|burn||Burn any copy you find of this book, it is horrific.|
|mock||This book is awful. Don't read this book and mock anyone you see reading this book.|
|don't||Don't read this book.|
|desert||If you're on a desert island and are bored out of your mind, this book is okay to read.|
|fan||If you're a fan of this author / genre, this book is worth reading.|
|worth||This book is interesting, fun, entertaining, and thus worth reading. I would hand this book to a friend who asked for a _____ type book.|
|strongly||I strongly recommend this book|
|amazing||OMG, this book is amazing and/or life-changing, let me buy you a copy.|
Okay, everyone knows the movie.
Not everyone knows the movie was a book. The afterword in the book confirms this.
I had read recently about how Palahniuk's financial advisors had pretty much swindled him out of his earnings from this book ($6000 advance, according to the afterword!), and that, well, he had taken a startling Classical Stoic view on the whole thing. Maybe my purchasing of the book (twice, actually, to my surprise) will help in some small way.
So, this book.
The Narrator is living a typical American life, everything is normal, and he feels empty. He starts going to support groups to feel alive.
I loved the support groups so much, if people thought you were dying, they gave you their full attention. If this might be the last time they saw you, they really saw you. Everything else about their checkbook balance and radio songs and messy hair went out the window. You had their full attention. People listened instead of just waiting for their turn to speak. And when they spoke, they weren’t telling you a story. When the two of you talked, you were building something, and afterward you were both different than before.
Eventually he meets up with Tyler Durden, who is pretty much the asshole every guy wants permission to be. The narrator's life begins to unravel. Said narrator doesn't care much, because Tyler is there to carry him along.
I had seen the movie, I know how the story goes. I had the eight rules of fight club (all lowercase in the book, unlike the uppercase the media uses) memorized at one time. Having now read the book, I am impressed with how closely the movie is to the book. The more subtle details such as the single porn movie frame being spliced into a family movie translated into the movie really well, I can appreciate those details.
Pretty much anyone who is a fan of the movie should read the book. I can't say I'm a huge fan of Palahniuk's writing style, or even a minor one, so I'm unlikely to read another book of his any time soon, but this one was worth reading if you are a fan.
I just don’t want to die without a few scars, I say. It’s nothing anymore to have a beautiful stock body. You see those cars that are completely stock cherry, right out of a dealer’s showroom in 1955, I always think, what a waste.
It used to be enough that when I came home angry and knowing that my life wasn’t toeing my five-year plan, I could clean my condominium or detail my car. Someday I’d be dead without a scar and there would be a really nice condo and car. Really, really nice, until the dust settled or the next owner. Nothing is static.
Ever since college, I make friends. They get married. I lose friends. Fine.
"You know, the condom is the glass slipper of our generation. You slip it on when you meet a stranger. You dance all night, then you throw it away. The condom, I mean. Not the stranger.”
Marla tells me how in the wild you don’t see old animals because as soon as they age, animals die. If they get sick or slow down, something stronger kills them. Animals aren’t meant to get old. Marla lies down on her bed and undoes the tie on her bathrobe, and says our culture has made death something wrong. Old animals should be an unnatural exception. Freaks.
Cancer will be like that, I tell Marla. There will be mistakes, and maybe the point is not to forget the rest of yourself if one little part might go bad.
There are a lot of things we don’t want to know about the people we love.
By this time next week, each guy on the Assault Committee has to pick a fight where he won’t come out a hero. And not in fight club. This is harder than it sounds. A man on the street will do anything not to fight.
The goal was to teach each man in the project that he had the power to control history. We, each of us, can take control of the world.
"You have a class of young strong men and women, and they want to give their lives to something. Advertising has these people chasing cars and clothes they don’t need. Generations have been working in jobs they hate, just so they can buy what they don’t really need.
On a long enough time line, everyone’s survival rate drops to zero.
I have had this book on my shelf for a long time, easily five years. I'm pretty sure I bought the book on Matthew's recommendation after Matthew and I had talked about a conference all about play (presumably bringing play back into tech, instead of the pursuit of the fast out that so many startups have these days and have had for the last decade or so).
Reading the book, I found myself nodding and thinking, "Yeah, I know this," but really, I didn't know much of it. Much of it is common sense, some of it is actionable, all of the book is needed. Without play, work is difficult, motivation is low. When things are fun (interesting, enjoyable), motivation is high. The tasks can be hard, they can be time-consuming, but if they're fun, if there's play involved, they can be enjoyable.
I recommend this book to every parent and teacher and leader and follower, definitely worth reading.
Life without play is a grinding, mechanical existence organized around doing the things necessary for survival. Play is the stick that stirs the drink. It is the basis of all art, games, books, sports, movies, fashion, fun, and wonder—in short, the basis of what we think of as civilization. Play is the vital essence of life. It is what makes life lively.
Engineers are professional skeptics. To them, good things and useful ideas last, like laws of nature. Engineers build on the bedrock of established fact. They usually regard emotional components of a system as too vague to be useful.
PROPERTIES OF PLAY Apparently purposeless (done for its own sake) Voluntary Inherent attraction Freedom from time Diminished consciousness of self Improvisational potential Continuation desire
the first quality of play that sets it off from other activities is its apparent purposelessness. Play activities don’t seem to have any survival value. They don’t help in getting money or food. They are not done for their practical value. Play is done for its own sake. That’s why some people think of it as a waste of time. It is also voluntary—it is not obligatory or required by duty. Play also has inherent attraction. It’s fun. It makes you feel good. It provides psychological arousal (that’s how behavioral scientists say that something is exciting). It is a cure for boredom. Play provides freedom from time. When we are fully engaged in play, we lose a sense of the passage of time. We also experience diminished consciousness of self. We stop worrying about whether we look good or awkward, smart or stupid. We stop thinking about the fact that we are thinking. In imaginative play, we can even be a different self. We are fully in the moment, in the zone.
Another hallmark of play is that it has improvisational potential. We aren’t locked into a rigid way of doing things. We are open to serendipity, to chance. We are willing to include seemingly irrelevant elements into our play. The
We see things in a different way and have fresh insights.
Last, play provides a continuation desire. We desire to keep doing it, and the pleasure of the experience drives that desire. We find ways to keep it going. If something threatens to stop the fun, we improvise new rules or conditions so that the play doesn’t have to end. And when it is over, we want to do it again.
The things that most tie you down or constrain you—the need to be practical, to follow established rules, to please others, to make good use of time, all wrapped up in a self-conscious guilt—are eliminated. Play is its own reward, its own reason for being.
When anyone smiles at another person, they are reaching out, engaging in a play invitation as clear as a dog’s play bow.
Cats and other social mammals such as rats will, if seriously missing out on play, have an inability to clearly delineate friend from foe, miscue on social signaling, and either act excessively aggressive or retreat and not engage in more normal social patterns. In the give-and-take of mock combat, the cats are learning what Daniel Goleman calls emotional intelligence—the ability to perceive others’ emotional state, and to adopt an appropriate response.
Our primary need is to survive from one day to the next. The strongest drives are for food and sleep. When we are in peril, play will disappear. But studies show that if they are well fed, safe, and rested, all mammals will play spontaneously.
We are rewarded for behavior that conforms to the dictates of the biological drives and punished for behavior that goes against them. We feel pain when we don’t eat, and great pleasure when we are finally able to chow down (as the saying goes, “Hunger is the best sauce”). A great night’s sleep, especially after a string of sleepless nights, is one of the most satisfying, free pleasures available.
In an individual who is well-adjusted and safe, play very likely continues to prompt continued neurogenesis throughout our long lives. For example, studies of early dementia suggest that physical play forestalls mental decline by stimulating neurogenesis.
Runner’s World magazine once divided runners into four types: the exerciser, the competitor, the enthusiast, and the socializer. The exerciser is someone who runs primarily to lose weight, to stay in shape, to improve cardiovascular fitness. The competitor runs to improve race time, to beat others, to make a PB (personal best). Enthusiasts run to experience the joy of the day, to feel their muscles working and the air on their face. For the socializer, running is primarily an activity to bring people together for talking, which is the real fun. All four types are certainly running, but the internal experience can be very different. The truth is that the enthusiast and the socializer are most likely to be engaged in pure play—pursuing the activity for the joy it brings (and you could say that for the socializer the source of joy is the talking, not the running itself). The other two may be running mostly in pursuit of goals—perhaps fast times or fitness—that can take away the joy from the experience and add stress to their lives. If exercisers or competitors feel lousy when they don’t meet certain expectations they have for themselves, what they are doing is not really play.
Sometimes running is play, and sometimes it is not.
Play is a state of mind, rather than an activity.
Watching sports, sitcoms, Oprah, or an excellent drama on TV is usually a type of play, as is reading a novel. Think about how you feel walking out of a really good movie, bringing your mind back again to the everyday world but retaining a changed perspective. One critic remembers walking out of Lawrence of Arabia and feeling that the sunlight looked different. This sense of coming back to the world shows that the movie was indeed play. So is reliving its scenes in your mind later. Hobbies like model airplane building, kite flying, or sewing are most often play.
When Roger took me through his laboratory he was like a kid as he described his experiments. Here was the biggest, most expensive sandbox he had ever played with, all set up to let him discover wonderful new things. I still remember his glee when he told me about his latest work:
When we stop playing, we start dying.
She said that I had convinced her that play is important, and said she worried about her kids, ten and twelve years old, getting enough time to play but still studying and working enough that they would be successful in life. We spoke about the nature of success, and she realized that what she was really talking about was teaching them how to become responsible adults who have a playful approach to life, who enjoy life, and have work that excites them.
Imagination is perhaps the most powerful human ability. It allows us to create simulated realities that we can explore without giving up access to the real world.
a close examination of adult stream of consciousness demonstrates that the pretend-real process is a lifelong aspect of human thought. We continually make up story lines in our heads to keep the past, present, and future in context.
Even in our society, grandparents are often the ones who have the time to really listen to children. Parents are often busy trying to mold a child into what they think he or she ought to be. Perhaps grandparents are the ones who see us for what we really are and help us grow into that.
All of the patterns that induce states of play are present and remain important for growth, flexibility, and learning. Unfortunately, we often forget this or choose not to focus on play’s necessity under intense pressure to succeed. No Child Left Behind is a perfect example. While it is an admirable (and even necessary) goal to make sure that all children attain a certain minimal level of education, the result has often been a system in which students are provided a rote, skills-and-drills approach to education and “nonessential” subjects like art and music are cut.
In a sense, they are being prepared for twentieth-century work, assembly-line work, in which workers don’t have to be creative or smart—they just have to be able to put their assigned bolt in the assigned hole.
Without play, Panksepp suggests, optimal learning, normal social functioning, self-control, and other executive functions may not mature properly.
This research has led him to propose a connection between a lack of rough-and-tumble play and ADHD. In fact, based on their findings that “abundant access to rough-and-tumble play” reduces the inappropriate hyperplayfulness and impulsivity of rats with frontal lobe damage, he and his colleagues propose that a regimen of social, boisterous play might be one way to help children with mild to moderate ADHD control impulsivity
Some may cheapen these methods by saying that these teachers are just entertaining students, but what is wrong with that? As long as the lessons are learned as well or better than they would be with other methods. Play isn’t the enemy of learning, it’s learning’s partner.
As we grow older, we are taught that learning should be serious, that subjects are complicated. These serious subjects take serious study, we are told, and play only trivializes them.
Sometimes the best way to get the feel of a complicated subject is to just play with it.
That’s why kids often learn computer systems faster than adults—they aren’t afraid to just try stuff out and see what works, whereas adults worry that they will do something wrong. Kids don’t fear doing something wrong. If they do, they learn from it and do it differently next time.
Authentic play comes from deep down inside us. It’s not formed or motivated solely by others. Real play interacts with and involves the outside world, but it fundamentally expresses the needs and desires of the player.
All evidence indicates that the greatest rewards of play come when it arises naturally from within.
It used to be that self-organized play was all kids did. Most adults over the age of forty-five will likely have memories of exploring on their own, through puddles and fields or on city streets.
Parents and educators, corporate leaders, and others need to become convinced by the evidence that long-term life skills and a rewarding sense of fulfillment—and yes, performance—are more the by-product of play-related activities than forced performance.
True mastery over a lifetime comes from one’s internal play compass. When parents and teachers push too hard to get kids to perform, children do not experience feelings of competence and do not create from within their own sense of mastery.
sports can be a potent training for a playful life during the teen years. Sports provide a ready peer group, united in a common goal. Sports teach how to struggle against adversity, even when the odds seem insurmountable. Adult-organized sports don’t have to be antiplay when they are done right.
Athletics provide feedback about one’s own physical talents, and what it feels like to participate, win, lose, and be fair.
William Bowen, a former president of Princeton University, once did a large statistical study to determine if the special preferences that athletes got on college admissions (lower SAT score cutoff, extra financial aid) were unfair. Bowen was surprised to find that, as a group, the athletes actually did better financially after college than other students, a fact he attributed to the drive and energy that sports cultivate.
the opposite of play is not work—the opposite of play is depression.
Our inherent need for variety and challenge can be buried by an overwhelming sense of responsibility. Over the long haul, when these spice-of-life elements are missing, what is left is a dulled soul.
We need newness of play, its sense of flow, and being in the moment. We need the sense of discovery and liveliness that it provides. We also need the purpose of work, the economic stability it offers, the sense that we are doing service for others, that we are needed and integrated into our world. And most of us need also to feel competent.
Play is nature’s greatest tool for creating new neural networks and for reconciling cognitive difficulties.
When we play, dilemmas and challenges will naturally filter through the unconscious mind and work themselves out.
As with many things in life, often the problem is not the problem, the problem is how you react to the problem.
The paradox is that a little distance from a problem, a sense of perspective, a realization that it really matters little in the end if people choose Huggies over Pampers for their kids, can be one of the most important factors in success.
The beauty of sports is that it embraces the paradox of seriousness and play.
Sometimes the play may be a friendly competition between teams. Or it can be a very private sort of play-game that the rest of us never see—a personal competition, for instance, to see how fast we can write a memo, or how many things we can check off our to-do list that day.
Work matters, but we often allow day-to-day events at work to give us more anxiety than they are worth.
Getting oneself into a play state, however, masks the urgent purposefulness and associated anxiety of work, increasing efficiency and productivity.
Creative people can be simultaneously hardworking and goof-offs. They can have a laser focus on a task, but keep the wide view that lets them see how something fits into the big picture.
Creative people can escape into the imagination, but also are firmly grounded in reality. Creative ideas are often those that bring together ideas from different domains or fields.
Creative people know the rules of the game, but they are open to improvisation and serendipity.
Much of play takes place in an imaginative world, but is also firmly grounded in reality. In fact, play promotes mixing fantasy and reality.
As Isaac Asimov said, “The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds new discoveries, is not ‘Eureka!’ but ‘That’s funny . . .’ ”
We can get pretty far through sheer will-power, and some people have prodigious powers of perfectionism, self-denial, and suffering. Ultimately, though, people cannot succeed in rising to the highest levels of their field if they don’t enjoy what they are doing, if they don’t make time for play.
Without some sense of fun or play, people usually can’t make themselves stick to any discipline long enough to master it.
Every athlete I have ever met often feels that they just don’t want to start that workout. But when they do, the reason they love what they are doing comes back to them pretty quickly.
A crisis of some sort is not uncommon for successful people at midlife, but the age for this midlife meltdown has started coming earlier and earlier.
they too suffer the same crisis of the soul that comes from pouring every moment of your time and every ounce of your being into others’ expectations.
I have experienced too many cold and hostile reactions to play when people listen to a full rendition of its nature and importance, and they slowly realize that they have lived a life deprived of spontaneous play. They are struck by the fact that what love they’ve had in their lives was conditional and based on their performance. To fully realize this in one sitting as an adult can be overwhelming—too much to bear. The reaction is often an intense (but unconscious) defensiveness, a denial that the fullness of one’s life has been wasted. The resulting emotion is usually anger at the deliverer of the message.
Joy is our birthright, and is intrinsic to our essential design.
To really regain play in your life you will need to take a journey back into the past to help create avenues for play that work for you in the present. This can be done through a complete play history, or it can be done by simply sitting and remembering (and often visualizing) something you did in the past that gave you the sense of unfettered pleasure, of time suspended, of total involvement, of wanting to do this thing again and again.
Remember how that made you feel? Remember and feel that emotion and hold on to it, because that is what’s going to save you. The memory of that emotion is going to be the life raft that keeps you from drowning. It can be the rope that lifts you out of your play-deficient well.
Barbara loved her husband and naturally wanted to spend recreational time with him, but she realized that her husband’s heart play was never going to be hers.
Those who played together, stayed together. Those who didn’t either split or, worse yet, simply endured an unhappy and dysfunctional relationship.
Humans use play signals, too. When we greet each other, we smile and look at the other person with “soft” eyes—looking directly but not staring. We might also raise the eyebrows or lift the chin quickly in greeting.
These are an invitation to the other to mirror our expressions, to engage in a ritual bonding with the promise that we will progress to an emotional bonding. And the spirits of safety and trust are communicated nonverbally.
People trying not to look threatening will make no eye contact, will stare at a spot on the wall or some object, trying to look busy and inconspicuous.
If we lived in a world without play, all public adult interactions would model those of subway sitters and elevator riders. It would be a pretty grim world to live in. What play signals do is invite a safe, emotional connection, if even for an instant.
Really making emotional contact with people, inviting an emotional closeness either in a casual situation or long-term relationship, requires that we open ourselves to them. It requires that we not put up defensive walls and that we accept others for who they are. Then we can invite others to engage in play.
She has students pair off about two feet apart and look at each other for three solid minutes. A lot of people find this really uncomfortable.
It’s very personal. But the teacher urges people to get over themselves, to stop thinking about how they look and feel, and instead to think about the other person.
Teasing, as I’ve noted before, is a common way to probe the boundaries of a relationship and address power issues. In general, men engage in teasing more than women, and the teasing can seem rough to someone who is not used to it.
This reminds me of heckling in ultimate, the more heckling a team did, the closer the team members were. You can't heckle an outsider, it's just abuse and assholery if you do. Heckling a teammate, that's a sign of support, a message of, "Hey, yeah, you messed up, but we believe in you, so keep going."
I so miss the camaraderie of ultimate and Doyle's heckling.
The boundaries for such heckling are normally general cultural norms, but body language during the encounter usually primes the teaser to keep it up, or back off.
Jokes, when they contain unrealistic exaggeration, can allow us to safely address real fears without making them seem like accusations.
Without the various forms of social play we would find it very hard to live together. Society would either lock up like an overheated engine, or we would have to evolve a rigid, highly organized social structure like that of ants or bees. Play is the lubrication that allows human society to work and individuals to be close to each other.
Take play out of the mix and, like a climb in the oxygen-poor “death zone” of Mount Everest, the relationship becomes a survival endurance contest. Without play skills, the repertoire to deal with inevitable stresses is narrowed. Even if loyalty, responsibility, duty, and steadfastness remain, without playfulness there will be insufficient vitality left over to keep the relationship buoyant and satisfying.
Play also accentuates attraction.
The arts are indicators of emotional intelligence, but they also produce emotional intelligence. They help us grow and adapt.
A strong play drive is unspoken evidence of fitness to reproduce.
Romantic love, that is to say, the “deeply in love” form of love, is a super-strong force. The idealization and rapture of romantic love has addictive qualities that are similar to drug addiction.
Without play, romantic love naturally tends to drift into territoriality, possessiveness, dominance, or aggression. The emotion of romantic love is to feel totally in sync with the lover, but when lovers go out of sync the fall can be hard.
While being in love is intensely pleasurable, it can also be so intense that it is painful.
Studies have shown that being love-sick can cause actual physical sickness.
Stepping out of a normal routine, finding novelty, being open to serendipity, enjoying the unexpected, embracing a little risk, and finding pleasure in the heightened vividness of life. These are all qualities of a state of play.
In order to keep things hot, people have to keep growing, keep exploring new territory in themselves and each other. In short, they have to play.
Adult play is not much different. The competitive urge may make us want to dominate the competition in the short term, but if this happens all the time the game gets boring.
The natural urge to find balance in play is also the reason that people root for the underdog and against teams that win all the time.
When someone is domineering, aggressive, or violent, they are not engaged in true play, no matter what they are doing.
There is an agreement that participants be “good sports” who can shake hands and respect each other after the contest is decided. The desire for fair play probably runs very deep in our genes.
Adults who are healthy and psychologically well balanced will enjoy playing, but after a while they will grow tired of whatever game they are playing and do something else. People who are using the games to escape some other psychic pain, however, will not stop playing.
In life, it’s often not clear if you are “winning” or “losing.” Gaming offers a very controlled world in which victory and defeat can be clear and unambiguous.
On the whole, three-dimensional physical and social play is a “better” form of play, just as a balanced diet is better than one full of sugar hits.
incorporate play earlier and more consistently in my professional life, and to set clear boundaries about working too hard.
A “mean” girl who operates by psychological intimidation and exclusion is the equivalent of a boy bully, both of which interrupt the flow of play.
In both cases, I think that we adults are too quick to step in to stop such play. We see the potential for small hurts, hear the squeals and grunts that sound to us like loss of control, and we force the wrestlers to stop. We feel uncomfortable with the gossipy talk and we reflexively step in to make sure that kids are being fair. By doing so, we stop kids from learning on their own and from each other.
Teasing varies by culture and individual temperament, but some form exists everywhere, especially when people are emotionally close.
teasing allows people to go to the edge and just beyond, saying things that may or may not be hurtful if said straight out, offering all parties an escape if they have gone too far. Such teasing is a learned-through-play social skill, with culturally understood boundaries. If the intent is to enlighten or just have fun, teasing and joke-making are great elements of social bonding. If the underlying motive is to put down or humiliate the recipient, it’s not healthy.
Play, by its very nature, is a little anarchic. It is about stepping outside of normal life and breaking normal patterns. It is about bending rules of thought, action, and behavior.
Some people use this quality of play as cover for sadistic or cruel treatment of others. “Hey,” they might say if others object, “you can’t take a little playful hassling? What’s wrong with you?” This is not a dark side of play, because it is not play. It’s an attack under a false flag. It is an attempt to dominate, demean, or control while hiding behind the bulwark of our cultural assumptions about play being non-threatening.
Adults may joke about something that’s a little too personal. But when our interactions are based on a foundation of caring, these hurts are corrected and avoided in the future. Bending rules and pushing through limits should happen within the realm of play. They aren’t the dark side of play—they are the essence of play.
When sports and games are played as they should be played, organized for the fun of it, kids learn that cheating is wrong and that playing the game the best you can is the thing that matters
ONE OF THE HARDEST things to teach kids is how to make it past difficulty or perceived boredom to find the fun.
Here are some initial questions: When have you felt free to do and be what you choose? Is that a part of your life now? If not, why not? What do you feel stands in the way of your achieving some times of personal freedom? Are you now able to feel that what engages you most fully is almost effortless? If not, can you recall when you were able to experience such times? Describe. Imagine settings that allow that sort of engagement. Search your memory for those times in your life when you have been at your very best. (These are usually authentic play times, and give clues as to where to go for current play experiences.) What have been the impediments to play in your life? How and why did some kinds of play disappear from your repertoire? Have you discovered ways of reinitiating lost play that work for you now in your life? Are you able to imagine and feel that the things you most desire and enjoy are really the things that you ought to have? Why so, or why not? How free are you now as you play with your spouse or your family? Or do you treat them as an extension of a dutiful responsibility?
