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Life & Philosophy Tech

The loose gate of attention

Attention works like a loose gate. We can’t always control what information sneaks in, nor can we parse the data so it makes sense coming out.

We grind away at the information life throws at us, some of it tangible and worthwhile but most it nonsense.

Like a Google search, the stuff worth keeping is like finding a needle in a haystack. When we discover something of value, it sticks. We share the knowledge with others, recasting it as our own.

Yet, our minds remain terrible aggregators. Who’s in charge, the thinker or the thought?

It’s impossible to unhear and unsee things — conversations, teacher’s lessons, tweets — without getting sucked into the commercialization of attention. The public sphere promotes mindless chatter, so rationalization sinks to the bottom.

The race to become synchronized with the mainstream prevents the interrogation of ideas. The noisy flood of information buffers thought until finally, the chaos settles to the bottom. And pieces of clarity return, unstuck from the confident idiots.

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Arts Creativity Life & Philosophy Psychology Writing

How to unthink

Knowledge can be a hindrance. The more we know, the more likely we’re to hesitate in times of execution.

So the overthinking basketball player misses a wide-open layup, the tennis player misses an easy return, or the painter or writer can’t seem to get their inspiration to convert on a blank canvas.

Stalling is a symptom of facing the resistance. When we try too hard to be perfect, we may do nothing at all.

So how can we stem the tide of excess contemplation?

One of the ways to think less author Flann O’Brien once said was to act “calculatedly stupid” and to enjoy what we’re doing. As Vincent Van Gogh put it: “Just slap anything on when you see a blank canvas staring you in the face like some imbecile.”

We are at our best when we’re relaxed and instinctive, free from the chaos of the monkey mind.

Unthinking is the ability to apply years of learning at the crucial moment by removing your thinking self from the equation. Its power is not confined to sport: actors and musicians know about it too, and are apt to say that their best work happens in a kind of trance.

So do the work and let go, let God. Let inspiration be free-floating perspiration.

Read Non cogito, ergo sum

art via giphy

Categories
Culture Politics & Society

Cultivating disparate views

Cultivating disparate views #gif

Two America’s, two different realities. If you can shape your own feeds and build an arsenal of self-confirming information, why do you ever have to see the other side?

But that’s precisely the problem. Inundated with reassurances and accelerated culture, people promptly ignore what they disagree with. Technology is not neutral; instead, it is weaponized to meet group ends.

Democracies thrive in open environments. They need proper dissent and discourse. Above all, a healthy system of government needs a continuity of ideas.

Secondly, democracies need your own thoughts and reflections. If your first opinion is usually someone else’s, the latter should be based on your aggregate experiences and education.

Listen to your views like you listen to your life. Is your interpretation still accurate? Challenge yourself, and read this book for extra credit — you’ll thank me later. 

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More Reflection, Less Action

Instead, we too often view the opposite of “doing” as “not doing,” and then demonize inaction. In fact, good judgment grows out of reflection, and reflection requires the sort of quiet time that gets crowded out by the next demand.

Don’t mistake inactivity for laziness, for doing nothing could also be deep thinking, or sleeping for that matter.  Clarity emerges from an over-connected mind trying to be blank.

Sometimes the mind needs nothing other to do than to rest.

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On Thinking Caps

I’d like a literal thinking cap. A regular baseball hat, but with the look of an orange or yellow construction hard hat. It would say “Construction in Progress, Do Not Disturb” on it.

Here’s why. There is an annoying asymmetry between inside-head and outside-head thinking. A thinking cap would solve this problem.

People think they can disturb you when you just sit.  They think you’re doing nothing but staring off into space.

You don’t necessarily need a pen and paper to think.  You need peace and quiet and little movement.  Just because you’re not moving or holding something, doesn’t mean you can be interrupted.   

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Remain Skeptical

“All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make the better.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Doubt on purpose.  Doubt in order to jump start different thinking and experiment, rising above the ordinary.

Narrow-mindedness is accepting things by default. Life requires diversity which begets progress.

Nevertheless, skepticism is only one step one in redefining existence.

Thinking different is a cop-out if there’s no creative work to back it up.

Skeptics are as equally as responsible as conformists.  They have to convert questioning into viable action. Naturally, the next is doing the work.

It’s not about ideas. It’s about making ideas happen. – Scott Belsky

The biggest hurdle in any creative process though is communicating it effectively and converting the work into sales. Creativity is one part making and equal part commerce.

Making money is art and working is art and good business is the best art. – Andy Warhol

If your work matters, then it’ll probably matter to others as you convince them to share your labor of love.

In summary, here are the steps to maximizing skepticism:

  1. Think Different.
  2. Take positive, creative action.
  3. Communicate effectively.
  4. Sell your idea/art.

Uniqueness is a prompt for action, not an excuse to sit back and mock what’s already been done.

Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things the matter. – Martin Luther King Jr.

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Un(u)sual Assumptions

  • Everyone assumes allergies or sickness upon a sneeze.

  • Everyone assumes a tech maladroit for owning an old cell phone.

  • Everyone assumes guilt before innocence, even though the legal system believes otherwise.

  • Everyone assumes that prayer increases their chances of luck.

  • Everyone assumes that life goes on.

All of these assumptions might be true, especially if they work for you. People need a certainty bias even when they know it might be false.

Assumptions leave little chance for divergent thinking. What if your initial thought just wasn’t the case?

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11 Tricks For Battling Creative Blocks, From Leading Creatives

The physical world is ultimately the source of all inspiration. Which is to say, if all else falls: take a bike ride.

In short, leave the computer to restart the creative system.  This could be anything from a walk to a bike ride to riding on a plane with no access to email. 

Wonderful things happen when your brain is empty. – (link)

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Don’t assume.
Don’t assume.