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Culture

Alain de Botton — A School of Life for Atheists

On the latest On Being podcast with Krista Tippett, philosopher and best-selling author Alain de Botton talks about his new book Religion for Atheists: A Non-believer’s Guide to the Uses of Religion.

Alain de Botton is an atheist, but his perspective on religion is far more complicated.

Instead of debunking religion in thinking that all pious people are idiots — as some atheists may presume — he shines a light on some of the things where religion excels: in values, wisdom, communions, and “the wonders of religious architecture.” As he says nearly eight minutes in:

“These religions at their highest points, at their most complex and subtle moments, are far too interesting to be abandoned merely to those who believe in them.”

Alain de Botton

His book is therefore not for atheists alone, but for the believers who may find Botton’s perspective reconfirming. Above all, Botton proposes toleration, not necessarily that we agree with each other but we “make space for the stranger” who holds different views and accepts them as is. ‘Developing emotion intelligence’ is at the heart of Botton’s own academy, The School of Life.

Categories
Creativity Productivity & Work Writing

Everything starts on paper 

Everything starts on paper.

Whether you are using post-it notes or loose leaf, paper is ideal for getting down thoughts and mapping out ideas quickly. In fact, some Google employees prohibit phones and use paper exclusively to brainstorm. The magic of writing in analog is a controlled speed, flexibility, and focus.

“Everyone can write words, draw boxes, and express his or her ideas with the same clarity.”

If computers are a bicycle for the mind, as Steve Jobs once proclaimed, then writing on paper is like taking a walk. Paper jogs the mind, it is slow yet methodical, allowing it to connect the dots between disparate things.

“As with music, so with thought: when you want clarity, you seek out paper. Paper is the slow food of thought.”

As much as technology facilitates creativity, it can also distract it. Various studies show that taking notes by hand helps students remember more. Physical books, like vinyl, are also still hanging around despite the popularity of e-readers. Meanwhile, handwritten letters are considered more meaningful because of the perceived effort it went into writing and mailing them.

Digital abundance drives up the value of scarce objects like paper. Paper is proving its longevity not just as a nostalgic medium but also because it benefits the process of thinking and planning.

“As long as everyone is thinking and writing stuff on paper, you’re on the golden path.”

Read The Google Guys Use Paper

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Culture Politics & Society Uncategorized

On criticism


The doer wants acknowledgment for their work. They want people to scream their hosannas. But criticism is democratic.

Not everyone likes Radiohead’s last album. Every Trump tweet draws liberal contestants. Where you fall in the Messi versus Ronaldo or Jordan versus Lebron debate could be a preference based on your birth date. Opines 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.”

As an artist, athlete, CEO, US president, some criticism is better than none at all. My newest book Train of Thought has zero reviews. I’d rather have one star and a bad review just to confirm that someone had a look.

Criticism is integral to an informed democracy. Even the maker is a critic. Their rebuttals are neither valid nor invalid but mere reason. Conversely, the reviewer is also a professional; even a stream of invective is a manifestation of analysis and interpretation.

Perhaps it is the inner-critic that is the most annoying of all. It’s the one that wants both artist and analyst to say and do nothing but remain in a state of paralysis.

What’s most important therefore is the opinion itself. Consent is an illusion reserved for lemmings. Now feel free to criticize this post in the comments below.

art via giphy

Categories
Culture Life & Philosophy Poetry

Despite the challenges

gif via Thoka Maer

If you’re never wrong, you’ll never be right. Rightness is a function of the mistakes you make.

If you’re not making a mistake, you’re making a mistake. Failure is just another data point.

Bottling stress only exacerbates it. Writes psychologist Susan David: “When you say, “I’m stressed,” you conflate your whole self (I am = all of me) with the emotion.”

Conformity relinquishes uniqueness. “Uniformity and freedom are incompatible.”

Time travelers can change the course of history with a sneeze.

Apps are short-term solutions. You can’t medicate your problems away with them, nor Adderall for that matter.

A start is means nothing without the finish. Said Garp, “You only grow by coming to the end of something and by beginning something else.”

Doing good can be problematic. Teju Cole quotes John Berger: “A singer may be innocent; never the song.”

And so forth.

Categories
Creativity Life & Philosophy Productivity & Work Quotes

Write the book in your head you want to hear

via giphy

Our inner narrative is alive 24/7. Most of our thoughts are garbage, random and unintelligible. But we can dictate some of it, to write the book in our head we want to hear.

That’s why it’s so critical to surround ourselves with things that reinforce the way we want to think and live. When author Ryan Holiday got stuck on his last book, he walked the streets of New Orleans to reboot his mind.

New Orleans was really the perfect city to write in. I said at my first book signing that writing a book is really a series of long walks. There’s not a better city to walk in in America. It’s old and beautiful and slow. There’s a history of great writers there—a connectedness to the past that was inspiring. I was having trouble finishing this book I’ve been working on and I actually just went and spent 10 days there to recapture it. Worked like a charm.

In reality, we’re never stuck. When it comes to the mind, there is no such thing as talker’s block. We are in continuous dialogue with ourselves. But we decide to catch, ignore, emphasize, and act on is what makes all the difference. If we want something, we have to extract meaning from both external and internal worlds.

We become the person we look and listen to. To quote author Charles Bukowski: “Yes, it’s the dream that keeps you going then and now.”

Categories
Life & Philosophy

Sureness

Image via Pawel Wisniewski

Sureness is the most likely indication of one’s vulnerability.

You can be unsure but fearless in the endeavor.

You can be free in confidence but blind to reality.

To be sure, or unsure, but never both.