The world is full of humor, irony, joy, and objects available for aesthetic appreciation. The trick is allowing yourself to open up to those influences, to see humor in virtually all situations.
You have to give yourself permission to improvise, to mimic, to take on a long-hidden identity. Let your body respond to lessons learned from nature but long suppressed. You can’t be truly open to spontaneity if you don’t feel comfortable testing novel ways of expressing yourself, pushed along by the pleasure of the action. Play is exploration, which means that you will be going places where you haven’t been before.
“It sucks being a beginner again,” he told me. “But unless you are willing to do that, unless you can let yourself feel okay about going through the awkward stage, you can’t grow.
One of the quickest ways to jump-start play is to do something physical. Just move.
We are alive when we are physically moving.
Fear and play cannot go together. Take a look at your environment and look at where you are unsafe.
Recognize if your body is tight or tense in certain situations.
developmentally we all need “secret spaces” in which we can be safely alone and give ourselves over to needed fantasies if we are to adapt to a challenging world. Find your own secret space.
Practice play. Understand what type of player you are and find ways to engage in your play.
Okay, this is book twenty eight of the year that I've read. It is also, the 27th non-fiction book I've read, sticking with my January non-fiction month for much longer than anticipated.
The problemm with reading only non-fiction, however, is that often you stop having stories. Depending on the book, you can go hours and hours and hours with dry facts that, while true (hence, unlike the idiot in the power position believes, non-fiction and not "alternate"), lack an engaging story. Drawdown is a fascinating catalog of technologies we need to use and develop and encourage, yes, but the book was slow going in its lack of story.
Shadow Divers, however, didn't lack for a story. The book is a recount of the 1991 discovery of a previously unknown U-boat off the coast of New Jersey, and the divers' journey to positively identifying it. I enjoyed the book a lot, with a few very strong parts that pulled me out of the story.
About half way through the book, I started looking up the various protagonists on the Intarwebs™. Bill Nagle's Wikipedia page links off to the U-869 Wikipedia page, which references that PBS NOVA episode "Hitler's Lost Sub" which I started watching. And then became momentarily confused, as the story I was reading in Shadow Divers wasn't the story I was hearing on the NOVA episode.
Okay, what up?
Further along in the book, Robert Kurson starts telling the tale from the perspective of those who died on U-869, and that's when I was fully pulled out of the story.
The men spoke briefly before wishing each other a good night. “At least,” Guschewski thought as he closed his door, “this fellow seems bright, capable, and friendly. At least Horenburg seems like a gentleman.”
Guschewski lived, and was interviewed for the book, a fact we find out at the end of the book, but parts like:
They knew this man to be their commander—they could see a nobility in his posture, a certainty in the slowness of his breaths, a strength in his face’s Teutonic angles.
are still absurd. Non-fiction can't really tell you this with any accuracy when the "they" died sixty years before.
I still very much enjoyed this book. It was a great read, takes about eight hours or so to read, but reads like an adventure, so it doesn't feel that long.
There were a lot of impossible places to go when the world was as big as Chatterton and Nagle saw it, but for God’s sake you had to try. You were required to try. What were you doing alive, these men thought, if you didn’t go and try?
A good diver reveals himself in the way he gears up.
Inside is where the bridge equipment lies—the telegraph, helm, and binnacles that gave the ship direction.
A diver who spends time inside a wreck will screw the “viz”; it’s just a matter of how soon and how badly.
Yet a curious truth pertains to these perils: rarely does the problem itself kill the diver. Rather, the diver’s response to the problem—his panic—likely determines whether he lives or dies.
A great diver learns to stand down his emotions. At the moment he becomes lost or blinded or tangled or trapped, that instant when millions of years of evolution demand fight or flight and narcosis carves order from his brain, he dials down his fear and contracts into the moment until his breathing slows and his narcosis lightens and his reason returns. In this way he overcomes his humanness and becomes something else. In this way, liberated from instincts, he becomes a freak of nature.
An ordinary diver will sometimes rush to extricate himself from trouble so that no other diver will witness his predicament. A disciplined diver is willing to risk such embarrassment in exchange for his life.
On a deep-wreck dive, no one is ever truly safe until he is back on the deck of the dive boat.
A few days later, Chatterton decided to take a trip. Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry was the permanent home of U-505, a type IXC U-boat captured by the Allies off Africa in 1944. The submarine had been kept in pristine condition and was open to the public.
She told them that after the war, her father had hobbled on crutches across America to visit the families of every man who had perished under his command because it was the right thing to do, that he needed to tell them in person that he appreciated their sons.
Everyone had an opinion, and John listened to all of them. But the more John absorbed these viewpoints, the more he suspected that these people didn’t really know. It was not that he doubted their conviction; in fact, he admired their passion and felt invigorated by the era. But he asked himself about the lives of the people behind the opinions, and the more he asked, the more he became convinced that few of them had ever gone out and looked for themselves.
“One more thing,” Mouse said. “A lot of the stuff you do out there, you’re going to have to live with all the way down the line. You’ll have to make decisions out there. When that happens, you have to ask yourself, ‘Where do I want to be in ten years, twenty years? How will I want to feel about this decision when I’m an old man?’ That’s the question for making important decisions.”
With each moment, Chatterton’s vision narrowed and the jungle sounds compressed, until the only impressions in his world were his own heaving breaths and pounding heart.
He could not imagine turning away from the first thing in his life at which he had been special, the thing at which he might be great.
As he neared the end of his six-month field obligation, he had come to believe these things: —If an undertaking was easy, someone else already would have done it. —If you follow in another’s footsteps, you miss the problems really worth solving. —Excellence is born of preparation, dedication, focus, and tenacity; compromise on any of these and you become average. —Every so often, life presents a great moment of decision, an intersection at which a man must decide to stop or go; a person lives with these decisions forever. —Examine everything; not all is as it seems or as people tell you. —It is easiest to live with a decision if it is based on an earnest sense of right and wrong. —The guy who gets killed is often the guy who got nervous. The guy who doesn’t care anymore, who has said, “I’m already dead—the fact that I live or die is irrelevant and the only thing that matters is the accounting I give of myself,” is the most formidable force in the world. —The worst possible decision is to give up.
in the water, self-contained, a man could be what he was meant to be, and when that happened it was impossible to be lost.
At home, Kohler allowed Richie to assemble and disassemble his tank and regulator—he believed in making his three children feel comfortable with mechanical equipment, to make them unafraid to touch things.
It had been a year since he had seen the dead woman in the water, but Richie had never stopped wondering how people could be left in the water when they had loved ones at home who needed to know where they were.
Richie’s father was right: always swing while the other guy is telling you how he’s going to kick your ass.
“We sank two U-boats,” Weidenfeld said. “But we never got credit for either of them.” “I’ve read about those incidents,” Chatterton said. “You guys believe the navy didn’t want to credit civilians.” “That’s right,” Weidenfeld said. “The navy didn’t want to acknowledge it because it would have terrified the public to think that average civilians were needed to fight the U-boats, and that the U-boats were coming so close to our shores.
He could not tolerate the idea of this diver stealing the visibility in a gold mine of artifacts under the pretext of shooting video. A mystery U-boat full of china and the guy is shooting video!
Chatterton began to insist but stopped himself when he looked into Chris’s widened eyes. In them, he saw only fear and knowing—the kind of knowing that occurs when one’s fate is certain and moments away.
But the lesson was stark and by now familiar: written history was fallible. Sloppy and erroneous assessments had been rushed into the official record, only to be presumed accurate by historians, who then published elegant reference works echoing the mistakes.
Along the way, each marveled at how easy it was to get an incomplete picture of the world if one relied solely on experts, and how important it would be to further rely on oneself.
But it took no more than these words for even a U-boat veteran like Guschewski to think, “There is great courage and competence in this man. You do not go against this voice. You do not go against this man.”
Seated with Neuerburg were his first officer, twenty-one-year-old Siegfried Brandt, and his chief engineer, thirty-year-old Ludwig Kessler.
Guschewski was stunned. He admired commanders who followed strict military protocol. But he had also prayed that U-869 would be led by a man with a heart.
During visits, he told Friedhelm that he believed the Nazis to be authoring the downfall of Germany. Friedhelm recoiled at the public nature of his expression. “Are you crazy talking like that in the open?” he asked Helmuth whenever such conversations unfolded. “People are listening everywhere! What you are saying is very dangerous!”
In 1943, Neuerburg and others were offered a choice: they could remain with the naval air arm or join the U-boats. Those who stayed with the air force would go into combat immediately; those who transferred to submarines might spend a year or more in training before going to battle. Neuerburg was father to a two-year-old son and a one-year-old daughter. He chose the U-boats, though he harbored no illusions about their safety.
Zinten’s Nazi Party members continued to harass Otto and Elise over their church worship and their refusal to join the party,
One of them began crying, then another, then all of them. “What is wrong?” Gila asked, rushing to Nedel’s side and taking his hand. For a moment, the men could do nothing but cry. Nedel said nothing. Finally, one of the other men spoke. “None of us is coming back,” he said.
Time and again during their research, they had been astonished to discover that historians had been mistaken, books fallible, experts wrong.
The fantasy always felt good for a minute, but it always ended with Chatterton thinking, “When things are easy a person doesn’t really learn about himself. It’s what a person does at the moment of his greatest struggle that shows him who he really is. Some people never get that moment. The U-Who is my moment. What I do now is what I am.”
Then spring began to dab warmth into the air and Marks said it would be a shame if a man turned his back on his passion.
Whatever satisfaction he might derive from delivering an answer to the crewmen’s families and to history would be smothered by his helpless proximity to a drowning friend.
There might be, he thought, one scenario worse than watching his friend die in the wreck, and as Sunday drew near he knew that worst scenario to be allowing his friend to die while he stayed home and waited for the news.
“U-boats are my avocation,” he said. “Perhaps it would be boring if I were to earn money from it. It’s the detective’s way of treating these matters that moves me. Once you find out history is wrong, once you start investigating it and, with some luck, correcting it, that is satisfaction enough.”
Okay, this is one of those books you wish did not need to exist.
Sadly, it does exist, it does need to exist. Happily, it is funny, in a "I'm not crying, you're crying!" sort of way.
The book is satire on women and their role in the workplace. It touches on many of the stereotypes of men and women in the workplace, and their interactions, and human nature, and the absurdity of all of our biases.
The mocking tone of the book could be off-putting, but it's funny for the most part, except for the parts where the humor is TOO REAL, and you cry instead.
It's a fun read, if you're in the right mindset. If you're a guy, yeaaaaaaaaah, this is really how things are for the rest of us.
When describing your accomplishments, you need to strike a balance between tooting your own horn and hiding your horn behind the shed. This is difficult because if you don’t take enough credit you won’t seem qualified, but if you take too much credit you’ll seem arrogant. Good luck with that.
However, sometimes when women say the exact same thing a man says it’s interpreted in a completely different way. It’s enough to make you want to cry (which as a man means you’re sensitive and as a woman means you’re hysterical).
Tone policing is an insidious way for people to disregard what you are saying by adjusting the focus to how you’re saying it.
Authenticity is less about being the real you and more about finding someone successful to look up to and being that person instead.
Sexual harassment in the workplace is a serious offense and will not be tolerated, except in cases where the harasser was clearly joking and you need to relax.
You may go through different stages of being more successful than likeable or more likeable than successful or neither likeable nor successful. But one day you’ll wake up and you won’t care about being either and that’s the day you’ll be the most successful and most likeable person, at least to yourself.
Make sure your product is something your potential investors could personally see themselves using, or else they won’t be able to see any value in it whatsoever. Even though women are half of the population, remember, anything targeting them is considered a niche market.
DAILY APOLOGY ￼ checklist ￼ I’M SORRY FOR . . . ￼ Responding too late ￼ Responding too early ￼ Having my headphones on ￼ Being interrupted ￼ Staring at the bagels ￼ Speaking too softly ￼ Speaking at all ￼ Tripping on a rock (to the rock) ￼ Sharing too much ￼ Not sharing enough ￼ Enjoying food too much ￼ Asking a question ￼ Being misled ￼ Not liking my food ￼ Wanting something different ￼ Someone taking my seat ￼ Saying I’m sorry ￼ Asking to be paid ￼ Being bumped into ￼ Sitting in this chair ￼ Taking up space ￼ Needing help ￼ Offering to help ￼ My shoes being loud ￼ Going too fast ￼ Going too slow ￼ Swallowing too loudly ￼ Knowing what I’m doing ￼ Someone else’s mistake ￼ Being proud of myself ￼ Sharing my thoughts ￼ Being successful
So how do you be successful without hurting men’s feelings? You don’t. You be successful whether men’s feelings are hurt or not, because really that’s up to them, not you.
Okay, this book took me a while to finish. I started it, read about 40%, then put it down and read Originals, Lying, and Coping Skills, before being able to pick this one back up and finish it. Not that the book is a bad book, it's a very, very good book, one that should be required reading for every American citizen, especially the climate change deniers.
Drawdown is a catalog of 100 technologies that would significantly behoove us as a society to encourage, implement, and embrace. If we were to embrace all of the technologies listed, 99% of them would result in profits, and 1% wouldn't. We could do all of them.
But we won't.
Because we don't care, until we do. And often when we do, it's because we are in crisis mode, not because we were forward-thinking.
I think the best way to read this book is with a group of friends, going through a chapter or two a week, sitting around discussing each one, and then implementing a few. Or as a student, reading a chapter / technology a (school) day, and discussing with the class. The latter has the students done within a school year, and they know enough maybe to be inspired to implement some of the strategies. Or as a work group reading and discussing a couple technologies a week, including how encourage or engineer the use, done in a year with two a week.
Reading solo isn't really the way.
When I listen to Sagan's friends talk about all the doom and gloom with climate change, and the sense of hopelessness coming from some of them, I want to hand them this book, suggest they pick 3, and get to work. Change doesn't just happen, people make change happen. That means all of us.
The solutions about farms, soil, restoring lands and forests, women, wind, and water turbines were the most interesting to me.
I strongly recommend this book for its information. I don't recommend trying to read it all in one go.
I didn't go through these quotes, so many are formatted poorly or not at all.
We can never survive in the long-term by despoiling nature; we have literally reached the ends of the earth.
The buildup of greenhouse gases we experience today occurred in the absence of human understanding; our ancestors were innocent of the damage they were doing. That can tempt us to believe that global warming is something that is happening to us—that we are victims of a fate that was determined by actions that precede us. If we change the preposition, and consider that global warming is happening for us—an atmospheric transformation that inspires us to change and reimagine everything we make and do—we begin to live in a different world.
Confucius wrote that calling things by their proper name is the beginning of wisdom.
I remember my economics professor asking for a definition of Gresham’s law and how I rattled off the answer mechanically. He looked at me—none too pleased, though the answer was correct—and said, now explain it to your grandmother. That was much more difficult. The answer I gave the professor would have made no sense to her. It was lingo.
In November 2016, the White House released its strategy for achieving deep decarbonization by mid-century. From our perspective, decarbonization is a word that describes the problem, not the goal: we decarbonized the earth by removing carbon in the form of combusted coal, gas, and oil, as well as through deforestation and poor farming practices, and releasing it into the atmosphere.
Another impediment to wind power is inequitable government subsidies. The International Monetary Fund estimates that the fossil fuel industry received more than $ 5.3 trillion in direct and indirect subsidies in 2015; that is $ 10 million a minute, or about 6.5 percent of global GDP. Indirect fossil fuel subsidies include health costs due to air pollution, environmental damage, congestion, and global warming—none of which are factors with wind turbines.
Outsize subsidies make fossil fuels look less expensive, obscuring wind power’s cost competitiveness, and they give fossil fuels an incumbent advantage, making investment more attractive.
Critics in Congress disparage wind power because it is subsidized, implying that the federal government is pouring money down a hole. Coal is a freeloader when it comes to the costs borne by society for environmental impacts.
Wind power uses 98 to 99 percent less water than fossil fuel–generated electricity. Coal, gas, and nuclear power require massive amounts of water for cooling, withdrawing more water than agriculture—22 trillion to 62 trillion gallons per year.
Who else besides the fossil fuel and nuclear power industries can take trillions of gallons of water in the United States and not pay for it?
The soft costs of financing, acquisition, permitting, and installation can be half the cost of a rooftop system and have not seen the same dip as panels themselves. That is part of the reason rooftop solar is more expensive than its utility-scale kin.
With producer and user as one, energy gets democratized.
Unlike PV panels and wind turbines, CSP makes heat before it makes electricity, and the former is much easier and more efficient to store. Indeed, heat can be stored twenty to one hundred times more cheaply than electricity.
Human beings have long used mirrors to start fires. The Chinese, Greeks, and Romans all developed “burning mirrors”—curved mirrors that could concentrate the sun’s rays onto an object, causing it to combust. Three thousand years ago, solar igniters were mass-produced in Bronze Age China. They’re how the ancient Greeks lit the Olympic flame. In the sixteenth century, Leonardo da Vinci designed a giant parabolic mirror to boil water for industry and to warm swimming pools. Like so many technologies, using mirrors to harness the sun’s energy has been lost and found repeatedly, enchanting experimentalists and tinkerers through the ages—and once again today. •
In the United States, a majority of the more than 115 biomass electricity generation plants under construction or in the permitting process plan on burning wood as fuel. Proponents state that these plants will be powered by branches and treetops left over from commercial logging operations, but these claims do not stand up to scrutiny. In the states of Washington, Vermont, Massachusetts, Wisconsin, and New York, the amount of slash generated by logging operations falls far short of the amount needed to feed the proposed biomass burners. In Ohio and North Carolina, utilities have been more forthright and admit that biomass electricity generation means cutting and burning trees. The trees will grow back, but over decades—a lengthy and uncertain lag time to achieve carbon neutrality. When biomass energy relies on trees, it is not a true solution.
Nuclear is a regrets solution, and regrets have already occurred at Chernobyl, Three Mile Island, Rocky Flats, Kyshtym, Browns Ferry, Idaho Falls, Mihama, Lucens, Fukushima Daiichi, Tokaimura, Marcoule, Windscale, Bohunice, and Church Rock. Regrets
U.S. coal-fired or nuclear power plants are about 34 percent efficient in terms of producing electricity, which means two-thirds of the energy goes up the flue and heats the sky. All told, the U.S. power-generation sector throws away an amount of heat equivalent to the entire energy budget of Japan.
Since that time, policies have compelled local authorities to identify opportunities for energy-efficient heat production, helped to move power generation from centralized plants to a decentralized network, and incentivized the use of cogeneration generally, and renewable-based systems particularly, through tax policy.
The United States has long lagged behind Europe on cogeneration, in part because of pushback from utilities—notoriously so twenty years ago, when CHP plans at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology were challenged by the local utility.
There are four methods used by industry to convert waste to energy: incineration, gasification, pyrolysis, and plasma.
One study conducted in the 1980s of a New Jersey incinerator showed the following results: If 2,250 tons of trash were incinerated daily, the annual emissions would be 5 tons of lead, 17 tons of mercury, 580 pounds of cadmium, 2,248 tons of nitrous oxide, 853 tons of sulfur dioxide, 777 tons of hydrogen chloride, 87 tons of sulfuric acid, 18 tons of fluorides, and 98 tons of particulate matter small enough to lodge permanently in the lungs.
Waste-to-energy continues to evoke strong feelings. Its champions point to the land spared from dumps and to a cleaner-burning source of power. One ton of waste can generate as much electricity as one-third of a ton of coal. But opponents continue to decry pollution, however trace, as well as high capital costs and potential for perverse effects on recycling or composting. Because incineration is often cheaper than those alternatives, it can win out with municipalities when it comes to cost. Data shows high recycling rates tend to go hand in hand with high rates of waste-to-energy use, but some argue recycling could be higher in the absence of burning trash. These are among the reasons that construction of new plants in the United States has been at a near standstill for many years, despite evolution in incineration technology.
Truly renewable resources, like solar and wind, cannot be depleted.
Waste is certainly a repeatable resource at this point, but that is only because we generate so very much.
Zero waste is a growing movement that wants to go upstream, not down, in order to change the nature of waste and the ways in which society recaptures its value. It is saying, in essence, that material flows in society can imitate what we see in forests and grasslands where there truly is no waste that is not feedstock for some other form of life.
Plant-based diets have had no shortage of notable champions, long before omnivore Michael Pollan famously simplified the conundrum of eating: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”
The case for a plant-rich diet is robust. That said, bringing about profound dietary change is not simple because eating is profoundly personal and cultural.
In 2013, $ 53 billion went to livestock subsidies in the thirty-five countries affiliated with the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development alone.
Financial disincentives, government targets for reducing the amount of beef consumed, and campaigns that liken meat eating to tobacco use—in tandem with shifting social norms around meat consumption and healthy diets—may effectively conspire to make meat less desirable.
Plant-based diets also open opportunities to preserve land that might otherwise go into livestock production and to engage current agricultural land in other, carbon-sequestering uses.
Around the world, farmers are walking away from lands that were once cultivated or grazed because those lands have been “farmed out.” Agricultural practices depleted fertility, eroded soil, caused compaction, drained groundwater, or created salinity by over-irrigation. Because the lands no longer generate sufficient income, they are abandoned.
These abandoned lands are not lying fallow; they are forgotten.
Bringing abandoned lands back into productive use can also turn them into carbon sinks.
Restoration can mean the return of native vegetation, the establishment of tree plantations, or the introduction of regenerative farming methods.
One of the great miracles of life on this planet is the creation of food. The alchemy human beings do with seed, sun, soil, and water produces figs and fava beans, pearl onions and okra. It can include raising animals for their flesh or yield and transforming raw ingredients into chutney or cake or capellini. For more than a third of the world’s labor force, the production of food is the source of their livelihoods, and all people are sustained by consuming it.
Yet a third of the food raised or prepared does not make it from farm or factory to fork.
In too many places, kitchen efficiency has become a lost art.
Basic laws of supply and demand also play a role. If a crop is unprofitable to harvest, it will be left in the field. And if a product is too expensive for consumers to purchase, it will idle in the storeroom. As ever, economics matter. Regardless of the reason, the outcome is much the same. Producing uneaten food squanders a whole host of resources—seeds, water, energy, land, fertilizer, hours of labor, financial capital—and generates greenhouse gases at every stage—including methane when organic matter lands in the global rubbish bin.
National goals and policies can encourage widespread change. In 2015, the United States set a food-waste target, aligned with the Sustainable Development Goals. The same year, France passed a law forbidding supermarkets from trashing unsold food and requiring that they pass it on to charities or animal feed or composting companies instead.
Of course, from an emissions perspective, the most effective efforts are those that avert waste, rather than finding better uses for it after the fact.
IMPACT: After taking into account the adoption of plant-rich diets, if 50 percent of food waste is reduced by 2050, avoided emissions could be equal to 26.2 gigatons of carbon dioxide. Reducing waste also avoids the deforestation for additional farmland, preventing 44.4 gigatons of additional emissions. We used forecasts of regional waste estimates from farm to household. This data shows that up to 35 percent food in high-income economies is thrown out by consumers; in low-income economies, however, relatively little is wasted at the household level.
