author Rolf Dobelli has spent the last four years ignoring the news.

News is to the mind what sugar is to the body. News is easy to digest. The media feeds us small bites of trivial matter, tidbits that don’t really concern our lives and don’t require thinking. That’s why we experience almost no saturation. Unlike reading books and long magazine articles (which require thinking), we can swallow limitless quantities of news flashes, which are bright-coloured candies for the mind.


If you have a tendency to succumb to the inundation of cheap headlines, consider spending your time consuming slow media instead. Read a book, listen to an entire album — concentrate on the whole rather than snacking on the parts. The news wants to interrupt you and impede comprehension.

In reality, news consumption is a competitive disadvantage. The less news you consume, the bigger the advantage you have.

Part of people’s fascination with the news is to confirm their own partisanship — Republicans watch Fox News and Democrats watch MSNBC. To quote Warren Buffett: “What the human being is best at doing is interpreting all new information so that their prior conclusions remain intact.”

As someone who scans the feeds to pluck interesting things–Twitter, RSS, Facebook, you name it — I see a lot of noise and very little signal. Breaking news is broken news; it clouds the brain with unnecessary knowing and anxiety, made worse by the fact that there’s nothing you can do to influence it.

So slow down. Take three deep breaths and reconsider the urge to know, especially when the news causes you to know less. No news is good news.