Though cookstoves may seem simple, taking them from concept to reality is as much an art as cooking itself. Family dynamics, from finances to education to gender roles, affect decisions about stoves, which must meet a suite of needs.
Locally attuned, human-centered designs are most likely to win hearts and minds and shift prevailing habits—and, most important, majority share of cooking time.
The two oldest Sanskrit epic poems, The Ramayana and The Mahabharata, contain illustrations of a precursor to the home garden called Ashok Vatika.
Because they generate food security, nourishment, and income, on top of ecological benefits, home gardens have been dubbed “the epitome of sustainability” by agroforestry expert P. K. Nair.
Whether the crop being grown is coffee, cacao, fruit, vegetables, herbs, fuel, or plant remedies, the benefits of multistrata agroforestry are clear. It is well suited to steep slopes and degraded croplands, places where other cultivation might struggle.
Moreover, because the livestock yield on a silvopasture plot is higher (as explored below), it may curtail the need for additional pasture space and thus help avoid deforestation and subsequent carbon emissions. Some studies show that ruminants can better digest silvopastoral forage, emitting lower amounts of methane in the process.
From a financial and risk perspective, silvopasture is useful for its diversification. Livestock, trees, and any additional forestry products, such as nuts, fruit, mushrooms, and maple syrup, all come of age and generate income on different time horizons—some more regularly and short-term, some at much longer intervals. Because the land is diversely productive, farmers are better insulated from financial risk due to weather events.
The integrated, symbiotic system of silvopasture proves to be more resilient for both animals and trees. In a typical treeless pasture, livestock may suffer from extreme heat, cutting winds, and mediocre forage. But silvopasture provides distributed shade and wind protection, as well as rich food.
factors. These systems are more expensive to establish, requiring higher up-front costs in addition to the necessary technical expertise.
Fellow farmers are often more trusted than technical or scientific experts, while a successful test plot—perhaps on a rancher’s own land—is the most convincing case of all.
Therein lies the climatic win-win of silvopasture: As it averts further greenhouse emissions from one of the world’s most polluting sectors, it also protects against changes that are now inevitable. •
Tell me: How did it come to pass that virtue—a quality that for most of history has generally been deemed, well, a virtue—became a mark of liberal softheadedness? How peculiar, that doing the right thing by the environment—buying the hybrid, eating like a locavore—should now set you up for the Ed Begley Jr. treatment.
The single greatest lesson the garden teaches is that our relationship to the planet need not be zero-sum, and that as long as the sun still shines and people still can plan and plant, think and do, we can, if we bother to try, find ways to provide for ourselves without diminishing the world. • Excerpted and adapted with permission from Michael Pollan’s essay “Why Bother?” in the New York Times, April 20, 2008.
Regenerative agricultural practices restore degraded land. They include no tillage, diverse cover crops, on-farm fertility (no external nutrient sources required), no or minimal pesticides or synthetic fertilizers, and multiple crop rotations, all of which can be augmented by managed grazing. The purpose of regenerative agriculture is to continually improve and regenerate the health of the soil by restoring its carbon content, which in turn improves plant health, nutrition, and productivity.
When converted to sugars with help from the sun, carbon produces plants and food. It feeds humankind, and, through the use of regenerative agriculture, it feeds the life of the soil.
Increasing carbon means increasing the life of the soil. When carbon is stored in soil organic matter, microbial life proliferates, soil texture improves, roots go deeper, worms drag organic matter down their holes and make rich castings of nitrogen, nutrient uptake is enhanced, water retention increases several fold (creating drought tolerance or flood insurance), nourished plants are more pest resistant, and fertility compounds to the point where little or no fertilizers are necessary. This ability to become independent of fertilizers relies upon cover crops. Each additional percent of carbon in the soil is considered equivalent to $ 300 to $ 600 of fertilizer stored beneath.
A normal cover crop might be vetch, white clover, or rye, or a combination of them at one time.
The possibilities include legumes such as spring peas, clover, vetch, cowpeas, alfalfa, mung beans, lentils, fava beans, sainfoin, and sunn hemp; and brassicas such as kale, mustard, radish, turnips, and collards. Then there are broadleaves such as sunflower, sesame, and chicory; and grasses such as black oats, rye, fescue, teff, brome, and sorghum. Each plant brings distinct additions to the soil, from shading out weeds to fixing nitrogen and making phosphorus, zinc, or calcium bioavailable.
Regenerative farmers are creating crop insurance through diversification, which prevents pockets of infestation by pests and fungi. Along with rotation, there is intercropping, in which leguminous companion crops of alfalfa or beans are grown with corn to provide fertility.
Evidence points to a new wisdom: The world cannot be fed unless the soil is fed.
Regenerative agriculture is not the absence of chemicals. It is the presence of observable science—a practice that aligns agriculture with natural principles. It restores, revitalizes, and reinstates healthy agricultural ecosystems.
Most nitrogen fertilizers are “hot,” chemically destroying organic matter in the soil.
Nitrous oxide, created from nitrate fertilizers by soil bacteria, is 298 times more powerful than carbon dioxide in its atmospheric warming effect.
Effective nutrient management is summarized by the four Rs: right source, right time, right place, and right rate.
Research into how producers make decisions has found that farmers are likely to apply more fertilizer than necessary and prioritize information they receive from fertilizer dealers—even with the knowledge that reducing their rate could lower emissions.
Since nitrogen-fertilizer pollution of water bodies is usually considered nonpoint source pollution (i.e., it cannot be easily linked to a single source), regulations are difficult to create and enforce.
That being said, continual application of chemical fertilizers results in loss of fertility, water infiltration, and loss of productivity over time. These impacts can cause farmers to increase fertilization in hopes it will compensate for the overall loss of soil health, which is in actuality a downward spiral.
There are two ways to farm. Industrial agriculture sows a single crop over large areas. Regenerative practices such as tree intercropping use diversity to improve soil health and productivity and align with biological principles. Lower inputs, healthier crops, and higher yields are the outcome.
To top it off, tree intercropping is beautiful—chili peppers and coffee, coconut and marigolds, walnuts and corn, citrus and eggplant, olives and barley, teak and taro, oak and lavender, wild cherry and sunflower, hazel and roses. Triple-cropping is common in tropical areas, with coconut, banana, and ginger grown together. The possible combinations are endless.
Though land is “lost” to trees in the alley-cropping system, the increased yield—without chemical inputs—more than makes up for the loss.
Other variations of intercropping include strip cropping, boundary systems, shade systems, forest farming, forest gardening, mycoforestry, silvopasture, and pasture cropping. Tree intercropping reinforces the idea that human well-being does not depend on an agricultural system that is extractive and hostile to living organisms.
When farmers till their fields to destroy weeds and fold in fertilizer, water in the freshly turned soil evaporates. Soil itself can be blown or washed away and carbon held within it released into the atmosphere. Though intended to prepare a field to be productive, tilling can actually make it nutrient poor and less life giving.
In part, conservation agriculture is already widespread because farmers can adopt it with relative ease and speed and realize a range of benefits. Water retention makes fields more drought resistant or reduces the need for irrigation. Nutrient retention leads to increased fertility and can lower fertilizer inputs.
The oldest surviving work of Latin prose, De Agricultura, by Cato the Elder, includes guidance on compost—deemed a must for farmers.
Nearly half of the solid waste produced around the world is organic or biodegradable, meaning it can be decomposed over a few weeks or months.
Composting processes avert methane emissions with proper aeration. Without it, the emissions benefits of composting shrink.
In ancient Amazonian society, virtually all waste was organic. The disposal method of choice for kitchen crumbs, fish bones, livestock manure, broken pottery, and the like was to bury and burn. Wastes were baked without exposure to air beneath a layer of soil. This process, known as pyrolysis, produced a charcoal soil amendment rich in carbon. The result was terra preta, literally “black earth” in Portuguese.
The pyrolysis process for producing biochar is from the Greek pyro for “fire” and lysis for “separating.” It is the slow baking of biomass in the near or total absence of oxygen. The preferred method is gasification, a higher-temperature pyrolysis that results in more completely carbonized biomass. Biochar is commonly made from waste material ranging from peanut shells to rice straw to wood scraps. As it is heated, gas and oil separate from carbon-rich solids. The output is twofold: fuels that can be used for energy (perhaps for fueling pyrolysis itself) and biochar for soil amendment. Depending on the speed of baking, the ratio of fuel to char can shift. The slower the burn, the more biochar. Pyrolysis is unusual in its versatility. Large, polished industrial systems can produce it, and it can be made in small makeshift kilns.
Theoretically, experts argue, biochar could sequester billions of tons of carbon dioxide every year, in addition to averting emissions from organic waste.
Africa abounds with staple tree crops: baobab, mafura, argan, mongongo, marula, dika, monkey orange, moringa, safou, and more.
Today, 89 percent of cultivated land, about 3 billion acres, is devoted to annuals. Of the remaining land in perennial crops, 116 million acres are used for perennial staple crops.
Called “flood” or “basin” irrigation, they rely on submerging fields and remain the most common approaches in many parts of the world.
Surface and groundwater resources are better protected by lowering demand for water use.
The agricultural industry has long argued that the only way we can feed humanity is through the use of chemical fertilizers, pesticides, and, more recently, genetically modified seeds. The conventional wisdom is that biological or organic agricultural methods are incapable of feeding the world—mere specialty practices for smaller farmers that are impractical given the world’s food needs.
As Montgomery and Biklé show, the science was incomplete because the role of soil life was unknown at that time. Agronomists and soil scientists of the nineteenth and most of the twentieth century had no inkling of what microbial populations were doing in the soil. In the absence of this knowledge, the chemical fertilizer theory of agricultural productivity was untouchable because it did sustain and increase yields, particularly on degraded soils.
Herbivores cluster to protect themselves and their young from predators; they munch perennial and annual grasses to the crown; they disturb the soil with their hooves, intermixing their urine and feces; and they move on and do not return for a full year. Herbivores such as cattle, sheep, goats, elk, moose, and deer are ruminants, mammals that ferment cellulose in their digestive systems and break it down with methane-emitting microbes. Ruminants cocreated the world’s great grasslands, from the pampas in Argentina to the mammoth steppe in Siberia. Put those animals inside a fence, and it is a whole different story.
involves a transitional period from one regime to another. It requires weaning farms off pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, and fertilizers. All of these are conclusions agricultural corporations are unlikely to study and fund. The empirical results achieved by long-term adherents describe a two-to three-year period for the transition—about the same length of time as most of the studies that question the results shown by proponents.
Farmers who use managed grazing report that perennial streams that once went dry have returned. On farms with intensive one-to two-day rotations, the capacity to stock cattle on the land increased by 200 to 300 percent. Native grasses reestablished themselves, crowding out weeds. Not having to sow pastures saved time and diesel fuel. Tillage of pastureland stopped as well, conserving fuel and equipment expenses. The behavior of cattle changed. Rather than lollygagging around a stubbly, overgrazed pasture, they moved quickly and in the process ate weeds (which farmers are discovering are protein rich), thus reducing or eliminating the need for weed control.
The results seem to improve when grazing is rapid and intense and rest periods are longer. The protein and sugars of the grasses improve, and the more carbon sugars that are fed to the microbes in the soil, the greater the growth in mycorrhizal fungi, which secrete a sticky substance called glomalin. The organic rich soils are clumped together in small granules by the glomalin, which creates crumbly soil with empty spaces in which water can flow. Practitioners report that their soils can soak up eight, ten, and fourteen inches of rain per hour, whereas before the hardened soils would pond and erode with a mere inch of rain.
He describes the change in his agricultural practices best: “When I was farming conventionally, I’d wake up and decide what I was going to kill today. Now I wake up and decide what I am going to help live.” And he is equally clear where change will come from: “You’re not going to change Washington [D.C.]. Consumers are the driving force.” •
Even though they farm as capably and efficiently as men, inequality in assets, inputs, and support means women produce less on the same amount of land.
According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), if all women smallholders receive equal access to productive resources, their farm yields will rise by 20 to 30 percent, total agricultural output in low-income countries will increase by 2.5 to 4 percent, and the number of undernourished people in the world will drop by 12 to 17 percent. One hundred million to 150 million people will no longer be hungry.
Just 10 to 20 percent of landholders are women, and within that group, insecure land rights are a persistent challenge.
Bina Agarwal, a professor at the University of Manchester and the author of A Field of One’s Own, captures the range of measures needed: Recognize and affirm women as farmers rather than farm helpers—a perception that undermines them from the start. Increase women’s access to land and secure clear, independent tenure—not mediated through and controlled by men. Improve women’s access to the training and resources they lack, provided with their specific needs in mind—microcredit in particular. Focus research and development on crops women cultivate and farming systems they use. Foster institutional innovation and collective approaches designed for women smallholders, such as group farming efforts. Agarwal’s last tenet is powerful. When women take part in cooperatives
As with all smallholder farmers, diversity in cultivation helps annual yields to be more resilient and successful over time.
Countries that have higher levels of gender equality have higher average cereal yields; high levels of inequality correlate with the opposite outcome.
When women earn more, they reinvest 90 percent of the money they make into education, health, and nutrition for their families and communities, compared to 30 to 40 percent for men.
Girls’ education, it turns out, has a dramatic bearing on global warming. Women with more years of education have fewer, healthier children and actively manage their reproductive health.
Education also equips women to face the most dramatic climatic changes. A 2013 study found that educating girls “is the single most important social and economic factor associated with a reduction in vulnerability to natural disasters.” The single most important. It is a conclusion drawn from examining the experiences of 125 countries since 1980 and echoes other analyses. Educated girls and women have a better capacity to cope with shocks from natural disasters and extreme weather events and are therefore less likely to be injured, displaced, or killed when one strikes. This decreased vulnerability also extends to their children, families, and the elderly.
The encyclopedic book What Works in Girls’ Education maps out seven areas of interconnected interventions: Make school affordable. For example, provide family stipends for keeping girls in school. Help girls overcome health barriers. For example, offer deworming treatments. Reduce the time and distance to get to school. For example, provide girls with bikes. Make schools more girl-friendly. For example, offer child-care programs for young mothers. Improve school quality. For example, invest in more and better teachers. Increase community engagement. For example, train community education activists. Sustain girls’ education during emergencies. For example, establish schools in refugee camps.
According to the Urban Land Institute, in more compact developments ripe for walking, people drive 20 to 40 percent less. Urban planner and author Jeff Speck writes, “The pedestrian is an extremely fragile species, the canary in the coal mine of urban livability. Under the right conditions, this creature thrives and multiplies.” Speck’s “general theory of walkability” outlines four criteria that must be met for people to opt to walk. A journey on foot must be useful, helping an individual meet some need in daily life. It must feel safe, including protection from cars and other hazards. It must be comfortable, attracting walkers to what Speck calls “outdoor living rooms.” And it must be interesting, with beauty, liveliness, and variety all around. In other words, walkable trips are not simply those with a manageable distance from point A to point B, perhaps a ten-to fifteen-minute journey on foot. They have “walk appeal,” thanks to a density of fellow walkers, a mix of land and real estate uses, and key design elements that create compelling environments for people on foot.
What does that look like? It is the opposite of sprawl. Homes, cafés, parks, shops, and offices are intermingled at a density that makes them reachable by foot. Sidewalks are wide and protected from motorized traffic whizzing by. Walkways are well lit at night, tree-lined and shaded during the day (vital in hot, humid climates). They connect effectively to one another and perhaps lead to entirely car-free areas. Points of interest across the road, tracks, or waterway are accessible by way of safe and direct pedestrian crossings constructed at regular intervals. At street level, buildings feel abuzz with life, fostering a sense of safety. Beauty invites people outside. Perambulation can easily be combined with cycling or mass transit, with good connectivity between these different modes of mobility. Many such improvements can be achieved at a fraction of the cost of other transportation infrastructure. Walkability also enhances the use, and thus cost-effectiveness, of public transit systems.
Similarly, Copenhagen’s infrastructure investments have made cycling easy and fast. They include innovations such as the “green wave”—traffic lights along main roads synchronized to the pace of bike commuters, so they can maintain their cruising speed for long stretches. Currently, the city is investing in a responsive traffic light system that aims to cut travel time by 10 percent for bicycles and 5 to 20 percent for buses, making both modes more appealing. At the same time, infrastructure for cars is becoming less accommodating, as with the gradual removal of parking spaces.
As Dutch history reminds us, all cities were once bike cities, before we began shaping and reshaping them for the almighty automobile.
Cycling also raises concerns about safety, reasonably so, but a clear correlation exists between high cycling rates, more cycling infrastructure, and reduced risk of fatalities.
Not only do cool roofs reduce heat taken on by buildings, driving down energy use for cooling, they also reduce the temperature in cities. Recent studies have shown that the capacity of cool roofs to relieve the urban heat island effect is more pronounced during heat waves, when heat islands are particularly intense, sometimes deadly. The growth of cities continues, so making them cleaner, more livable, and better for well-being is essential.
Glass windows were a Roman invention, placed in public baths, important buildings, and homes of great wealth. Although quite opaque, Roman glass was a big step forward from animal hides, cloth, or wood for shutting out the elements.
Density is a defining characteristic of cities. Compact urban spaces allow us to move about on foot and by bicycle, intermingle people and ideas, and create rich cultural mosaics. That density can also enable efficient heating and cooling of a city’s buildings.
Copenhagen’s ongoing shift in fuel sources highlights a major advantage of DHC: Once a distribution network is in place, what powers it can morph and evolve. Coal can give way to geothermal, solar water heating, or sustainable biomass. A city’s wasted heat—from industrial facilities to data centers to in-household wastewater—can be captured and repurposed.
Landfill methane can be tapped for capture and use as a fairly clean energy source for generating electricity or heat, rather than leaking into the air or being dispersed as waste. The climate benefit is twofold: prevent landfill emissions and displace coal, oil, or natural gas that might otherwise be used.
Most landfill content is organic matter: food scraps, yard trimmings, junk wood, wastepaper. At first, aerobic bacteria decompose those materials, but as layers of garbage get compacted and covered—and ultimately sealed beneath a landfill cap—oxygen is depleted. In its absence, anaerobic bacteria take over, and decomposition produces biogas, a roughly equal blend of carbon dioxide and methane accompanied by a smattering of other gases. Carbon dioxide would be part of nature’s cycles, but the methane is anthropogenic, created because we dump organic waste into sanitary landfills.
The amount of methane produced varies from landfill to landfill, as does the amount that can be captured. The more contained the site, the easier and more effective capture can be.
The power of insulation is taken to the extreme with Passivhaus, or Passive House in English, a rigorous building method and standard created in Germany in the early 1990s and intensely focused on saving energy—by as much as 90 percent over conventional comparisons. This approach zealously focuses on creating an airtight envelope for a building, to separate inside from outside below, above, and around all sides. The result is a structure so hermetically sealed that warm air cannot leak out when snow is on the ground and cool air cannot escape when the dog days arrive.
To realize the massive financial and emissions savings that are possible, a building-by-building approach to the world’s 1.6 trillion square feet of building stock (99 percent of which is not green) is probably not the way to go. The Rocky Mountain Institute is piloting a more industrialized strategy in Chicago: Limit the scope of retrofitting to a set of highly effective, broadly applicable measures; pursue additional measures on the basis of impeccable analysis; and undertake multiple buildings simultaneously to gain economies of scale.
Water is heavy. Pumping it from source to treatment plant to storage and distribution requires enormous amounts of energy. In fact, electricity is the major cost driver of processing and distributing water within cities, underlying the sums on water bills.
Utilities use the phrase “non-revenue water” to describe the gap between what goes in and what ultimately comes out the tap.
To borrow a description from the New York Times: “A steady, moderately low level of pressure is best—just as [with blood flow] in the human body.” Too much pressure and water looks for ways to escape; too little and water lines can suck in liquids and contaminants that surround them. Water utilities face a quest for pressure that is “just right.”
Even under conditions of first-rate pressure management, leaks can and will happen. The torrential bursts that cut off service and submerge streets are not actually the worst from a waste perspective: They demand attention and immediate remediation. The bigger problem is with smaller, long-running leaks that are less detectable.
The issue of water loss exists around the world. In the United States, an estimated one-sixth of distributed water escapes the system.
Buildings are complex systems in the guise of static structures.
Energy courses through them—in heating and air-conditioning systems, electrical wiring, water heating, lighting, information and communications systems, security and access systems, fire alarms, elevators, appliances, and indirectly through plumbing.
Primary forests contain 300 billion tons of carbon yet they are still being logged, sometimes under the guise of harvest being “sustainable.” Research shows that once an intact primary forest begins to be cut, even under sustainable forest-management systems, it leads to biological degradation.
A 2015 estimate of the world’s tree population: three trillion. That count is substantially higher than previously thought, but more than 15 billion trees are cut down each year. Since humans began farming, the number of trees on earth has fallen by 46 percent. (Today, forests cover 15.4 million square miles of the earth’s surface—or roughly 30 percent of its land area.)
The benefits of forest conservation are many and various: nontimber products (bush meat, wild food, forage and fodder); erosion control; free pollination and pest and mosquito control provided by birds, bats, and bees; and other ecosystem services.
An effective agenda to save the forests requires a collective understanding of ecology, the danger posed by global warming, political will, local buy-in, and noncorrupt governance.
Without question, the Amazon is the greatest single natural resource in the world. Rainforests are being cut down at a rate that will eliminate them in forty years.
It is difficult to estimate what it would “cost” to save it all, but estimates place it at about 4 percent of the $ 1.2 trillion the world spends on weapons every year.
As awareness grows about the role blue carbon plays in curbing (or contributing to) climate change, it is also becoming apparent that wetlands are critical to coping with its impacts. Sea level rise due to melting ice and thermal expansion and increased storm activity threaten coastal communities, and shoreline ecosystems are vital protection from battering waves and rushing waters. That is especially true as man-made barriers—levees, dams, embankments—prove increasingly inadequate. The shielding and buffering function of wetlands makes it even more crucial to ensure that they are healthy today and resilient for the future.
The optimal scenario, of course, is to safeguard coastal wetlands before they can be damaged and keep a lid on the carbon they contain.
Bamboo is not a plant that needs encouragement.
You can sit by timber bamboo in the spring and watch it grow more than one inch an hour. Bamboo reaches its full height in one growing season, at which time it can be harvested for pulp or allowed to grow to maturity over four to eight years. After being cut, bamboo re-sprouts and grows again.
The Western aid and development model for addressing poverty has been dismantled by both Africans and many studies, yet it persists. In Mark’s work, people are growing three things: trees, crops, and wisdom. Foreign aid, sacks of genetically modified corn, and handouts come and go, but if we are to successfully address global warming, we should learn to trust the capacity of people everywhere to understand the consequences and imagine place-based solutions on a collaborative basis, and not force solutions upon them, however well intentioned.
“The great thing about agro-forestry is that it’s free. They stop seeing trees as weeds and start seeing them as assets.” But only if they’re not penalized for doing so.
Peat is a thick, mucky, waterlogged substance made up of dead and decomposing plant matter. It develops over hundreds, even thousands of years, as a soupy mix of wetland moss, grass, and other vegetation slowly decays beneath a living layer of flora in the near absence of oxygen. That acidic, anaerobic environment has preserved human remains, so-called “bog bodies” from the Iron Age and earlier. Given enough time, pressure, and heat, peat would become coal.
Today, though these unique ecosystems cover just 3 percent of the earth’s land area, they are second only to oceans in the amount of carbon they store—twice that held by the world’s forests, at an estimated five hundred to six hundred gigatons.
It can take thousands of years to build up peat, but a matter of only a few to release its greenhouse cache once it is degraded.
Indigenous communities are among those most dramatically impacted by climate change, despite contributing the least to its causes. They are particularly vulnerable to the negative effects of environmental change because of their land-based livelihoods, histories of colonization, and social marginalization.
Preventing loss of forest is always better than trying to bring forest back and cure razed land. Because a restored forest never fully recovers its original biodiversity, structure, and complexity, and because it takes decades to sequester the amount of carbon lost in one fell swoop of deforestation, restoration is no replacement for protection. •
The Miyawaki method calls for dozens of native tree species and other indigenous flora to be planted close together, often on degraded land devoid of organic matter. As these saplings grow, natural selection plays out and a richly biodiverse, resilient forest results. Miyawaki’s forests are completely self-sustaining after the first two years, when weeding and watering are required, and mature in just ten to twenty years—rather than the centuries nature requires to regrow a forest.
Shubhendu Sharma’s company Afforestt is developing an open-source methodology to enable anyone to create forest ecosystems on any patch of land. In an area the size of six parking spaces, a three-hundred-tree forest can come to life—for the cost of an iPhone.
Because afforestation is a multidecade endeavor, what properly enables it are provisions for up-front costs, developing markets for forest products, and ensuring clear land rights in order to maintain continuity between planting and eventual harvest.
Mass transit is one manifestation of the public square, in which people of many stripes encounter and share space with one another. As Adam Gopnik put it in The New Yorker, “A train is a small society, headed somewhere more or less on time, more or less together, more or less sharing the same window, with a common view and a singular destination”—a unique civic experience, as well as a means of conveyance.
The appeal of cars is strong and culturally entrenched in many places (less so among younger generations), and shifting habits is difficult, especially if behavior change requires more effort, more time, or more money.
Public transportation is most successful where it is not just viable but efficient and attractive. One key piece is making the use of multiple modes more seamless, such as a single card to pay for metro, bus, bike share, and rideshare, or a single smartphone app to plan trips that use more than one.
Roman concrete was used in creating the magnificent Pantheon temple in Rome. Completed in 128 AD, it is famed for its five-thousand-ton, 142-foot dome made of unreinforced concrete—still the world’s largest almost two thousand years later. If it had been built with today’s concrete, the Pantheon would have crumbled before the fall of Rome, three hundred years after its dedication. Roman concrete contained an aggregate of sand and rock just like its modern kin, but it was bound together with lime, salt water, and ash called pozzolana, from a particular volcano. Blending volcanic dust into the mixture of opus caementicium even enabled underwater construction.
Today, concrete dominates the world’s construction materials and can be found in almost all infrastructure. Its basic recipe is simple: sand, crushed rock, water, and cement, all combined and hardened. Cement—a gray powder of lime, silica, aluminum, and iron—acts as the binder, coating and gluing the sand and rock together and enabling the remarkable stonelike material that results after curing. Cement is also employed in mortar and in building products such as pavers and roof tiles. Its use continues to grow—significantly faster than population—making cement one of the most used substances in the world by mass, second only to water.
bio-based plastics may or may not be biodegradable. Polyethylene (PE) shopping bags made from sugarcane or corn are not. But bioplastics such as polylactic acid (PLA), like you might find in a disposable cup, and polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHA), which can be used for sutures, are both bio based and biodegradable under the right conditions. (PLA degrades only at high temperatures, not in the ocean or home compost bins.)
If current trends continue, plastic will outweigh fish in the world’s oceans by 2050.
Perhaps the biggest problem facing bioplastics is that they are not conventional plastic. Bioplastics cannot be composted unless separated from other plastics, and few will compost in the garden bin. They require high heat to be broken down or special chemical recycling. If bioplastics are intermixed with conventional plastics, conventional recycled plastic is contaminated, rendering it unstable, brittle, and unusable.
Using water at home—to shower, do laundry, soak plants—consumes energy. It takes energy to clean and transport water, to heat it if need be, and to handle wastewater after use. Hot water is responsible for a quarter of residential energy use worldwide.
Reducing average shower time to five minutes, washing only full loads of clothes, and flushing three times less per household per day can each reduce water use by 7 to 8 percent.
The impacts of climate change are compounding population pressures. During droughts, for example, demand for irrigation goes up, while quality and quantity of supply declines.
Nuclear and fossil fuel plants use enormous quantities of water for cooling—nearly half of all withdrawals in the United States. A single kilowatt-hour of electricity can have twenty-five invisible gallons associated with it.
The industry calls this a renewable fuel, but that stretches the meaning of the concept. The process is heavily dependent on diesel, oil, gasoline, electricity, and subsidies. When fully calculated, corn-based ethanol produces slightly more energy than was required to produce it. If you add emissions from land use, groundwater depletion, loss of biodiversity, and the impacts of nitrogen fertilizers, the benefit to the atmosphere is debatable. Corn’s highest and best use is as staple food for people who are hungry, not as ethanol powering an SUV.
How cars are owned and utilized today could not be any less efficient. About 96 percent are privately owned; Americans spend $ 2 trillion per year on car ownership; and cars are used 4 percent of the time. The contemporary car is not a driving machine but a parking machine for which 700 million parking spaces have been built—
The greatest impediment may be how powerfully embedded the desire to possess one’s own car is. Privately owned, traditional automobiles are likely the most meaningful competitors for AVs, both culturally and functionally. They are symbols of personal freedom—not just in the United States—and displacing them will be no small task for the four-wheeled robots of tomorrow.
It may require a generational shift in attitude. People without a car at home may feel marooned or trapped.
On the other side, a time could come when people are banned from driving because in a world of self-directed, connected vehicles, individual drivers are a danger to everyone else.
Drivers not wanted: taxi, Uber, UPS, FedEx, bus, truck, and town car. Also eliminated: insurance agents, auto salesmen, credit managers, insurance claims adjusters, bank lending, and traffic reporters on the news. What goes the way of the cassette tape: steering wheels, odometers, gas pedals, gas stations, AAA, and the many outlets for individuals to service their own cars, from body shops to car washes. Good riddance to: road rage, crashes, 90 percent or more of all injuries and auto-related deaths, driving tests, getting lost, car dealers, tickets, traffic cops, and traffic jams.
Actual miles traveled could go up, not down. The reason is simple: When the cost of a service or object goes down, consumption invariably increases. Automated bookable cars at one’s door could see individuals moving farther away from the city, especially if they can work within the car rather than drive.
The urban landscape could morph into people-oriented areas, with broader sidewalks, narrower streets, more trees and plants, voluminous bike lanes, and parking lots converted to parks. The emphasis will shift from transport to community.
Fundamentally, LBC is not about leading, but about living. Buildings can function more like a forest, generating a net surplus of positives in function and form and exhaling value into the world. Buildings, in other words, can do more than simply be less bad.
The Imperatives Limits to growth. Only build on a previously developed site, not on or adjacent to virgin land. Urban agriculture. A living building must have the capacity to grow and store food, based on its floor area ratio. Habitat exchange. For each acre of development, an acre of habitat must be set aside in perpetuity. Human-powered living. A living building must contribute to a walkable, bikeable, pedestrian-friendly community. Net positive water. Rainwater capture and recycling must exceed usage. Net positive energy. At least 105 percent of energy used must come from on-site renewables. Civilized environment. A living building must have operable windows for fresh air, daylight, and views. Healthy interior environment. A living building must have impeccably clean and refreshed air. Biophilic environment. Design must include elements that nurture the human and nature connection. Red List. A living building must contain no toxic materials or chemicals, per the LBC Red List. Embodied carbon footprint. Carbon embodied in construction must be offset. Responsible industry. All timber must be Forest Stewardship Council certified or come from salvage or the building site itself. Living economy sourcing. Acquisition of materials and services must support local economies. Net positive waste. Construction must divert 90 to 100 percent of waste by weight. Human scale and humane places. The project must meet special specifications to orient toward humans rather than cars. Universal access to nature and place. Infrastructure must be equally accessible to all, and fresh air, sunlight, and natural waterways must be available. Equitable investment. A half percent of investment dollars must be donated to charity. JUST organization. At least one entity involved must be a certified JUST organization, indicating transparent and socially just business operations. Beauty and spirit. Public art and design features must be incorporated to elevate and delight the spirit. Inspiration and education. A project must engage in educating children and citizens. •
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For example, how and why do Amazonian rainforests create clouds even in the dry season? It turns out that ten percent of the Amazon’s annual rainfall is absorbed by the shallow roots of certain scattered shrubs, then pushed downward through taproots deep into the soil bank. When the rainless months come, the taproots lift up the water and pump it out into the shallow roots, distributing it to the whole of the forest. Many species of plants throughout the world perform this hydraulic “lift,” watering a multitude of plants under the forest canopy.
The more stressful the environment, the more likely you are to see plants working together to ensure mutual survival.
Simard’s work was among the first to prove that fungi branch out from the roots of a single tree to connect dozens of trees and shrubs and herbs—not only to their relatives but also to entirely different species. The “Wood Wide Web,” as Simard calls it, is an underground Internet through which water, carbon, nitrogen, phosphorus, and defense compounds are exchanged. When a pest troubles one tree, its alarm chemicals travel via fungi to the other members of the network, giving them time to beef up their defenses.
However, placing too high an emphasis on the individual can lead to people feeling so personally responsible that they become overwhelmed by the enormity of the task at hand. Norwegian psychologist and economist Per Espen Stoknes has described how individuals respond to being besieged with science that describes climate change in the language of threat and doom. Fear arises and becomes intertwined with guilt, resulting in passivity, apathy, and denial. To be effective, we require and deserve a conversation that includes possibility and opportunity, not repetitive emphasis on our undoing.
Individuals cannot prevent the torching of Indonesia rainforests by corrupt palm oil corporations or put an end to the bleaching and coral die-off of the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. Individuals cannot stave off the acidification of the world’s oceans or foil the onslaught of commercials dedicated to fomenting desire and materialism. Individuals cannot halt the lucrative subsidies granted to fossil fuel companies. Individuals cannot prevent the deliberate suppression and demonization of climate science and scientists by anonymous wealthy donors.
What individuals can do is become a movement. As McKibben writes: “Movements are what take five or ten percent of people and make them decisive—because in a world where apathy rules, five or ten percent is an enormous number.”
The economic data we have collected shows clearly that the expense of the problems in the world now exceeds the cost of the solutions. To put it another way, the profit that can be achieved by instituting regenerative solutions is greater than the monetary gains generated by causing the problem or conducting business-as-usual. For instance, the most profitable and productive method of farming is regenerative agriculture. In the electric power generation industry, more people in the U.S. as of 2016 are employed by the solar industry than by gas, coal, and oil combined. Restoration creates more jobs than despoliation. We can just as easily have an economy that is based on healing the future rather than stealing it.
This book was recommended as a Kickstarter project on a XOXO channel, and was delivered much earlier than general availability. I read it in one sitting, then immediately handed it to Jonathan, and said, "You should read this book."
I am so glad this book exists.
I don't believe I have anxieties at the level that people who self-describe themselves as anxious have anxiety. I would argue that I am decidedly not anxious about most things and about much of life. With that said, I had recently read The Anxiety Toolkit, and this book, so clearly something is triggering me to pick up these books and read them. And I am glad I did, because while I have coping skills, there's no reason not to continue to improve them, work on them, and (the best part) add new ones.
I suspect that when I meet Harper, she and I are going to bond over the Sailor Mouth™ style of speaking, as this book is full of f---s and f---ing and damns and many more in your face cussing. While it might have been intended as "Real Talk," it is a little overwhelming sometimes in the book. If you can read through the f--ks and the rest of it, and get to the coping skills, hooboy, yes, this book is gooooooood.
If you have anxiety, get this book. If you don't consider your coping skills to be ninja-esque, buy this book. If you can't afford a copy, let me buy you a copy, this book is that good. I am glad this book exists.
Needing coping skills is not a sign of weakness or mental illness. It means you are a normal human being navigation a truly abnormal culture.
- There are no such things as wrong responses, only adaptive ones.
- What you have survived as wired your body to proceed with extreme caution, on a unconscious level at all times. This is called staying fucking alive and safe.
- ... You are not crazy; you have adapted to the environment around you with the only information you had at the time... your previous circumstances.
You are absolutely accountable for your actions, no matter what bullshit has been foisted upon you. You may not have been the one who bought the ticket, but it now officially both your circus and your monkey.
Psychologically, triggers are events, sensations, images, memories, etc., that facilitate the re-experiencing of any event that overwhelmed our ability to cope. (For those of you playing the home game, yes, that is a quick and dirty definition of trauma.)
Being triggered means you are literally reliving a traumatic event in your body and mind and are not functioning in the present moment or dealing with your present experience.
Despite the Navy's expertise in selecting candidates that are physically up to the task, the dropout rate for individuals attending SEAL school is really damn high (like 75% high). After years of this, the Navy commissioned psychologists to figure out what was different about the 25% that succeeded. And they found, unsurprising, that it was a form of mental ability, not physical ability. There were four essential abilities that were later termed "The Four Pillars of Mental Toughness..."
Pillar One: Very Short Term and Very Specific Goal Setting
Navy SEALS who focused on getting through the training activity at hand rather than the course overall were far more successful in finishing the entire program.
Pillar Two: Positive Mental Visualization
This means mentally watching yourself successfully complete the task you set out to accomplish or endure the bullshit you need to endure.
Pillar Three: Positive Self-Talk
Remind yourself this ain't no than comparied to everything else you 've been through. And hell, your suvival rate thus far is 100% so the odds are in your favor, rock star.
Pillar Four: Managing Self Arousal
Managing our cortisol and adrenaline production is a huge part of coping in general.... Breathing techniques are a big part of that, ...
Are you bumped up against an unsolvable problem? Maybe it's the problem itself, not your inability to find a solution.
Anyone who has laid down on the floor from the sheer weight of the awfulness of life can tell you that grief and loss are very real, physical things... and the reason we can't measure them is because they're far too large for any scale.
We have a mechanism of communication about everything we think, feel, say, and do. Creation is hte sharing of that voice. You can paint a canvas, knit a scarf, play a song, plat a tree, or bake a cake. You can write and write and write. On your website, your Facebook, or the back of a napkin at a coffee shop. Creation in the face of destruction doesn't mitigate the loss, but it does help us take back power when we feel completely out of control. e=You are alowed your voice in the world..
My mom used to make gentle fun of my brother. "Bless his heart, he still thinks he can change the world." My response? "Well, those are the people who usually do." Nothing ever go changed by sitting around, hoping that people come to their senses and make better choices. Nobody has gained rights by sitting around patiently waiting for someone to notice that they were getting fucked over.
Things change when we change them. Or, at the very least, we empower ourselves to fucking try. I don't know about your, but I'm not about to sit by and do nothing when the world is on fire. I'll find a bucket of water. Or spit on it if that's all I got.
This book came onto my radar from one of the books I've read in the last month or so, referenced in some way, I don't recall how. It was available at the library, so I borrowed it, and read it.
This book is a short, intense, and powerful read. Half of the book is the essay, the second half is an interview with Harris and his influencer professor, Ron Howard and a question-answer format exploration and reader challenges about not lying.
Again, a short, intense, and powerful read. It is amazing, it could change your life if you listen. Maybe not as much as Harris' life was changed by his professor, but maybe as much.
I finished reading it, set it down, and felt a huge release. Did I really need someone far away to tell me to tell the truth, even down to stop telling the small white lies? I want to shrug and say, "I don't know, maybe," but the answer is yes, very clearly yes. Am I embarrassed by that? Yep, sure am! Am I finally listening to myself, too? Yep, sure am!
The book is a quick read, an essay book that I wouldn't have counted as a "book" last year in my book count. This year, if it's a book, it's a book, even if it's not what I historically have called "a real book." I bought myself a hardback copy of the book when I found the opportunity at a local bookstore, the book is that good and worth having. It is amazing, let me buy you a copy.
To lie is to intentionally mislead others when they expect honest communication.
People lie so that others will form beliefs that are not true. The more consequential the beliefs—that is, the more a person’s well-being demands a correct understanding of the world or of other people’s opinions—the more consequential the lie.
To speak truthfully is to accurately represent one’s beliefs. But candor offers no assurance that one’s beliefs about the world are true.
[T]ruthfulness require that one speak the whole truth, because communicating every fact on a given topic is almost never useful or even possible.
Honesty is a gift we can give to others. It is also a source of power and an engine of simplicity.
You can be honest and kind, because your purpose in telling the truth is not to offend people. You simply want them to have the information you have and would want to have if you were in their shoes.
Holding one’s tongue, or steering a conversation toward topics of relative safety, is not the same as lying (nor does it require that one deny the truth in the future).
Honesty can force any dysfunction in your life to the surface.
Lying is the lifeblood of addiction. If we have no recourse to lies, our lives can unravel only so far without others’ noticing.
Telling the truth can also reveal ways in which we want to grow but haven’t.
Doing something requires energy, and most morally salient actions are associated with conscious intent. Failing to do something can arise purely by circumstance and requires energy to rectify.
And although we imagine that we tell certain lies out of compassion for others, it is rarely difficult to spot the damage we do in the process.
A white lie is simply a denial of these realities. It is a refusal to offer honest guidance in a storm. Even on so touchy a subject, lying seems a clear failure of friendship.
In many circumstances in life, false encouragement can be very costly to another person.
False encouragement is a kind of theft: It steals time, energy, and motivation that a person could put toward some other purpose.
This is not to say that we are always correct in our judgments of other people. And honesty demands that we communicate any uncertainty we may feel about the relevance of our own opinions.
If the truth itself is painful to tell, often background truths are not—and these can be communicated as well, deepening the friendship.
[W]hen asked for an honest opinion, we do our friends no favors by pretending not to notice flaws in their work, especially when those who are not their friends are bound to notice the same flaws. Sparing others disappointment and embarrassment is a great kindness.
A commitment to honesty does not necessarily require that we disclose facts about ourselves that we would prefer to keep private.
The truth could well be “I’d rather not say.”
To agree to keep a secret is to assume a burden. At a minimum, one must remember what one is not supposed to talk about.
In those circumstances where we deem it obviously necessary to lie, we have generally determined that the person to be deceived is both dangerous and unreachable by any recourse to the truth. In other words, we have judged the prospects of establishing a genuine relationship with him to be nonexistent.
This is among the many corrosive effects of unjust laws: They tempt peaceful and (otherwise) honest people to lie so as to avoid being punished for behavior that is ethically blameless.
When you tell the truth, you have nothing to keep track of. The world itself becomes your memory, and if questions arise, you can always point others back to it.
Integrity consists of many things, but it generally requires us to avoid behavior that readily leads to shame or remorse.
To lie is to erect a boundary between the truth we are living and the perception others have of us. The temptation to do this is often born of an understanding that others will disapprove of our behavior. Often,
Big lies have led many people to reflexively distrust those in positions of authority.
We seem to be predisposed to remember statements as true even after they have been disconfirmed.
Familiarity breeds credence.
Justified government deception is a kind of ethical mirage: Just when you think you’re reaching it, the facts usually suggest otherwise.
The ethics of war and espionage are the ethics of emergency—and are, therefore, necessarily limited in scope.
Lying is, almost by definition, a refusal to cooperate with others. It condenses a lack of trust and trustworthiness into a single act. It is both a failure of understanding and an unwillingness to be understood. To lie is to recoil from relationship.
It seems that there are situations in which one must admit at the outset that one is not in the presence of an ethical intelligence that can be reasoned with.
If someone is trying to kill me, I’m going to use the minimum effective force necessary to stop him.
This one, I'm not so sure, and is a place of cognitive dissonance and moral dilemma for me. If someone is trying to kill me, and I do not use all effective force to stop him, he has the opportunity to try to kill me again. Surviving isn't a guaranteed better place to be. There's a scene in The Fall that sticks with me. In it, the murderer is raping a woman and her brother attempt to save her, but without an intention to kill the murderer, only to disable. As a result, the murderer recovers and kills them both. The circumstance is fictional. And yet, human nature.
But let’s face it, there are people who are up to no good in all kinds of ways. I’m not going to abet them in violating other people’s right to be left alone, and I’ll do whatever is necessary to avoid that.
That’s life. It doesn’t all have a Hollywood ending. There are lots of pluses and minuses. Ultimately, we all die, and the only question is, what have you done between the time you’re born and the time you die?
But we have to put a frame around the relevant facts of the present, and if a person hasn’t been perfectly ethical up until yesterday, he has to figure out how to live with the legacy of his misbehavior.
He could say, “We’ve never talked about this. Is this something you really want to talk about today?” This may be the time, whatever their beliefs about what happens after death. Or he could say, “Look, we’ve got a very short time together, and whatever we’ve done in the past, if it doesn’t bring us joy now, let’s leave it behind.”
Howard: I look at it another way: No matter how much time I’ve got left, I want to live a life that I have no regrets about.
Do you view your life in terms of relationships or transactions? If you’re bidding on eBay, truth isn’t an issue. That is a completely transactional situation. If I’m dealing with my mechanic on an ongoing basis, it’s not a transaction. It’s a relationship, and he will make judgments about me and about my reliability as a person. And I will make judgments about him, and these judgments will have long-term effects for both of us. This alters the prisoner’s dilemma: If you have a relationship with a person, you’re going to have different beliefs about the prospect of his selling you out than you would if he were just some guy the experimenters grabbed and put in the situation with you.
When your model of yourself in the world is at odds with how you actually are in the world, you are going to keep bumping into things.
That’s why I want a very strong system to deter maxim-breakers based on restitution. In other words, some of these things you do are imposing costs on everyone else. I’ve never been burglarized, but I’m paying the price for people who commit burglary, through insurance and other costs. If you engage in that sort of behavior, you ought to pay the overhead for it.
Insofar as it is possible, our justice system should oblige criminals to repay their debts to society rather than pointlessly suffer on account of them.
Children have fantasy lives so rich and combustible that rigging them with lies is like putting a propeller on a rocket.
[I]s the last child in class who still believes in Santa really grateful to have his first lesson in epistemology meted out by his fellow six-year-olds?
There is a tension between avoiding danger and resisting evil—and how we resolve it will depend on many factors.
A prison is perhaps the easiest place to see the power of bad incentives.
As someone who has sat for many print interviews, I can attest to the insidious way that one’s vanity and trust may work to one’s disadvantage.
Nevertheless, one must begin being truthful from wherever one happens to be in life.
given a sufficiently hostile environment, lying will be the least of one’s problems. If a person is likely to be killed for his beliefs, misrepresenting them would be an ethical means of self-defense.
This book is how to deal with anxiety, coping mechanisms and the like. Again, I have no idea how this ended up in my to-read pile, a problem I am becoming more anxious about fixing as I write that statement again.
The anxieties described in the beginning of this book are not anxieties I have. Public speaking in and of itself does not cause me to become a ball of anxious jelly. I know that my voice will crack and my throat will become dry when I first start talking in front of a crowd, but my heart doesn't race and I feel notice the voice and throat from outside of myself, not inside. Neither am I stuck by nerves about doing basic adult tasks or looking out for myself. I believe I have done a very good job at identifying my anxieties and addressing my anxieties.
As such, when I read this book, I wasn't overly enthusiastic about the techniques and suggestions in the book. I didn't relate to the "do you feel X?" questions in the beginning of each chapter. I am grateful for whatever place I am on the autism scale that allowed me to dodge those particular emotions.
I was thinking this was an interesting book, but not applicable in a meaningful way to me, until I read the chapter on rumination.
Hooboy. Hello, Kitt.
This is the chapter I paid attention to. This is the chapter that made the rest of the book worth reading.
And that's the thing, isn't it?
We all have different manifestations of our anxieties and different ways of processing anxiety. We all have different triggers and different soothing mechanisms. Some people have fantastic soothing mechanisms, others need help, guidance, and a direction.
Boyes comments early and frequently:
Like any book, take what you find useful from it and ignore the rest.
Which sums up my opinion of the book. It's worth reading if you have anxieties or want to hear about other people's coping mechanism. Drinking to numbness is not a valid solution, for example, it is abdication of responsibility to your own life and a crappy coping mechanism. This book lists other, better coping mechanisms. Worth a read if you need some.
Update: Read Faith Harper's Coping Skills first. It's a shorter and better read for those needing immediate coping skills. Come back to this one once the worst is over.
To better manage your anxiety, you don’t need to understand the average anxious person — you need to understand the multidimensional you.
People who are agreeable tend to prioritize getting along with others. They may not be willing to make waves when they can see problems with other people’s ideas or plans. In contrast, people who are naturally disagreeable may underestimate the importance of getting along with others and not invest enough in relationship building.
If you’re anxious and agreeable, you may find yourself overcommitting to things because you overestimate the potential negative consequences of saying no.
When people overfocus on anxiety for a long time, they tend to lose confidence in their capacity to be anything other than a walking ball of worry and rumination.
When anxiety becomes a major problem for someone, it’s usually because the person has become stuck in a self-perpetuating cycle where the things he or she does to reduce anxiety in the short term cause it to multiply in the long term.
Find the Goals Where Pursuing Them Is Worth Tolerating Anxiety
Goals Don’t Need to Be Giant to Be Important to You
When you’re thinking about goals, keep in mind that more ambitious goals aren’t “better” than less ambitious goals. Many people would rather visit 30 countries in a lifetime than 200.
Experiment: What’s one idiosyncratic goal that’s important to you?
However, there are some instances when anxiety causes people to restrict their goals.
People with shaky self-worth may hold back from setting ambitious goals because they worry that others will see them as too confident or full of themselves.
Your worry might be that you won’t get the alone time you need to feel balanced.
If you’re constantly thinking of new goals, there’s nothing wrong with that either. It suggests you’re hardwired with a high need for novelty and excitement.
Feeling happy is like feeling warm. It’s a state of being that feels good. It might sound counterintuitive but focusing directly on pursuing happiness isn’t always the best approach to increasing it. This parallels the idea that focusing on reducing anxiety isn’t always the best way to decrease it.
Self-esteem is composed of (1) a sense of self-worth and (2) a sense of being competent at things. 4 For example, sources of self-worth might involve loving and being loved by others; an ability to make other people feel comfortable and at ease; or positive contributions you make to society, your field, or your community. In contrast, a sense of competency might come from being good at computer tasks, being able to prepare a dinner party for 10, or paying your bills on time. Try coming up with three sources of self-worth and three things you’re competent at. Aim to recognize areas you’ve tended to underappreciate.
Whenever you’re feeling anxious, use this feeling as your cue to practice articulating your negative prediction and an alternative. Try prompting yourself to think of the best possible outcome, instead of just the worst.
When you change a habit, you don’t so much break a bad habit as build up and strengthen a new one.
If you’re currently stuck in pause mode, and have been for a while, taking some action is usually better than taking no action. When you can recognize the value of acting with uncertainty, you’ll help your brain start to interpret uncertainty as a positive or not-so-terrible state, rather than it causing your alarm bells to ring loudly.
Try to come up with three examples of your own. If coming up with three examples is intimidating, come up with just one example.
Nope. Go for 10.
the vast majority of failures aren’t catastrophes.
Many people underestimate their capacity to cope with trying something and not succeeding. Anxious people often worry about later regretting decisions and finding it hard to deal with the ensuing emotions.
Anxiety tends to make people think in dichotomous, either/ or terms. A common example is seeing success and failure as the only two potential end points, rather than seeing a zigzagging path toward success that is dotted with failures along the way.
1. Have you had any past experiences where you ended up succeeding after initial failure? List one. 2. Identify one area in which you have a fixed mindset. It should be a skill/ capacity you see as important to your success, where you see yourself as not as good as you’d like to be, and where you see that skill/ capacity as fixed. 3. Identify a new growth mindset that you’d like to strengthen.
Don’t make the mistake of thinking you need to wait for your thoughts to change before you try behavioral shifts. Mental and behavioral shifts go hand in hand. When you start making changes in your behavior (even subtle ones), you’ll notice that all kinds of thoughts, including your view of yourself, start to shift. Changing your behavior, without waiting for your thoughts to always shift first, is one of the best and fastest ways you can reduce your anxiety.
The best way to instantly feel less anxious is to slow your breathing. Try this whenever you feel physically overaroused due to anxiety, or when your thoughts are either racing or frozen. Slowing your breathing will automatically slow down your heart rate.
Here are some tips for slowing your breathing: 1. Before you try to slow your breathing, drop your shoulders. It’ll make it easier. Also, focus on breathing slowly rather than breathing deeply. 2. If you have an area of tension in your body, like your neck and shoulders are tight, imagine you’re breathing fresh new air into those areas. There’s nothing sciencey about this, but lots of people like this method.
Deciding when and where you’re going to do something will dramatically increase the likelihood you’ll follow through.
Intermittent reinforcement means sometimes getting rewarded but without being able to predict when you’ll score vs. when you’ll strike out. 5 Intermittent reinforcement results in behaviors being quickly acquired and creates behaviors that are very persistent—
The take-home message: Even if you achieve only intermittent reinforcement—that is, you experience success only sometimes—having some successes will make your behavior much more resilient, and you’ll be less likely to give up.
regularly interact with people who are already successfully doing what you want to do.
if you surround yourself with people who are already acting in the ways you need to act, this will likely rub off on you. You’ll be more likely to take action.
When an opportunity to act with uncertainty comes up, articulate the potential upsides of taking action:
Look for small ways to practice hesitating a little less than you usually would.
give yourself some criteria for making quicker decisions.
Believe it or not, psychologists have a term to describe people who like to think a lot. The trait is called need for cognition. It refers to people who enjoy effortful thinking and feel motivated to attempt to understand and make sense of things.
Ruminating can sometimes be a bit like daydreaming, in that people often get lost in rumination without realizing they’re doing it.
Experiment: Jot down a list of the different topics of rumination you’re prone to. Use the following ideas to brainstorm, or just fill in the blanks: Replaying conversations with people in power positions in your life. For example, replaying conversations, including email conversations, with [insert names of people] . Replaying memories of experiences of failure from the past. For example, . Thinking about ways in which you’re not as perfect as you’d like to be. For example, thinking you’re not as good at as you’d like. Thinking about things you should be doing to be more successful, such as . Thinking about whether you’re too much of a loser to ever have success and happiness. Replaying small errors you’ve made, such as . Thinking about the path not taken, such as .
when you’re ruminating: Don’t trust your memory. You might be ruminating about something fictional or at least magnified.
Experiment: Do you have any current rumination topics where memory bias might be playing a role?
Answer the following questions: 1. What’s your ruminating mind telling you? 2. What are the objective data telling you about whether your ruminative thoughts are likely to be correct?
3. Are you recalling feedback as harsher than it was or recalling blips in your performance as worse than they were?
However, because anxiety tends to make thinking negative, narrow, and rigid, it’s difficult to do creative problem solving when you’re feeling highly anxious.
Reducing self-criticism is a critical part of reducing rumination.
harsh self-criticism doesn’t help you move forward because it isn’t a very effective motivational tool,
Acknowledging the emotions you’re feeling (such as embarrassed, disappointed, upset) and then giving yourself compassion will lead to your making better choices than criticizing yourself will.
Identify a mistake or weakness that you want to focus on, and then write for three minutes using the following instructions: “Imagine that you are talking to yourself about this weakness (or mistake) from a compassionate and understanding perspective. What would you say?” Try this experiment
Try to notice when you get caught in should/ shouldn’t thinking traps, in which you criticize yourself just for feeling anxious.
Try this: Switch out any shoulds hidden in your self-talk and replace them with prefer. 7 For example, instead of saying “I should have achieved more by now” try “I would prefer to have achieved more by now.”
Doing something useful then further helps lift you out of rumination.
if you’re jumping to any negative conclusions about why the person hasn’t responded and try coming up with alternative explanations that are plausible.
Often you won’t find out the reasons for other people’s actions, which is part of why this type of rumination tends to be so futile.
Humans like to have explanations for why things happen. When we don’t have one, we tend to invent something. Sometimes the explanations involve personalizing. Personalizing is when you take something more personally than it was meant in reality.
you need to learn to tolerate that you’re not always going to know why people behave the way they do.
Recognize that if someone acts strangely, there’s a very high likelihood that the behavior has something to do with what’s happening for that person, rather than being about you, and you’re probably never going to know what the reason was.
Start with three minutes of one of the following practices, and increase the time you spend meditating by 30 seconds each day: Pay attention to the physical sensations of your breathing. Lie down and put your hand on your abdomen to feel the sensations of it rising as you breathe in and falling as you breathe out. Sit or lie down and listen to any sounds and the silence between sounds. Let sounds just come in and out of your awareness regardless of whether they’re relaxing sounds or not. Walk for three minutes and pay attention to what you see. Walk and pay attention to the feelings of air on your skin. Walk and pay attention to the physical sensations of your body moving. Do three minutes of open awareness, in which you pay attention to any sensations that show up. Pay attention to anything in the here and now, which could be sounds, your breathing, the sensations of your body making contact with your chair, or the sensations of your feet on the floor. Spend three minutes paying attention to any sensations of pain, tension, comfort, or relaxation in your body. You don’t need to try to change the sensations; just allow them to be what they are, and ebb and flow as they do.
When your thoughts drift away from what you’re supposed to be paying attention to, gently (and without self-criticism) bring them back. Expect to need to do this a lot. It’s a normal part of doing mindfulness meditation and doesn’t mean you’re doing it wrong. You’re likely to get
forward. To shift out of rumination and into problem-solving mode, concretely and realistically define what your best three to six options are.
Defining your options relieves some of the stress of rumination and helps you shift to effective problem solving. Keeping your list of options short will prevent you from running into choice-overload problems.
Experiment: Practice concretely defining your best three to six options for moving forward with a problem you’re currently ruminating or worrying about. Write brief bullet points, like in the example just given. You can use this method for all sorts of problems.
Imagery exposure is a technique in which you vividly recall a situation you’ve been ruminating about,
To start, recall all the sights and sounds of the past situation (or feared situation) in as much detail as you can. For
Deliberately keep the image in mind until your anxiety falls to half of where it started (or less). For example, if vividly recalling the situation triggers 8 out of 10 anxiety initially, hold the image in mind until your anxiety drops to about a level 4. Repeat the imagery exposure exercise at least once a day until you can bring the image to mind without it triggering more than about half of the peak anxiety you experienced the first time you tried imagery exposure.
If you’re ruminating because you’ve been putting off dealing with an issue, taking any level of action to address what you’ve been avoiding will usually help alleviate your rumination.
Move Ruminative Thinking Forward by Asking Questions
Ask questions as a way of unclogging stuck thinking. When you ask questions, you may get useful new information, or just the process of asking the questions may stimulate your own thinking. Sometimes even getting unhelpful responses can help you move forward, because they prompt you to define your problem differently. This often happens when someone misunderstands your question and gives an unhelpful, irrelevant response, but this makes you reformulate your question in a clearer form.
Thinking Shifts to Overcome Unhelpful Types of Perfectionism Anxiety-related thinking patterns can contribute to problems like prioritizing the wrong types of tasks, feeling burned out, and getting intensely frustrated when results aren’t coming as quickly or consistently as you’d like.
If you can shift your thinking from a performance focus to a mastery focus, you’ll become less fearful, more resilient, and more open to good, new ideas. Performance focus is when your highest priority is to show you can do something well now. Mastery focus is when you’re mostly concerned with advancing your skills.
A mastery focus can help you persist after setbacks.
Mastery goals will help you become less upset about individual instances of failure.
What’s your most important mastery goal right now? Complete this sentence: “My goal is to master the skills involved in
How would people with your mastery goal: 1. React to mistakes, setbacks, disappointments, and negative moods? 2. Prioritize which tasks they work on? What types of tasks would they deprioritize? 3. React when they’d sunk a lot of time into something and then realized a particular strategy or idea didn’t have the potential they’d hoped it would? 4. Ensure they were optimizing their learning and skill acquisition? 5. React when they felt anxious?
3. How would you talk to yourself differently if you had more acceptance of this? What would you say to yourself?
More Useful Pattern Anxiety/ frustration “I need to work harder” thinking error Spot the thinking trap Take a break Resume and maintain the behavioral goal I know works for me
Thoughts are just thoughts; the problem is that we accept thoughts as true, and confuse feelings with facts. Part of the reason this happens is memory bias: Your brain will tend to remember events from the past that match your current mood.
Therefore, regaining confidence is often just a matter of being patient and waiting for a negative or anxious mood to pass.
Excessive expectations plus anxiety get in the way of generating ideas.
Instead, try asking yourself: What do I know that’s relevant to solving my problem or helping me answer my question? How could I replicate something I’ve already done successfully, but with a twist? How could I combine two concepts that could be combined but aren’t usually? (Like croissants + donuts = cronuts) How could I take a successful method and replicate it with different ingredients? (Such as you notice the title of a viral blog post and copy the form of the title for a blog post you’re writing about a different topic.) Experiment: Try thinking of a successful method and how the method could be replicated but with different ingredients.
The following are some ways of making more willpower available to you: Reduce the number of tasks you attempt to get done each day to a very small number. Always identify what your most important task is, and make sure you get that single task done. You can group together your trivial tasks, like replying to emails or paying bills online, and count those as just one item. Refresh your available willpower by doing tasks slowly.
Slowing down in this way is considered a form of mindfulness practice.
Another way to refresh your willpower is by taking some slow breaths or doing any of the mindfulness practices
Know Your Warning Signs That You’ve Persisted Too Long
Define your overpersistence warning signs in objective and specific ways. This will make it harder to ignore them than if your definitions were fuzzy.
We all have recency bias, meaning recent memories tend to be the most salient.
Experiment with what it’s like to stop working while you’re in the zone and still enjoying a task rather than when you’re exhausted and frustrated.
A behavioral experiment you can try is delegating or outsourcing tasks you feel overwhelmed by.
To help you be less tempted to jump around, reduce your exposure to excessive information and alternatives.
questions. Write down one specific example of each.
Have you avoided seeking feedback early on only to later realize that earlier feedback would’ve saved you from continuing down the wrong track for so long? When? Have you avoided feedback only to later realize your fears of negative feedback were unjustified? How long did you worry unnecessarily? What was that like for you? Have you had times when your predictions of negative feedback came true, but it was a much milder experience than you’d anticipated? Have you had an experience where you realized that making the required changes was much easier than you thought, and you had endured extra worry for no reason? What cool opportunities have you opted out of because you didn’t want to expose yourself to even the possibility of negative feedback?
One of the reasons anxious people fear feedback is that they tend to judge their performance more harshly than others judge them.
Just like everyone has a vision blind spot, everyone has cognitive blind spots that can lead to making less than stellar choices.
Think about a specific scenario in which you fear negative feedback. If your fears came true: How would you go about making the required changes? How could you be self-accepting of your sensitivity to criticism? How could you talk to yourself gently about the emotions you’re feeling instead of criticizing yourself for feeling upset? How could you be patient with yourself while you’re having those feelings? What self-care would you do while you wait for your hurt and upset feelings to pass? (Yes, rewatching episodes of ’90s TV is a totally acceptable answer. 3) What personal support would you access to cope with your emotions? For example, you’d talk to a friend.
Anxiety can cause people to sometimes misinterpret feedback once they’ve received it. When people feel anxious, they tend to interpret ambiguous information (and lack of feedback) as negative.
You need to train yourself to consider the possibility that whatever has happened might not be personal. The second is recognizing that negative feedback does not necessarily mean the person doesn’t like you, doesn’t respect your capabilities, or doesn’t recognize your potential.
Anxiety (and stress) can make people more vulnerable to the hostility bias, a type of personalizing where you jump to the conclusion that other people have hostile intent.
The hostility bias often crops up in the workplace and in other group settings. For example, others offer you suggestions. You experience those suggestions as being attacked or nitpicked.
the best way to tackle the hostility bias in the moment is to slow your breathing to calm yourself physiologically, then use a behavioral strategy such as “canned responses” (see the next section).
You can prepare some verbal canned responses for times when you need to stall, without appearing defensive while you’re mentally processing feedback. Some examples: I think you’ve got a good point about ____. I’ll think about everything you’ve said. I need to process your feedback and mull it over. That’s an interesting way to look at it. Let me think about how I can incorporate your feedback. Let me think about how best to proceed from here. I’ll email you with some thoughts.
You can also have canned responses for when you feel embarrassed that a blind spot has been revealed. For example: I hadn’t thought of it like that. That’s really useful. Thanks for alerting me to that way of looking at it. That’s a great idea. I often come away from our conversations with a new perspective.
Acting as if you feel relaxed is one of the fastest ways to actually feel more calm. If you get an anxiety spike when you receive feedback or tend to feel defensive, try making your body language more open.
Drop your shoulders, lift your head, make gentle eye contact, and relax your hands. When you do this, your
When you ask people to give you feedback, ask for it in the form of a “poop sandwich.” The poop sandwich is feedback given in the following order—something you did well, a problem or learning edge, something else you did well. Try to give and receive feedback using this technique.
Sometimes anxious people need time to process a little bit of feedback before they’re open to receiving more.
Avoidance will eat you alive psychologically if you don’t work on it.
How avoidance coping manifests for you will depend on what your dominant response type is when you’re facing something you’d rather avoid. There are three possible responses: freezing, fleeing, or fighting.
By recognizing the gap between your values and your behavior, you can find the motivation to overcome your avoidance.
Guilt is psychologically healthy. Shame is not. The difference between guilt and shame is that guilt is about feeling bad about a behavior; shame is about feeling bad about who you are.
If you up your belief in your ability to cope with facing an upsetting reality, you’ll experience less desire to avoid.
Examples That’s Me (indicate with a ￼) All or nothing thinking / Rigid thinking / Unrelenting standards / Perfectionism You need to clean a whole room but don’t have the energy. You do nothing rather than clean one or two things in the room. You believe that everything needs to be done to an excellent level. If you can’t do something to an excellent level, you tend to avoid it completely. You set unrealistic productivity goals for how much you can get done. This causes you to avoid everything completely because you feel overwhelmed. Negative predictions You expect that if you try something you’ll fail. You put off asking for things because you think other people won’t be interested or expect they’ll say no (mind reading). You put off getting user feedback because you expect it will be negative / You avoid testing products with real customers. You overestimate how difficult or unpleasant a task will be. Underestimating your ability to cope You underestimate your ability to cope with boring, stressful, or anxiety-provoking tasks. Personalizing: personalizing your difficulty with a task rather than seeing the task itself as difficult, which gives you an excuse to avoid You think the reason you struggle with something is because you’re too stupid to figure it out rather than thinking it’s inherently challenging and has a learning curve. You think you’re the only one who has problems with something.
You make a list of all the situations and behaviors you avoid due to anxiety. You then assign a number to each item on your list based on how anxiety provoking you expect doing the avoided behavior would be. Use numbers from 0 (= not anxiety provoking at all) to 100 (= you would fear having an instant panic attack).
Aim to construct a list that has several avoided actions in each 10-point range.
Make a plan for how you can work through your hierarchy, starting at the bottom of the list. Where possible, repeat an avoided behavior several times before you move up to the next level.
During the 30 days, take as many opportunities as you can to be less avoidant than you usually would be.
As situations come up, focus on taking some action, even if you’re not certain what the absolute right action is.
Don’t be too all-or-nothing about overcoming avoidance coping. We all have only so much willpower available for dealing with things we’d prefer not to do.
When you’re avoiding something, try identifying the next action you need to take to move forward. Do that action.
After you’ve worked on a task you’ve been avoiding, allow yourself to enjoy the fruits of your labor by taking some time to relax.
assume that if you don’t plan when and where you’re going to do something, you’re probably not going to do it. If you avoid choosing when and where you’ll do a task, take that as a clue that you’re not committed to doing it.
Pick a smaller action for which you are willing to plan when and where you’ll do it.
Antiprocrastination strategies that can work well for a while can stop working. Accept that you’ll need to switch strategies in and out.
Some areas in which you can set up your life to fit your temperament are: Have the right level of busyness in your life.
Pick the physical activity level that’s right for you.
Having pleasurable activities to look forward to and enough physical activity will help protect you against depression. Have the right level of social contact in your life, and have routines that put this on autopilot.
Allow yourself the right amount of mental space to work up to doing something—enough time that you can do some mulling over the prospect of getting started but not so much time that it starts to feel like avoidance of getting started.
Have self-knowledge of what types of stress you find most difficult to process. Don’t voluntarily expose yourself to those types without considering alternatives.
It’s sometimes easy to forget other people’s emotional needs when you’re putting so much hard work into your own.
Also make sure that the first thing you say to your loved one when you reunite at the end of the day is something positive rather than complaining, whining, or handing out honey do’s
use feeling anxious, stuck, or overwhelmed as your cue to ask yourself whether any of your most common behavioral traps are the culprit.
Make sure you have a plan for an alternative action you can take when you notice yourself sucked into your most frequent behavioral traps.
Many of the anxious people I’ve met are prone to excessive responsibility taking. They really don’t like to let anyone down and typically work hard to avoid conflict or other people being potentially unhappy with them. And they usually have high standards for self-performance.
problem solving should generally involve concretely defining what the problem is, generating a short list of your best options for moving forward, picking something, and deciding when and where you’re going to implement that solution.
Being in thinking-only mode for long periods is comforting in the same way that overeating junk food for long periods is. It feels comfortable in the moment, but in the long term, you end up far from where you wanted to be.
Anxious people sometimes spend too much time and energy trying to change other people. Be aware if you’re doing this as a way of avoiding focusing on yourself and your own goals. Of course it’s easier to shift focus to what others could change rather than deal with the psychological work that’s sitting on your own plate.
It’s really important that you like who you are. Provided you’re not a serial killer, no one deserves the emotional pain of going through life not liking themselves
List your top five strengths as a person. Since you’re free to revise your list at any point (it’s yours after all), don’t get too perfectionistic about it. Once you have your list, identify a task you currently need to do. How could you apply one of your top five strengths to approach that task in a new way?
While in large need of self-soothing and anxiety reducing, I went to every paper store in Nottingham that I could map out within walking distance of where I was. One of the places was a bookstore at the top of a flight of winding stairs with walls plastered with lots of NO and DO NOT DO THIS THING OR THAT THING. The entrance was more than a little off-putting, but the store itself was full of lots of quirky books and design books that seemed right in line with my style. I saw many books that I owned, which was favorable to me.
The proprietor saw me soon after I walked in, and wandered over to talk with me. He offered the usual greetings, which I answered with my own greetings. I expected him to let me wander after the pleasantries, but he continued speaking. He kept talking about the book store and other things, then asked what I liked to read. I explained my current non-fiction kick, and he started handing me books as suggestions.
And kept handing me books.
I kept setting the books down where-ever I happened to be standing.
And turning around in clear social norms indicating that I wanted not to be talking.
He kept talking.
I really wanted him to stop talking, so that I could look at the books at my own speed. He didn't stop talking.
So, I listened to a couple of his suggestions, bought The Consolations of Philosophy, along with The Consolation of Philosophy, of which the former is a riff, and left.
I read Consolations this week.
The timing of it was great for me.
The book has six consolations: consolations for unpopularity, consolations for not having enough money, consolations for frustration, consolations for inadequacy, consolations for a broken heart, and consolations for difficulties. Each section has a philosopher featured, a short essay on his philosophy, and a section for, hey, things aren't so bad, here's what he thought and how it is relevant to your situation.
I enjoyed the book, I enjoyed the introduction to the new philosophers and descriptions of the ones I knew. Not sure I was particularly consoled per se, but I was entertained. Worth reading.
In conversations, my priority was to be liked, rather than to speak the truth.
Philosophy had supplied Socrates with convictions in which he had been able to have rational, as opposed to hysterical, confidence when faced with disapproval.
Every society has notions of what one should believe and how one should behave in order to avoid suspicion and unpopularity.
If we refrain from questioning the status quo, it is – aside from the weather and the size of our cities – primarily because we associate what is popular with what is right.
[W]hich suggests that we pick our friends not only because they are kind and enjoyable company, but also, perhaps more importantly, because they understand us for who we think we are.
Booksellers are the most valuable destination for the lonely, given the numbers of books that were written because authors couldn’t find anyone to talk to.
There are, so Montaigne implied, no legitimate reasons why books in the humanities should be difficult or boring; wisdom does not require a specialized vocabulary or syntax, nor does an audience benefit from being wearied.
Carefully used, boredom can be a valuable indicator of the merit of books.
But writing with simplicity requires courage, for there is a danger that one will be overlooked, dismissed as simpleminded by those with a tenacious belief that impassable prose is a hallmark of intelligence.
Yet in Montaigne’s schema of intelligence, what matters in a book is usefulness and appropriateness to life; it is less valuable to convey with precision what Plato wrote or Epicurus meant than to judge whether what they have said is interesting and could in the early hours help us over anxiety or loneliness. The responsibility of authors in the humanities is not to quasi-scientific accuracy, but to happiness and health.
It is tempting to quote authors when they express our very own thoughts but with a clarity and psychological accuracy we cannot match. They know us better than we know ourselves. What is shy and confused in us is succinctly and elegantly phrased in them,
It is striking how much more seriously we are likely to be taken after we have been dead a few centuries. Statements which might be acceptable when they issue from the quills of ancient authors are likely to attract ridicule when expressed by contemporaries. Critics are not inclined to bow before the grander pronouncements of those with whom they attended university.
We may take this in two ways: that no one is genuinely marvellous, but that only families and staff are close enough to discern the disappointing truth. Or that many people are interesting, but that if they are too close to us in age and place, we are likely not to take them too seriously, on account of a curious bias against what is at hand.
The philosopher might have offered unflattering explanations of why we fall in love, but there was consolation for rejection –the consolation of knowing that our pain is normal. We should not feel confused by the enormity of the upset that can ensue from only a few days of hope.
Love could not induce us to take on the burden of propagating the species without promising us the greatest happiness we could imagine. To be shocked at how deeply rejection hurts is to ignore what acceptance involves. We must never allow our suffering to be compounded by suggestions that there is something odd in suffering so deeply.
We should in time learn to forgive our rejectors.
In every clumsy attempt by one person to inform another that they need more space or time, that they are reluctant to commit or are afraid of intimacy, the rejector is striving to intellectualize an essentially unconscious negative verdict formulated by the will-to-life.
It is consoling, when love has let us down, to hear that happiness was never part of the plan. The darkest thinkers may, paradoxically, be the most cheering:
What we encounter in works of art and philosophy are objective versions of our own pains and struggles, evoked and defined in sound, language or image. Artists and philosophers not only show us what we have felt, they present our experiences more poignantly and intelligently than we have been able; they give shape to aspects of our lives that we recognize as our own, yet could never have understood so clearly on our own. They explain our condition to us, and thereby help us to be less lonely with, and confused by it.
The greatest works of art speak to us without knowing of us.
The most fulfilling human projects appeared inseparable from a degree of torment, the sources of our greatest joys lying awkwardly close to those of our greatest pains:
Why? Because no one is able to produce a great work of art without experience, nor achieve a worldly position immediately, nor be a great lover at the first attempt; and in the interval between initial failure and subsequent success, in the gap between who we wish one day to be and who we are at present, must come pain, anxiety, envy and humiliation. We suffer because we cannot spontaneously master the ingredients of fulfilment.
Christianity had, in Nietzsche’s account, emerged from the minds of timid slaves in the Roman Empire who had lacked the stomach to climb to the tops of mountains, and so had built themselves a philosophy claiming that their bases were delightful. Christians had wished to enjoy the real ingredients of fulfilment (a position in the world, sex, intellectual mastery, creativity) but did not have the courage to endure the difficulties these goods demanded. They had therefore fashioned a hypocritical creed denouncing what they wanted but were too weak to fight for while praising what they did not want but happened to have.
Okay, wow, I STRONGLY recommend this book for anyone who is naming a business or product. Like, don't expect to have a name in two days, do the work to figure out a good name, and yes, this book will help. I wish I had a product or company to name at this point, because this book is the way I'd find the name.
Watkins comments early in the book that her colleagues were concerned about her giving away her naming secrets by writing and publishing this book. Her response was something to the tune of, "Nah, I'll be fine, people don't want to do the work of finding the best name, I'm good," Which is totally believe.
Watkins gives step-by-step instructions on finding options and choosing them. For the record: I have fully sucked in naming my projects, by a lot. I now know it.
I originally borrowed this book from the library, but appreciated the content enough to go buy a copy from the book. I strongly recommend you do the same if you're naming a product. If you're not naming a product (or company), keep this on the back burner for when you do. You won't regret it.
clever ad headlines get noticed , get buzz , and get sales because they make strong emotional connections with consumers .
SMILE : The 5 Qualities of a Super - Sticky Name Suggestive — evokes something about your brand Meaningful — resonates with your audience Imagery — is visually evocative to aid in memory Legs — lends itself to a theme for extended mileage Emotional — moves people SCRATCH : The 7 Deadly Sins Spelling challenged — looks like a typo Copycat — is similar to competitors ’ names Restrictive — limits future growth Annoying — is forced or frustrates customers Tame — is flat , descriptive , uninspired Curse of Knowledge — makes sense only to insiders
Suggestive — Evokes Something about Your Brand A name can’t be expected to say everything , but it should suggest something about your brand .
These names , also known as portmanteaus , work well because they cleverly marry two words together , are intuitive to spell , and easy to pronounce .
Resonates with Your Audience It’s important to make sure your name is meaningful to potential customers , not just to you . Most of the time when people encounter your name , you won’t be there to explain it to them .
Do Not Name Your Company after yourself While it may evoke warm thoughts to your friends and family , your personal name is meaningless to your future customers .
Imagery — Visually Evocative to Aid in Memory
Legs — Lends Itself to a Theme for Extended Mileage To get the most out of your name , give it one that has legs . Strive for a theme with mileage you can build your brand around . Names with legs provide endless wordplay and verbal branding opportunities .
If you have a catchy name that makes people smile , you can slap it on merchandise that people will pay for because they love your name and want to show it off .
Emotional — Moves People A recent Fast Company article revealed that 50 percent of every buying decision is driven by emotion .
“ A name should make you smile instead of scratch your head . ”
SCRATCH is an acronym for the seven deal breakers . A good way to remember this : if it makes you scratch your head , scratch it off the list .
Spelling Challenged — Not Spelled like It Sounds If you have to spell your name out loud for people , Siri butchers it , or it looks like a typo , it’s a mistake .
Don’t Get Cute with Numbers While it may work for texting and clever license plates , embedding numbers in a brand name looks cutesy and unprofessional .
Test the Siri Theory The true test to see if a name is spelling challenged is to see and hear how voice recognition software spells it .
Copycat — Similar to a Competitor Hijacking another company’s original idea isn’t good for your business reputation or for building trust with your customers .
Restrictive — Locks You In , Limits Growth
Do Not Use the Same Name for Your Product and Company
Annoying — Forced , Frustrates Customers Annoying of course is subjective , but if you think about your
name from a customer’s point of view , you can avoid causing frustration if your name does not appear forced , random , or grammatically incorrect .
Clunky Coined Names If you invent a new word for your name , be careful that it doesn’t sound unnatural . Mashing two words together or mixing up a bunch of letters to form a new word rarely appears or sounds smooth .
Resist the Temptation to Be Mysterious
Tame — Flat , Descriptive , Uninspired If you want your name to stand out in a sea of sameness and get noticed — without a massive advertising budget — you can’t afford to be shy .
Curse of Knowledge — Only Insiders Get It No one is more of an expert on the company or product you are naming than you . But when communicating with potential customers who are unfamiliar with your world , insider knowledge can become a curse . We can’t unlearn what we know , so we find it extremely difficult to think like a newbie . We talk in acronyms , internal shorthand , code words , and
industry jargon — all of which sounds like a foreign language to outsiders . Don’t alienate potential customers .
Avoid Alphanumeric Brain - benders
Is Your Name in Urban Dictionary ? If your brand is targeted at teens or young adults , be sure to look up your name in Urban Dictionary ( urbandictionary.com ) before you give it the green light .
Hard to Pronounce — Not Obvious , Unapproachable
Avoid Acronyms Speaking of capital letters , FYI , people have ADD . You can expect them to remember only one name , not two .
Two Pronunciations Is Double Trouble Words that can be pronounced two different ways are also pronunciation pitfalls .
3 Strategies to Get a Good Domain Name for $ 9.95 Here are three simple strategies that will help you nab a domain name that people can spell , pronounce , and understand . Strategy # 1 : Add Another Word or Two
5 Silly Ideas to Steer Clear Of Here are some amateur mistakes to watch out for . Silly Idea # 1 : Spell It Creatively
Sil.ly Idea # 2 : Use an Obscure Domain Extension to Spell Your Name
Silly Idea # 3 : Use . org For a For - Profit Business
Silly Idea # 4 : Domain Name = Trademark Just because you own a domain name does not mean you own the trademark .
Silly Idea # 5 : Don’t Look before You Leap Before you pounce on a domain name , make sure the words mashed together don’t spell something unintentional , which is called a SLURL — a clever portmanteau of Slur + URL .
GOAL OF ASSIGNMENT What do you want to accomplish ?
IN A NUTSHELL Sum it up it in 140 characters or less .
BRAND POSITIONING How do you want your brand to be positioned in the marketplace ?
CONSUMER INSIGHTS Consumer insights reveal people’s behaviors , as opposed to preferences . For instance , when naming an herbal tea brand , it helps to think beyond what tea drinkers like about herbal tea ( e.g . , flavor , fragrance , health benefits ) and consider what circumstances lead them to enjoy their tea . It could be getting home after a long commute , relaxing with a book in their favorite chair , or sipping a cup before bedtime to help them get a restful sleep .
TARGET AUDIENCE Who are the customers you want to reach ?
COMPETITION List your competitors so you know what you are up against and to help you steer clear of similar names , which could pose trademark conflicts .
DESIRED BRAND EXPERIENCES The best names evoke a positive brand experience that makes a strong emotional connection , such as “ This tastes great , ” “ I will feel better , ” or “ This is fun ! ”
BRAND PERSONALITY The 5 – 12 adjectives that best describe the tone and personality of your brand . ( This exercise is much easier to do if you think of your brand as a person . )
WORDS TO EXPLORE List some words you may like to have in your new name .
THEMES / IDEAS TO AVOID Don’t even think of going here :
WORDS TO AVOID
List any words you would not like to have in your new name .
DOMAIN NAME MODIFIERS List modifier words that will help you secure a domain name , which may not be available as an exact match to your new name or may be out of your price range :
NAME STYLE LIKES & DISLIKES List 5 brand names that you collectively like the style of ( and why ) .
List 5 brand names that you collectively dislike the style of ( and why )
ACID TEST FOR USING THE NEW NAME Write how the new name would be used in a sentence .
ALSO GOOD TO KNOW List anything else you think would be important to the name development .
THE WARM - UP — LIST 12 WORD SPARKS
Mine the Online Goldmine
Open the Thesaurus Treasure Chest Begin your online brainstorming on a thesaurus website , where you can find a jackpot of synonyms and related words .
Supercharge Your Imagination with Images A picture says a thousand words . And many of those words can inspire awesome names , which is why I always do image searches to fuel my creativity .
Comb through Glossaries of Terms Every sport has its own lingo of fun words and phrases . You can find pages and pages of them online by searching for “ glossaries , ” “ lingo , ” “ vernacular , ” “ jargon , ” “ dictionaries , ” “ thesaurus , ” “ terms , ” “ words , ” or “ slang , ” which are essentially the same thing but will turn up different results in searches .
Dictionaries Have More Than Just Definitions
Sometimes Clichés Are Good
Go Googlestorming !
Movie Title Madness
Breeze through Some Book Titles
Tune into iTunes
12 Rules for Reviewing Your Names Rule 1 Have people initially review the list of names independently , as opposed to in a group .
Is it right ? which is much more objective and effective .
Rule 3 Refrain from negative comments .
Rule 4 Keep in mind that a name can’t say everything —
print out the list to review on paper instead of viewing it online . Read it multiple times , top to bottom and bottom to top . Give yourself a few days to let all the names sink in .
Rule 6 As tempting as it is , do not share your list with outsiders and ask for their opinions on SurveyMonkey .
A good way to review company names is to imagine each one on your caller ID , name badge , store sign , website , or business card . Imagine product names on the product , a sales sheet , or on the shelf .
Rule 8 Don’t be afraid to be different .
Rule 9 Refrain from looking up domain names this early in the process .
Rule 10 Each reviewer should select at least ten names from the list .
Rule 11 Don’t fall in love with any one name until after you have conducted trademark screens .
Rule 12 Have fun !
This is one of those books that sits with you for a long while after you have finished reading it. If you don't know the circumstances happening at the time of the writing, or about the author, Maximilien Robespierre, himself, then the book might not linger.
If you recognize that the earlier works of Robespierre are what you want to hear from a leader, someone who is actively championing the underdog, the little guy, the poor, who believes in basic human rights for everyone, who actively fights against slavery; and then realize that the same man led the new government that overthrew the previous government and subsequently started murdering anyone who opposed the new government (or who was even suspected of opposing the new government), then you begin to recognize why the book is sticking with you for so long.
Yes, we want things to be fair. Yes, we want to be rewarded for our hard work. Yes, it would be great if everyone had an equal chance at opportunities. Yes, we want justice and equality.
But here we have a man who was against the death penalty, but argued strongly for the right of a government to execute, murder, anyone who opposed said government. You will have your Liberty by force, dammit.
Much of the justification he uses, yeah, I agree with. Some of it, not so much. This isn't a period in history that I paid strong attention to, though I wish I had, but from these kinds of writings. You can read about history, and yes, it reads like a story book. Then you read some of these works, you hear the words, you feel the emotions, and realize it wasn't a story, it happened, these were people. Suddenly, history becomes this absolutely fascinating saga about human nature. You can see how Robespierre played people, how our motivations are the same, how influence works, and how neuroscience has helped us understand many of these things.
We're still confusing creatures, but we have patterns. This book shows just how much they haven't changed.
I strongly recommend this book. It is a slow read.
Unformatted quotes that caught my attention:
The further crucial point to bear in mind is that, for Robespierre, revolutionary terror is the very opposite of war: Robespierre was a pacifist, not out of hypocrisy or humanitarian sensitivity, but because he was well aware that war among nations as a rule serves as the means to obfuscate revolutionary struggle within each nation.
And this is what Robespierre aims at in his famous accusation to the moderates that what they really want is a ‘revolution without a revolution’: they want a revolution deprived of the excess in which democracy and terror coincide, a revolution respecting social rules, subordinated to pre-existing norms, a revolution in which violence is deprived of the ‘divine’ dimension and thus reduced to a strategic intervention serving precise and limited goals: Citizens, did you want a revolution without a revolution? What is this spirit of persecution that has come to revise, so to speak, the one that broke our chains? But what sure judgement can one make of the effects that can follow these great commotions? Who can mark, after the event, the exact point at which the waves of popular insurrection should break? At that price, what people could ever have shaken off the yoke of despotism? For while it is true that a great nation cannot rise in a simultaneous movement, and that tyranny can only be hit by the portion of citizens that is closest to it, how would these ever dare to attack it if, after the victory, delegates from remote parts could hold them responsible for the duration or violence of the political torment that had saved the homeland? They ought to be regarded as justified by tacit proxy for the whole of society. The French, friends of liberty, meeting in Paris last August, acted in that role, in the name of all the departments. They should either be approved or repudiated entirely. To make them criminally responsible for a few apparent or real disorders, inseparable from so great a shock, would be to punish them for their devotion.
The best way to approach it is via Freud’s reluctance to endorse the injunction ‘Love thy neighbour!’ –the temptation to be resisted here is the ethical domestication of the neighbour –for example, what Emmanuel Levinas did with his notion of the neighbour as the abyssal point from which the call of ethical responsibility emanates.
Robespierre, in a true master stroke, assumes full subjectivization –waiting a little bit for the ominous effect of his words to take place, he then continues in the first-person singular: ‘I say that anyone who trembles at this moment is guilty; for innocence never fears public scrutiny.’ 16
there are no innocent bystanders in the crucial moments of revolutionary decision, because, in such moments, innocence itself –exempting oneself from the decision, going on as if the struggle I am witnessing does not really concern me –is the highest treason.
This is how Yamamoto Jocho, a Zen priest, described the proper attitude of a warrior: every day without fail one should consider oneself as dead. There is a saying of the elders that goes, ‘Step from under the eaves and you’re a dead man. Leave the gate and the enemy is waiting.’ This is not a matter of being careful. It is to consider oneself as dead beforehand. 18
Every legal order (or every order of explicit normativity) has to rely on a complex ‘reflexive’ network of informal rules which tells us how are we to relate to the explicit norms, how are we to apply them: to what extent are we to take them literally, how and when are we allowed, solicited even, to disregard them, etc. –and this is the domain of habit. To know the habits of a society is to know the metarules of how to apply its explicit norms: when to use them or not use them; when to violate them; when not to use a choice which is offered; when we are effectively obliged to do something, but have to pretend that we are doing it as a free choice (as in the case of potlatch).
Recall the polite offer-meant-to-be-refused: it is a ‘habit’ to refuse such an offer, and anyone who accepts such an offer commits a vulgar blunder. The same goes for many political situations in which a choice is given on condition that we make the right choice: we are solemnly reminded that we can say no –but we are expected to reject this offer and enthusiastically say yes.
To cast off the yoke of habit means: if all men are equal, then all men are to be effectively treated as equal; if blacks are also human, they should be immediately treated as such.
Of course, radical bourgeois revolutionaries are aware of this limitation; however, the way they try to amend it is through a direct ‘terrorist’ imposition of more and more de facto equality (equal wages, equal health treatment …), which can only be imposed through new forms of formal inequality (different sorts of preferential treatments of the under-privileged).
How are we to reinvent the Jacobin terror?
Actually, what IS jacobian terror?
Kant’s well-known thesis that Reason without Intuition is empty, while Intuition without Reason is blind: is not its political counterpart Robespierre’s dictum according to which Virtue without Terror is impotent, while Terror without Virtue is lethal, striking blindly?
It is only such a radical stance that allows us to break with today’s predominant mode of politics, post-political biopolitics, which is a politics of fear, formulated as a defence against a potential victimization or harassment. Therein resides the true line of separation between radical emancipatory politics and the politics of the status quo: it is not the difference between two different positive visions, sets of axioms, but, rather, the difference between the politics based on a set of universal axioms and the politics which renounces the very constitutive dimension of the political, since it resorts to fear as its ultimate mobilizing principle: fear of immigrants, fear of crime, fear of godless sexual depravity, fear of the excessive state itself (with its burdensome taxation), fear of ecological catastrophes –such a (post) politics always amounts to a frightening rallying of frightened men.
liberty consists in obeying laws voluntarily adopted, and servitude in being forced to submit to an outside will.
All men born and domiciled in France are members of the political society called the French nation, in other words French citizens. That is what they are by the nature of things and by the main principles of the law of nations. The rights attached to this title depend neither on the fortune each individual possesses, nor on the amount of taxation to which he is subject, because it is not tax that makes us citizens; the quality of citizen only obliges him to contribute to the common expenditure of the state, according to his abilities. Now you can give laws to the citizens, but you cannot annihilate them.
I ought only to answer with a word or two: the people, that multitude of men whose cause I am defending, have rights that come from the same origin as your own. Who gave you the power to take them away? General practicality,
There is more: unless you do everything for liberty, you have done nothing. There are no two ways of being free: one must be entirely free, or become a slave once more. The least resource left to despotism will soon restore its power.
The law, the public authority: is it not established to protect weakness against injustice and oppression? It is thus an offence to all social principles to place it entirely in the hands of the rich.
Do you really believe in all honesty that a hard and laborious life produces more faults than softness, luxury and ambition? And
Abuses are the work and the domain of the rich, they are the scourges of the people: the interest of the people is the general interest, that of the rich is a particular interest;
It gives the citizens this astonishing lesson: ‘Be rich, whatever the cost, or you will be nothing.’
To make laws to restore and establish the rights of your constituents. It is thus not possible for you to strip them of those same rights.
It falls only to the essentially infallible Being to be immutable; to change is not just a right but a duty for any human will that has faltered. Men who decide the fate of other men are less exempt than anyone from this common obligation.
it is necessary for surveillance by honest people to stand against the forces of ambitious and corrupt intriguers.
It is in the nature of things that the march of reason should be slow and gradual.
The most depraved government finds powerful support in the prejudices, the habits, the education of peoples.
In a sort of despair, they want to hurl themselves into a foreign war, as if they hoped that the mere change brought about by war would bring us to life, or that order and liberty would eventually emerge from the general confusion.
There are in revolutions movements contrary to liberty and movements that favour it, as in illnesses there are salutary crises and mortal ones. The favourable movements are those aimed directly against tyrants, like the Americans’ insurrection, or that of 14 July. But war on the outside, provoked, directed by the government in the circumstances we are in now, is a movement in the wrong direction, a crisis that could lead to the death of the body politic. Such a war can only send public opinion off on a false scent, divert the nation’s well-founded anxieties, and forestall the favourable crisis that attacks by enemies of liberty might have brought on.
During a foreign war the people, as I said, distracted by military events from political deliberations affecting the essential foundations of its liberty, is less inclined to take seriously the underhand manoeuvres of plotters who are undermining it and the executive government which is knocking it about, and pay less attention to the weakness or corruption of representatives who are failing to defend it.
The sort of man who would look with horror on the betrayal of the homeland can still be led by adroit officers to run its best citizens through with steel;
I am enlightening it; to enlighten free men is to awaken their courage, to prevent that courage itself from becoming a stumbling-block to their liberty;
I neither deny them nor believe them; for I have heard too many calumnies to believe denunciations that come from the same source and that all bear the imprint of bias or passion.
Might you not also reproach us for having illegally smashed the mercenary scribblers, whose profession was to propagate fraud and blaspheme against liberty?
Who can mark, after the event, the exact point at which the waves of popular insurrection should break? At that price, what people could ever have shaken off the yoke of despotism?
For while it is true that a great nation cannot rise in a simultaneous movement, and that tyranny can only be hit by the portion of citizens that is closest to it, how would these ever dare to attack it if, after the victory, delegates from remote parts could hold them responsible for the duration or violence of the political torment that had saved the homeland? They ought to be regarded as justified by tacit proxy for the whole of society.
M. Louvet himself generalized, in a very vague way, the accusation directed earlier against me personally; from this it seems certain that calumny had been doing its work in the shadows.
To form an accurate idea of these events, the truth should be sought, not in the writings or slanderous speeches that have misrepresented them, but in the history of the recent revolution.
So you only talk about dictatorship in order to exercise it yourself without any restraint; you only talk about proscriptions and tyranny because you want to proscribe and tyrannize.
I renounce the just vengeance I would have a right to pursue against the slanderers; I ask that that vengeance be nothing more than the return of peace and the triumph of liberty.
In every country where nature provides for the needs of men with prodigality, scarcity can only be imputed to defects of administration or of the laws themselves; bad laws and bad administration have their origins in false principles and bad morals.
You need at least to subject to severe examination all the laws made under royal despotism and under the auspices of noble, ecclesiastical or bourgeois aristocracy; and so far you have no others at all.
freedom of trade is necessary up to the point where homicidal greed starts to abuse it;
Common sense indicates, for example, the truth that foodstuffs that are in no way essential to life can be left to untrammelled speculation by the merchant; any momentary scarcity that might be felt is always a bearable inconvenience; and it is acceptable in general that the unlimited freedom of such a market should turn to the greater profit of the state and some individuals; but the lives of men cannot be subjected to the same uncertainty. It is not necessary that I be able to purchase brilliant fabrics; but I do need to be rich enough to buy bread, for myself and my children. The merchant is welcome to retain goods coveted by wealth and vanity in his shops, until he finds the moment to sell them at the highest possible price; but no man has the right to amass piles of wheat, when his neighbour is dying of hunger.
What is the first object of society? It is to maintain the imprescriptible rights of man. What is the first of those rights? The right to life.
The first social law is therefore the one that guarantees all members of society the means to live; all the others are subordinate to that one; property was only instituted and guaranteed to consolidate it; it is primarily to live that people have property.
No doubt if all men were just and virtuous; if cupidity were never tempted to devour the people’s substance; if the rich, receptive to the voices of reason and nature, regarded themselves as the bursars of society, or as brothers to the poor, it might be possible to recognize no law but the most unlimited freedom;
Let the circulation of goods be protected throughout the whole Republic; but let the necessary measures be taken to ensure that circulation takes place. It is precisely the lack of circulation that I am complaining about. For the scourge of the people, the source of scarcity, is the obstacles placed in the way of circulation, under the pretext of rendering it unlimited. Does public subsistence circulate when greedy speculators are keeping it piled in their granaries? Does it circulate, when it is accumulated in the hands of a small number of millionaires who withhold it from the market, to make it more valuable and rare; who coldly calculate how many families must perish before the commodity reaches the release date fixed by their atrocious avarice?
Ha! what sort of good citizen can complain of being obliged to act with probity and in broad daylight?
I am well aware that when we examine the circumstances of some particular riot, aroused by the real or imagined scarcity of wheat, we sometimes recognize the influence of an outside cause. Ambition and intrigue need to start trouble: sometimes it is those same men who stir up the people, to find the pretext to slaughter it and to make liberty itself seem terrible in the eyes of weak and selfish individuals. But it is no less true that the people is naturally upright and peaceable; it is always guided by a pure intention; the malevolent can only stir it up by presenting a motive that is powerful and legitimate in its eyes.
the greatest service the legislator can perform for men is to force them to be honest folk.
do not forget that the source of order is justice; that the surest guarantor of public peace is the well-being of the citizens,
It does not even occur to us that most are inevitably still connected with the prejudices on which despotism fed us.
When a nation has been forced to resort to the right of insurrection, it returns to the state of nature in relation to the tyrant. How can the tyrant invoke the social pact? He has annihilated it. The nation can still keep it, if it thinks fit, for everything concerning relations between citizens; but the effect of tyranny and insurrection is to break it entirely where the tyrant is concerned; it places them reciprocally in a state of war. Courts and legal proceedings are only for members of the same side.
Peoples do not judge in the same way as courts of law; they do not hand down sentences, they throw thunderbolts; they do not condemn kings, they drop them back into the void; and this justice is worth just as much as that of the courts.
It is less a question of enlightenment than of avoiding voluntary blindness.
Why is it that what seems clear to us at one time seems obscure at another?
There was no need for a revolution, surely, to teach the universe that extreme disproportion between fortunes is the source of many ills and many crimes, but we are nevertheless convinced that equality of possessions is a chimera.
Now, where public contributions are concerned, is there any principle more obviously derived from the nature of things and from eternal justice, than one that obliges the citizens to contribute to public expenditure progressively, in accordance with the size of their fortune, in other words in accordance with the advantages they draw from society?
XIX. In any free state, the law above all should defend public and individual liberty against abuse of authority by those who govern. Any institution that does not assume the people to be good, and the magistrate corruptible, is itself depraved.
XXXI. In both these cases, subjecting resistance against oppression to legal forms is the ultimate refinement of tyranny.
XXXIII. Offences committed by people’s representatives should be severely and promptly punished. No one has the right to claim to be more inviolable than other citizens.
The truth is that under the old empress, as under all women who hold the sceptre, it is men who govern.
That country combines the ferocity of savage hordes with the vices of civilized peoples.
Force can overthrow a throne; only wisdom can found a Republic.
They say their authority is its work. No: God created tigers; but kings are the masterpieces of human corruption.
Successes send weak souls to sleep; they spur strong souls on. Let
If revolutionary government should be more active in its working and freer in its movements than ordinary government, does that make it less just and less legitimate? No. It is supported by the holiest of all laws: the salvation of the people; by the most indisputable of all entitlements: necessity.
Yes! If it is accepted that there are moderates and cowards of good faith, why should there not be patriots of good faith, who are sometimes carried away by a praiseworthy sentiment to go too far?
By sketching the duties of revolutionary government, we have marked the pitfalls that threaten it. The greater its power, the more free and rapid its action, the more it should be directed by good faith. On
Let us raise our souls to the height of republican virtues and examples from antiquity. Themistocles7 had more genius than the Lacedaemonian general commanding the Greek fleet: however, when the general answered a much-needed piece of advice meant to save the country by raising his baton to strike him, Themistocles merely said ‘Strike then, but listen’, and Greece triumphed over the Asian tyrant.
Punishing a hundred obscure and subordinate culprits is less useful to liberty than executing the head of a conspiracy.
commerce the source of public wealth and not just the monstrous opulence of a few houses.
We want in our country to substitute morality for egoism, probity for honour, principles for practices, duties for proprieties, the rule of reason for the tyranny of fashion, contempt of vice for contempt of misfortune, pride for insolence, greatness of soul for vanity, love of glory for love of money, good people for good company, merit for intrigue, genius for fine wit, truth for brilliance, the charm of happiness for the boredom of luxury, the greatness of man for the pettiness of great men, a magnanimous, powerful, happy people for an amiable, frivolous and miserable people; in short all the virtues and miracles of the Republic for all the vices and absurdities of monarchy.
A democracy is not a state in which the people, continually assembled, manages all public business for itself, still less one in which a hundred thousand fractions of the people, through isolated, precipitate and contradictory measures, would decide the fate of the whole society: no such government has ever existed, and it could only exist to take the people back to despotism. Democracy is a state in which the sovereign people, guided by laws which are its own work, does for itself all that it can do properly, and through delegates all that it cannot do for itself.
Thus, anything that tends to arouse love of the homeland, to purify morals, to elevate souls, to direct the passions of the human heart towards the public interest, should be adopted or established by you. Anything that tends to concentrate them on the abjectness of the personal self, to arouse crazes for small things and contempt for great ones, should be rejected or repressed by you.
A nation is really corrupted when, having lost by slow degrees its character and its liberty, it moves from democracy to aristocracy or monarchy; that is the death of the body politic through decrepitude.
From all of this we should deduce a great truth: that the character of popular government is to be trusting towards the people and severe with itself.
If the mainspring of popular government in peacetime is virtue, the mainspring of popular government in revolution is virtue and terror both: virtue, without which terror is disastrous; terror, without which virtue is powerless.
Nature’s law is that any physical and moral entity must provide for its own preservation;
he would rather wear out a hundred red caps than perform one good act.
Do we need to assert the rights of the people oppressed by the government? They speak only of respect for the law and obedience to the constituted authorities.
The wish to forestall evil is always to them a reason for augmenting it. In the North the poultry were killed, depriving us of eggs, under the pretext that poultry eat grain. In the Midi, people wanted to uproot mulberry and orange trees, on the pretext that silk is a luxury product, and oranges unnecessary.
Would you believe that in the areas where superstition has had most influence, not content with loading the operations concerning religion with all the forms most calculated to render them odious, they spread terror among the people by starting a rumour that all children under ten and all old people over seventy were going to be killed? That this rumour was spread particularly in former Brittany and in the departments of Rhine and Moselle?
In perfidious hands all the remedies for our ills become poisons; whatever you can do, whatever you can say, they will turn it against you, even the truths we have just been developing.
Thus, for example, after having planted the seeds of civil war everywhere, with the violent attack on religious prejudices, they will seek to arm fanaticism and aristocracy with the very measures that sound policy recommended to you in favour of freedom of religion.
Democracy perishes through two excesses, the aristocracy of those who govern, or the people’s contempt for the authorities it has itself established, a contempt that results in each coterie, each individual appropriating public power, and brings the people, through excess of disorder, to annihilation or rule by a single individual.
There are two powers on earth, reason and tyranny; wherever one is predominant, the other is banned. Those who denounce the moral strength of reason as a crime are therefore seeking to revive tyranny.
Which is the more guilty, one who threatens its security through violence, or one who undermines its justice through seduction and perfidy? To mislead it is to betray it; to push it into acts contrary to its intentions and principles is to risk its destruction; for its power is based on virtue itself and on the confidence of the nation.
Why do those who used to say: I declare to you that we are walking on volcanoes, believe today that they are walking on nothing but roses?
Think about the end of the campaign; be afraid of internal factions; be afraid of the intrigues favoured by absence in a foreign land.
There should be no question of hobbling the people’s justice through new forms; penal law ought necessarily to have something vague about it because, the current character of the conspirators being one of dissimulation and hypocrisy, justice needs to be able to grasp them in all forms.
So the safeguard of patriotism lies not in the slowness or weakness of national law, but in the principles and integrity of those entrusted with it, in the good faith of the government, in the open protection it gives to patriots, and the energy with which it represses the aristocracy; in the public mind, and in certain moral and political institutions that, without hampering the workings of the law, offer a safeguard to good citizens and repress bad ones, through their influence on public opinion and on the direction of the revolutionary march; these will be proposed to you as soon as the most immediate conspiracies allow the friends of liberty time to draw breath.
Let us not be mistaken: establishing an immense Republic on foundations of reason and equality, holding all the parts of this immense empire together with vigorous bonds, is not an enterprise that can be completed thoughtlessly: it is the masterpiece of virtue and human reason. A host of factions springs up inside a great revolution; how can they be repressed, if you do not subject all the passions to constant justice? Your only guarantor of liberty is rigorous observation of the principles and the universal morality you have proclaimed. If reason does not reign, then crime and ambition must reign; without it, victory is just an instrument of ambition and a danger to liberty, a lethal pretext misused by intrigue to lull patriotism to sleep on the edge of the precipice; without it, what is the very meaning of victory?
know that every friend of liberty will always be trapped between a duty and a calumny; that those who cannot be accused of betrayal will be accused of ambition; that the influence of probity and principle will be likened to the strength of tyranny and the violence of factions; that your trust and your esteem will be certificates of proscription for all your friends; that the cries of oppressed patriotism will be called cries of sedition, and that, not daring to attack you in the mass, they will proscribe you singly in the persons of all good citizens, until the ambitious have organized their tyranny.
I started reading this book and thought, very quickly, hey, I know this stuff already. This feels very familiar.
And a few pages into the book, I realized why when my first highlight appeared: I'd read this book before.
I don't recall when I'd read the book before, as it isn't in my notes for the last 4 years, but I had read it before. After debating for a bit on whether to reread it or put it down in favor of a new book, I figured I could give it a read, and read it quickly. Was not disappointed in myself.
The brain does a lot. We are oblivious to pretty much all of it. We can, however, be aware of some of that blindness, be aware of how we are going to react even when we expect and want to react differently, be aware of how small changes can improve our lives, and be gentle with ourselves when we are strange.
This book is seven years old. While we have more research, more theories, and more data about the brain, the fundamentals are the same, which makes this a great second read, too. I'd be interested in a follow up book with curation of the latest research.
Anyway, definitely worth reading, even recommended.
As far as anyone can tell, we’re the only system on the planet so complex that we’ve thrown ourselves headlong into the game of deciphering our own programming language. Imagine that your desktop computer began to control its own peripheral devices, removed its own cover, and pointed its webcam at its own circuitry. That’s us.
Alterations to the brain change the kinds of thoughts we can think. In a state of deep sleep, there are no thoughts. When the brain transitions into dream sleep, there are unbidden, bizarre thoughts.
The first thing we learn from studying our own circuitry is a simple lesson: most of what we do and think and feel is not under our conscious control.
The men were consistently more attracted to the women with dilated eyes.
This might explain a few things for me.
Instead, they simply felt more drawn toward some women than others, for reasons they couldn’t quite put a finger on.
In the largely inaccessible workings of the brain, something knew that a woman’s dilated eyes correlates with sexual excitement and readiness.
How is it possible to get angry at yourself: who, exactly, is mad at whom?
It is interesting to consider that the majority of human beings live their whole lives unaware that they are only seeing a limited cone of vision at any moment.
One of the most pervasive mistakes is to believe that our visual system gives a faithful representation of what is “out there” in the same way that a movie camera would.
As Mariotte delved more deeply into this issue, he realized that there is a hole in our vision—what has come to be known as the “blind spot” in each eye. To demonstrate this to yourself, close your left eye and keep your right eye fixed on the plus sign. Slowly move the page closer
My blind spot caused me all sorts of grief after I started having migraines at nine years old. I couldn't tell migraine spots from my blind spot and had to see a few doctors to figure out what the blindness was.
But more significantly, no one had noticed because the brain “fills in” the missing information from the blind spot.
When the dot disappears, you do not perceive a hole of whiteness or blackness in its place; instead your brain invents a patch of the background pattern.
Unless you're having a migraine with auras, then all bets are off.
He discovered that outfielders use an unconscious program that tells them not where to end up but simply how to keep running. They move in such a way that the parabolic path of the ball always progresses in a straight line from their point of view. If the ball’s path looks like its deviating from a straight line, they modify their running path.
Your brain is in the dark but your mind constructs light.
Consider the way you are reading the letters on this page. Your eyes flick effortlessly over the ornate shapes without any awareness that you are translating them: the meaning of the words simply comes to you. You perceive the language, not the low-level details of the graphemes.
The second is that the people experiencing the hallucinations are discomfited by the knowledge that their visual scene is at least partially the counterfeit coinage of their brains.
Though, if you grew up with migraines, you kinda learn early on not to trust absolutely what you see, and always take a second look.
In this way, the brain refines its model of the world by paying attention to its mistakes.
It will come as no surprise to you that the mere exposure effect is part of the magic behind product branding, celebrity building, and political campaigning: with repeated exposure to a product or face, you come to prefer it more. The mere exposure effect is why people in the public spotlight are not always as disturbed as one might expect by negative press.
Another real-world manifestation of implicit memory is known as the illusion-of-truth effect: you are more likely to believe that a statement is true if you have heard it before—whether or not it is actually true.
Nothing is inherently tasty or repulsive—it depends on your needs. Deliciousness is simply an index of usefulness.
Each organism has its own umwelt, which it presumably assumes to be the entire objective reality “out there.”
Easy things are hard: most of what we take for granted is neurally complex.
Researchers (as well as purveyors of pornography) have been able to discern a surprisingly narrow range for the female proportions that males find most attractive: the perfect ratio between the waist and hips usually resides between 0.67 and 0.8. The waist-to-hip ratios of Playboy centerfolds has remained at about 0.7 over time, even as their average weight has decreased. 22 Women with a ratio in this range are not only judged by males as more attractive, but are also presumed to be more healthy, humorous, and intelligent.
When men ranked the beauty of women’s faces, they found the women with dilated eyes more attractive, because dilated eyes signal sexual interest.
The Babylonian Talmud contains a passage in the same spirit: “In came wine, out went a secret.”
It later advises, “In three things is a man revealed: in his wine goblet, in his purse, and in his wrath.”
Many people prefer a view of human nature that includes a true side and a false side—in other words, humans have a single genuine aim and the rest is decoration, evasion, or cover-up. That’s intuitive, but it’s incomplete.
Your brain, as well, interprets your body’s actions and builds a story around them. Psychologists have found that if you hold a pencil between your teeth while you read something, you’ll think the material is funnier; that’s because the interpretation is influenced by the smile on your face. If you sit up straight instead of slouching, you’ll feel happier. The brain assumes that if the mouth and spine are doing that, it must be because of cheerfulness.
Minds seek patterns. In a term introduced by science writer Michael Shermer, they are driven toward “patternicity”—the attempt to find structure in meaningless data.
Evolution favors pattern seeking, because it allows the possibility of reducing mysteries to fast and efficient programs in the neural circuitry.
A popular model in the neuroscience literature suggests that dream plots are stitched together from essentially random activity: discharges of neural populations in the midbrain. These signals tickle into existence the simulation of a scene in a shopping mall, or a glimpse of recognition of a loved one, or a feeling of falling, or a sense of epiphany. All these moments are dynamically woven into a story, and this is why after a night of random activity you wake up, roll over to your partner, and feel as though you have a bizarre plot to relate.
Consider the concept of a secret. The main thing known about secrets is that keeping them is unhealthy for the brain.
After years of study, Pennebaker concluded that “the act of not discussing or confiding the event with another may be more damaging than having experienced the event per se.”
He and his team discovered that when subjects confessed or wrote about their deeply held secrets, their health improved, their number of doctor visits went down, and there were measurable decreases in their stress hormone levels.
The main reason not to reveal a secret is aversion to the long-term consequences. A friend might think ill of you, or a lover might be hurt, or a community might ostracize you. This concern about the outcome is evidenced by the fact that people are more likely to tell their secrets to total strangers; with someone you don’t know, the neural conflict can be dissipated with none of the costs.
If we hope to invent robots that think, our challenge is not simply to devise a subagent to cleverly solve each problem but instead to ceaselessly reinvent subagents, each with overlapping solutions, and then to pit them against one another. Overlapping factions offer protection against degradation (think of cognitive reserve) as well as clever problem solving by unexpected approaches.
Some people are constitutionally incapable of keeping a secret, and this balance may tell us something about the battles going on inside them and which way they tip. Good spies and secret agents are those people whose battle always tips toward long-term decision making rather than the thrill of telling.
When your biology changes, so can your decision making, your appetites, and your desires. The drives you take for granted (“ I’m a hetero/ homosexual,” “I’m attracted to children/ adults,” “I’m aggressive/ not aggressive,” and so on) depend on the intricate details of your neural machinery.
Many of us like to believe that all adults possess the same capacity to make sound choices.
It’s a nice idea, but it’s wrong.
As far as we can tell, all activity in the brain is driven by other activity in the brain, in a vastly complex, interconnected network. For better or worse, this seems to leave no room for anything other than neural activity—that is, no room for a ghost in the machine. To consider this from the other direction, if free will is to have any effect on the actions of the body, it needs to influence the ongoing brain activity. And to do that, it needs to be physically connected to at least some of the neurons. But we don’t find any spot in the brain that is not itself driven by other parts of the network. Instead, every part of the brain is densely interconnected with—and driven by—other brain parts. And that suggests that no part is independent and therefore “free.” So in our current understanding of science, we can’t find the physical gap in which to slip free will—the uncaused causer—because there seems to be no part of the machinery that does not follow in a causal relationship from the other parts.
However, at this point, no one can see a clear way around the problem of a nonphysical entity (free will) interacting with a physical entity (the stuff of the brain).
To help a citizen reintegrate into society, the ethical goal is to change him as little as possible to allow his behavior to come into line with society’s needs.
Poor impulse control is a hallmark characteristic of the majority of criminals in the prison system.
If it seems difficult to empathize with people who have poor impulse control, just think of all the things you succumb to that you don’t want to. Snacks? Alcohol? Chocolate cake? Television? One doesn’t have to look far to find poor impulse control pervading our own landscape of decision making. It’s not that we don’t know what’s best for us, it’s simply that the frontal lobe circuits representing the long-term considerations can’t win the elections when the temptation is present. It’s like trying to elect a party of moderates in the middle of war and economic meltdown.
Recall the patients with frontotemporal dementia who shoplift, expose themselves, urinate in public, and burst out into song at inappropriate times. Those zombie systems have been lurking under the surface the whole time, but they’ve been masked by a normally functioning frontal lobe.
The same goes for the mentally retarded or schizophrenic; punitive action may slake bloodlust for some, but there is no point in it for society more broadly.
Biological explanation will not exculpate criminals. Brain science will improve the legal system, not impede its function. 36 For the smooth operation of society, we will still remove from the streets those criminals who prove themselves to be over-aggressive, under-empathetic, and poor at controlling their impulses. They will still be taken into the care of the government. But the important change will be in the way we punish the vast range of criminal acts—in terms of rational sentencing and new ideas for rehabilitation. The emphasis will shift from punishment to recognizing problems (both neural and social) and meaningfully addressing them.
Effective law requires effective behavioral models: understanding not just how we would like people to behave, but how they actually behave.
Visual illusions reveal a deeper concept: that our thoughts are generated by machinery to which we have no direct access.
The dethronement led to a richer, deeper understanding, and what we lost in egocentrism was counterbalanced in surprise and wonder.
(It is also the case that a virtuous actor can have minimal temptations and therefore no requirement for good brakes, but one could suggest that the more virtuous person is he who has fought a stronger battle to resist temptation rather than he who was never enticed.)
All of this leads to a key question: do we possess a soul that is separate from our physical biology—or are we simply an enormously complex biological network that mechanically produces our hopes, aspirations, dreams, desires, humor, and passions? 7 The majority of people on the planet vote for the extrabiological soul, while the majority of neuroscientists vote for the latter: an essence that is a natural property that emerges from a vast physical system, and nothing more besides.
As soon as your drink is spiked, your sandwich is sneezed upon, or your genome picks up a mutation, your ship moves in a different direction. Try as you might to make it otherwise, the changes in your machinery lead to changes in you. Given these facts on the ground, it is far from clear that we hold the option of “choosing” who we would like to be.
Who you turn out to be depends on such a vast network of factors that it will presumably remain impossible to make a one-to-one mapping between molecules and behavior (more on that in the moment).
If there’s something like a soul, it is at minimum tangled irreversibly with the microscopic details.
In other words, a lower level of social acceptance into the majority correlates with a higher chance of a schizophrenic break. In ways not currently understood, it appears that repeated social rejection perturbs the normal functioning of the dopamine systems.
In my view, the argument from parsimony is really no argument at all—it typically functions only to shut down more interesting discussion. If history is any guide, it’s never a good idea to assume that a scientific problem is cornered.
Keep in mind that every single generation before us has worked under the assumption that they possessed all the major tools for understanding the universe, and they were all wrong, without exception.
“Vision after early blindness.”
eagleman.com/ incognito for interactive demonstrations of how little we perceive of the world. For excellent reviews on change blindness, see Rensink, O’Regan, and Clark, “To see or not to see”; Simons, “Current approaches to change
Okay, I really have no idea why I picked up this book. It was on some list, it sounded interesting, so I picked it up.
This is not a guide to political revolution.
This is a Bernie Sanders Manifesto, along with resources to work within the system.
The book is a long iteration of his platform, is beliefs, what he stands for. The book says, "Here is a problem. Here is how I think this problem could be solved." Not, "Here's how to solve this problem, and the data to prove it will work." Not, "Here's the legislation I have introduced." Not, "Here is the cultural problem that contributes to this social problem and do these actions to fix it."
Revolution is painful, the callouts in this book to "get involved" are not. Yes, they are time consuming, but revolution means an overhaul of the system, not an evolution of the system.
One can appreciate what Sanders is trying to do to make the country better. A complete upheaval might be the way to go. This is not the guidebook for that revolution. Better to look at The Moon is a Harsh Mistress for a guide, even if I disagree with that book's actual politics.
The book is worth a read to understand what Sanders stands for. For that part, it was worth the read. I don't disagree with much of his platform, I just don't see the pilot programs, the supporting data, or the means to implement.
In the wealthiest country in the history of the world, a basic principle of American economic life should be that if you work forty hours or more a week, you do not live in poverty.
Increasing the minimum wage is good for businesses as well as workers because it reduces employee turnover. When workers earn a living wage, they are more likely to stay with their company.
And spend money.
Public assistance given to low-wage workers is essentially subsidizing the profits of the companies paying the low wages.
Which is bullshit.
Walmart makes profits by paying wages so low that the workers not only qualify for but also need public assistance just to get by.
I do not believe that the government should burden taxpayers with the financial support of profitable corporations owned by some of the wealthiest people in this country. That’s absurd.
If we are serious about reversing the decline of the middle class, we need a major federal jobs program that puts millions of Americans to work at decent-paying jobs. We need workers to rebuild our crumbling infrastructure—our roads, bridges, water systems, wastewater plants, airports, railways, levees, and dams.
Our tax code essentially legalizes tax dodging for large corporations.
America is not broke. The very wealthy and huge, profitable corporations just aren’t paying the taxes that, in the words of Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. more than a century ago, “are what we pay for a civilized society.”
The Roundtable also wants to raise the eligibility age for Social Security and Medicare to seventy, and to cut cost-of-living adjustments for seniors and disabled veterans. These CEOs callously promote the idea that increasing their corporate proﬁts is more important than their fellow Americans receiving the beneﬁts they have earned by working or by serving in the military.
We have been losing millions of jobs as a direct result of our disastrous trade policies. This is a major contributor to the decline of the middle class, rising poverty, and the growing gap between the very rich and everyone else. We must do everything possible to stop companies from outsourcing American jobs.
Americans see that there are different rules for the rich and powerful than for everyone else. They see kids arrested and sometimes even jailed for possessing marijuana or for other minor crimes. But when it comes to Wall Street executives, whose illegal behavior hurts millions of Americans, they see that there are no arrests, no police records, and no jail time.
There is something fundamentally wrong with our criminal justice system when not one major Wall Street executive has been prosecuted for causing the near collapse of our entire economy in 2008.
“Equal Justice Under Law” cannot just be words engraved over the doors of the Supreme Court.
￼ To create an economy that works for all americans and not just a handful of billionaires, we have to address the ever-increasing size of the megabanks.
￼ We must end, once and for all, the scheme that is nothing more than a free insurance policy for wall street: “too big to fail.”
￼ We need a banking system that is part of a productive economy—making loans at affordable rates to small and medium-sized businesses—so we can create a growing economy with decent-paying jobs.
￼ We need a banking system that encourages homeownership by offering affordable mortgage products that are designed to work for both the lender and the borrower.
￼ We need a banking system that is transparent and accountable and that adheres to the highest ethical standards as well as to the spirit and the letter of the law.
One might have thought that as part of the bailout, these huge banks would have been reduced in size to make certain that we never experience a recurrence of what happened in 2008. In fact, the very opposite occurred. Today, three of the four largest financial institutions—JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, and Wells Fargo—are about 80 percent bigger than they were before we bailed them out.
No financial institution should have holdings so extensive that its failure would send the world economy into crisis.
If a bank is too big to fail, it is too big to exist.
Today, commercial banks still have over $ 177.46 trillion of derivatives contracts on their books. That is insane.
All derivatives trading should be done in an open, transparent exchange similar to the stock market, without exceptions. As
Needless to say, this game of high-speed speculation adds absolutely nothing to a productive economy.
We have to discourage reckless gambling on Wall Street and encourage productive investments in a job-creating economy.
we need to turn for-profit credit-rating agencies into transparent nonprofit institutions that are independent from Wall Street and accountable to a board of directors that represents the public interest.
The decisions that the Federal Reserve made during the 2008 crisis sent a very clear message: while the rich and powerful are “too big to fail” and are worthy of an endless supply of cheap credit, ordinary Americans must fend for themselves. This was a clear case of socialism for the rich and rugged individualism for everyone else.
We must require the Government Accountability Office to conduct a full and independent audit of the Fed every year.
Health care should be a right, not a perk of being employed.
it has never made sense to me that our health care system is primarily designed to make huge profits for multibillion-dollar insurance companies, drug companies, hospitals, and medical equipment suppliers.
The details of the national health systems vary in each of these countries, but all of them guarantee health care for all their citizens, and none of them allow private health insurance companies to profit off human illness.
Think about the extraordinary impact it would have on our economy if all Americans had the freedom to follow their dreams and not worry about whether the family had health insurance.
The pharmaceutical industry, because of its great power, rarely loses legislative fights. It has effectively purchased the Congress, and there are Republican and Democratic leaders who support its every effort.
There was a time, forty or fifty years ago, when many people could graduate from high school and move right into a decent-paying job with good benefits. Strong unions offered apprenticeships, and a large manufacturing sector provided opportunities for those without an advanced degree.
Exactly how much do students benefit by having, in some cases, dozens of vice presidents of this or that, each earning hundreds of thousands of dollars or more?
Another reason college educations are becoming so expensive is that colleges are increasingly being run as businesses competing for market share.
In fact, it is much easier for a big bank or corporation to declare insolvency and be forgiven for outstanding debts than it is for an individual going through personal bankruptcy to be discharged from a student loan.
America rightfully outlawed debtors’ prisons in the mid-nineteenth century, but some cities and states are issuing contempt-of-court warrants that get around those rules.
The Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions, of which I have long been a member, found that these for-profit schools spend, on average, about 30 percent more per student on marketing and recruiting than on actual instruction.
Not everybody wants to go to college, and not everybody needs to go to college. This country needs carpenters, plumbers, welders, bricklayers, ironworkers, mechanics, and many other professions that pay workers, especially those in unions, good wages for doing very important, skilled work.
In today’s world, that’s not quite the way it works. In opposition to science and what the people want are enormously powerful forces who want to maintain the status quo. They are more interested in short-term profits for fossil fuel companies than in the future of the planet.
Forty percent of energy used in this country goes to heat, cool, and light buildings and run electricity through them.
The great irony of climate change is that American taxpayers are subsidizing the most profitable industry in history, whose products are quite literally killing us, to the tune of more than $ 20.5 billion every single year.
For every dollar of taxpayer funds invested in renewable energy over the past fifteen years, fossil fuels have received eighty dollars!
We should also end all new federal leases for oil, gas, or coal extraction on public lands and waters. Public lands and waters are for the public to enjoy for generations to come—not for the oil companies to exploit for profit in the short term.
The hypocrisy of those who argue that solar and wind tax credits are too expensive or are no longer needed because the industries should be able to stand on their own is stunning. Taxpayers have been subsidizing fossil fuel companies through tax credits for more than one hundred years, and Congress long ago made those incentives permanent features of the federal tax code.
Police officers must be held accountable. In a society based on law, nobody can be above the law, especially those who are charged with enforcing it.
African Americans and Latinos together comprised 57 percent of all prisoners in 2015, even though neither of these two groups makes up even one-quarter of the U.S. population.
The time is long overdue for this country to understand that we cannot jail our way out of health problems like mental illness and drug addiction.
We have around 4 percent of the world’s population, yet we have more than 20 percent of all prisoners.
And we spend $ 80 billion a year in federal, state, and local taxpayer dollars to lock them up.
Private corporations should not be making profits off of the incarceration of human beings.
No one, in my view, should be allowed to profit from putting more people behind bars.
Every effort should be made to have police forces reflect the diversity of the communities they work in. And that must include in positions of leadership and training departments.
We must demilitarize our police forces so they don’t look and act like invading armies. Police departments must be part of the community they serve and be trusted by the community.
We should federally fund and require body cameras for law enforcement officers to make it easier to hold everyone accountable, while also establishing standards to protect the privacy of innocent people.
When policing becomes a source of revenue, officers are often pressured to meet quotas that can lead to unnecessary or unlawful traffic stops and citations. And civil asset forfeiture laws allow police to take property from people even before they are charged with a crime.
Undocumented immigrants are woven into the fabric of our society and our economy. They work in some of the hardest and lowest-paid jobs.
Moreover, the institute estimates that they pay an average of 8 percent of their incomes in state and local taxes—which, by the way, is 48 percent more than the 5.4 percent paid by the top 1 percent of taxpayers.
All too often, farmworkers are paid horrendously low wages, exposed to pesticides, and deprived of the most basic decent living conditions.
When employers report that they need to bring in foreign labor because there is no one in this country able to do their jobs, what is really going on is that there is no one here willing to do the job for the low wages being offered.
To my mind, the U.S. government should not be in the painful and inhumane business of locking up families who have fled violence.
Immigration reform must allow individuals to apply for relief, even if convicted of nonviolent offenses.
Binding workers to a specific employer or not allowing their family members to work creates a situation rife with abuse and exacerbates an already unequal relationship between the employer and the employee.
Immigration reform means making sure our borders are modern and secure, especially in this era when terrorism can come from anywhere.
The word “government” refers to the way people organize authority to perform essential functions. It usually describes who does what, who has what power, and who is responsible for what. When there is no organized authority, there is no government, and that is called anarchy.
The gist of this book is "Social media is making us assholes. Don't be an asshole, stop playing the social media game."
There is merit to this. Social media comes at us uncurated and at ungodly speeds. We are easily manipulated (see 2016 elections and Twitter Outrage du Jour). Having a larger view of life, of issues, of the crisis, is very, very difficult in the moment, and lashing out to destroy is far, far easier than reaching out to build.
Lanier gives many compelling arguments: SM companies mine data about your without your knowledge and sell it, SM is addictive, SM turns us all into assholes.
If I hadn't already cut back on social media for other reasons, I suspect I'd be going through withdrawal trying to be less active on social media. As it is, I have my journals, and this site, and, yeah, I'm pretty okay with that.
This book is worth reading for everyone. Unfortunately, the people who are most likely to listen and agree with Lanier are the people you WANT on social media, because they care, because they are trying NOT to be assholes, because they want social media to be a good place to be. Alas, the sucky people will be the ones to stay. Fortunately, we don't have to stay with them.
The core process that allows social media to make money and that also does the damage to society is behavior modification. Behavior modification entails methodical techniques that change behavioral patterns in animals and people. It can be used to treat addictions, but it can also be used to create them.
The addict gradually loses touch with the real world and real people. When many people are addicted to manipulative schemes, the world gets dark and crazy.
We know that relevant companies take in an astounding amount of money and that they don’t always know who their customers are. Therefore, there are likely to be actors manipulating us—manipulating you—who have not been revealed.
To free yourself, to be more authentic, to be less addicted, to be less manipulated, to be less paranoid … for all these marvelous reasons, delete your accounts.
The problem occurs when all the phenomena I’ve just described are driven by a business model in which the incentive is to find customers ready to pay to modify someone else’s behavior. Remember, with old-fashioned advertising, you could measure whether a product did better after an ad was run, but now companies are measuring whether individuals changed their behaviors, and the feeds for each person are constantly tweaked to get individual behavior to change. Your specific behavior change has been turned into a product.
As explained in the first argument, the scheme I am describing amplifies negative emotions more than positive ones, so it’s more efficient at harming society than at improving it: creepier customers get more bang for their buck.
If we could just get rid of the deleterious business model, then the underlying technology might not be so bad.
How about “Behaviors of Users Modified, and Made into an Empire for Rent”? BUMMER.
BUMMER is a machine, a statistical machine that lives in the computing clouds. To review, phenomena that are statistical and fuzzy are nevertheless real. Even at their best, BUMMER algorithms can only calculate the chances that a person will act in a particular way. But what might be only a chance for each person approaches being a certainty on the average for large numbers of people.
One of the secrets of present-day Silicon Valley is that some people seem to be better than others at getting machine learning schemes to work, and no one understands why.
To avoid being left out, journalists had to create stories that emphasized clickbait and were detachable from context.
I don’t want to be an asshole. Or a fake-nice person. I want to be authentically nice, and certain online designs seem to fight against that with magical force.
In the early days, before everyone was doing it, the air was clearer and it was easier to notice how bizarre it is when your inner troll starts talking. It’s like an ugly alien living inside you that you long ago forgot about. Don’t let your inner troll take control! If it happens when you’re in a particular situation, avoid that situation! It doesn’t matter if it’s an online platform, a relationship, or a job. Your character is like your health, more valuable than anything you can buy. Don’t throw it away.
The pattern is found whenever people form into groups. Street gangs perceive only pack concepts such as territory and revenge, even as they destroy their lives, families, and neighborhoods. The Pack setting of the switch makes you pay so much attention to your peers and enemies in the world of packs that you can become blind to what’s happening right in front of your face. When the Solitary/ Pack switch is set to Pack, we become obsessed with and controlled by a pecking order. We pounce on those below us, lest we be demoted, and we do our best to flatter and snipe at those above us at the same time.
collective processes make the best sense when participants are acting as individuals.
Full disclosure: I have a professional connection to LinkedIn that might impair my objectivity (even though I don’t have an account on the site). You should not accept what I say without thinking about it critically, and my disclosure of a conflict of interest is a great starting point to do that. Think for yourself!
most people will choose to be something other than an asshole, given the choice. A
If, when you participate in online platforms, you notice a nasty thing inside yourself, an insecurity, a sense of low self-esteem, a yearning to lash out, to swat someone down, then leave that platform. Simple.
Your character is the most precious thing about you. Don’t let it degrade.
Truth, meaning a claim that can be tested or events that are honestly documented—the stuff that all people can hold in common—
Leaving aside explicitly fake people like Alexa, Cortana, and Siri, you might think that you’ve never interacted with a fake person online, but you have, and with loads of them. You decided to buy something because it had a lot of good reviews, but many of those reviews were from artificial people. You found a doctor by using a search engine, but the reason that doctor showed up high in the search results was that a load of fake people linked to her office. You looked at a video or read a story because so many other people had, but most of them were fake. You became aware of tweets because they were retweeted first by armies of bots.
Whatever you can do, bots can do a million times while you blink. Fake people are a cultural denial-of-service attack.
You might think I’m being elitist when I am more appalled that “educated” parents, who are more likely to be affluent, foment dangerous nonsense, but isn’t the whole point of education supposed to be that it diminishes people’s susceptibility to dangerous nonsense?
People are clustered into paranoia peer groups because then they can be more easily and predictably swayed.
The ability of humans to enjoy our modern luxuries, such as a diminution of deadly epidemics, while even temporarily rejecting the benefits of hard-won truths is a testament to how far we’ve come as a technological species.
Public health measures and modern medicine have doubled our life spans. Doubled! The unintended result is that now some of us can believe nonsense and not pay for that belief with our lives. At least for a while.
What you say isn’t meaningful without context.
The advertisers are the true customers, so they have a voice.
The most common extreme examples, however, might arise when women and girls who attempt to express themselves online find that their words and images are sexualized or incorporated into a violent or manipulative framework.
These extreme examples occur only because the rules of the game in BUMMER are that you don’t know the context in which you are expressing anything and you have no reliable way of knowing how it will be presented to someone else.
We have given up our connection to context.
Speaking through social media isn’t really speaking at all. Context is applied to what you say after you say it, for someone else’s purposes and profit.
To become a number is to be explicitly subservient to a system. A number is a public verification of reduced freedom, status, and personhood.
A news source will keep tweaking what it does until further tweaks no longer yield better results. After that, repetition. That’s why so much clickbait is so similar. There’s only this one weird trick to optimize clickbait. 6
Feedback is a good thing, but overemphasizing immediate feedback within an artificially limited online environment leads to ridiculous outcomes.
What if deeply reaching a small number of people matters more than reaching everybody with nothing?
But when everyone is on their phone, you have less of a feeling for what’s going on with them. Their experiences are curated by faraway algorithms. You and they can’t build unmolested commonality unless the phones are put away.
The ability to theorize about what someone else experiences as part of understanding that person is called having a theory of mind. To have a theory of mind is to build a story in your head about what’s going on in someone else’s head. Theory of mind is at the core of any sense of respect or empathy, and it’s a prerequisite to any hope of intelligent cooperation, civility, or helpful politics. It’s why stories exist.
When you can only see how someone else behaves, but not the experiences that influenced their behavior, it becomes harder to have a theory of mind about that person. If you see someone hit someone else, for instance, but you did not see that they did it in defense of a child, you might misinterpret what you see.
What’s really going on is that we see less than ever before of what others are seeing, so we have less opportunity to understand each other.
Yes, of course it’s great that people can be connected, 12 but why must they accept manipulation by a third party as the price of that connection? What if the manipulation, not the connection, is the real problem? 13
Since the core strategy of the BUMMER business model is to let the system adapt automatically to engage you as much as possible, and since negative emotions can be utilized more readily, of course such a system is going to tend to find a way to make you feel bad. It will dole out sparse charms14 in between the doldrums as well, since the autopilot that tugs at your emotions will discover that the contrast between treats and punishment is more effective than either treats or punishment alone. Addiction is associated with anhedonia, the lessened ability to take pleasure from life apart from whatever one is addicted to, and social media addicts appear to be prone to long-term anhedonia. 15
An insecurity, a feeling of not making the grade, a fear of rejection, out of nowhere.
This feeling was coincident with discovering my inner troll, which I described in the argument about assholes, but it could also be felt distinctly. I took an experimental approach to myself. If I felt bad after using an internet design, what were its qualities? How was it different from designs that left me happy?
More and more people rely on the gig economy, which makes it hard to plan one’s life. Gig economy workers rarely achieve financial security, even after years of work. To put it another way, the level of risk in their financial lives seems to never decline, no matter how much they’ve achieved. In the United States, where the social safety net is meager, this means that even skilled, hardworking people may be made homeless by medical bills, even after years of dedicated service to their profession.
I hate raining on dreams, but if you think you are about to make a living as an influencer or similar, the statistics are voraciously against you, no matter how deserving you are and no matter how many get-rich-quick stories you’ve been fed.
The problem is that BUMMER economics allow for almost no remunerative roles for near-stars. In a genuine, deep economy, there are many roles. You might not become a pro football player, but you might get into management, sports media, or a world of other related professions. But there are vanishingly few economic roles adjacent to a star influencer. Have a backup plan.
Before the BUMMER era, the general thinking was that once a country went democratic, it not only stayed that way but would become ever more democratic, because its people would demand that. Unfortunately, that stopped being true, and only recently. 2 Something is drawing young people away from democracy.
What social media did at that time, and what it always does, is create illusions: that you can improve society by wishes alone; that the sanest people will be favored in cutting contests; and that somehow material well-being will just take care of itself. What actually happens, always, is that the illusions fall apart when it is too late, and the world is inherited by the crudest, most selfish, and least informed people. Anyone who isn’t an asshole gets hurt the most.
A year after the election, the truth started to trickle out. It turns out that some prominent “black” activist accounts were actually fake fronts for Russian information warfare. Component F. The Russian purpose was apparently to irritate black activists enough to lower enthusiasm for voting for Hillary. To suppress the vote, statistically.
Most of what happened was probably the “redlined” promotion of cynicism, a dismissive attitude, and a sense of hopelessness (“ redlining” refers to a sneaky way that U.S. banks historically biased creditworthiness algorithms to disfavor black neighborhoods). I
(As it happens, the individuals who work at BUMMER companies tend to be liberal and are probably mostly sympathetic to black activism, but that’s utterly irrelevant to their effect upon the world so long as they adhere to the mass manipulation business model.)
BUMMER is a shit machine. It transforms sincere organizing into cynical disruption. It’s inherently a cruel con game.
One activist reportedly said, “They are using our pain for their gain. I’m profoundly disgusted.” That is an informed, reasonable statement, and a brave one, for it is not easy to accept that one has been tricked.
Each of the arguments for deleting your accounts is at first glance about a practical issue, such as trust, but on closer inspection, the arguments confront the deepest and most tender concerns about what it means to be a person.
So BUMMER intrinsically enacts a structural, rather than an ontological, change in the nature of free will. It will continue to exist, if under a barrage of insults. The important change is that you now have less free will, and a few people whom you don’t know have more of it. Some of your free will has been transferred to them. Free will has become like money in a gilded age.
Believing something only because you learned it through a system is a way of giving your cognitive power over to that system.
The Enlightenment emphasized ways of learning that weren’t subservient to human power hierarchies. Instead, Enlightenment thinking celebrates evidence-based scientific method and reasoning.
Here are some tough truths: We currently don’t have a scientific description of a thought or a conversation. We don’t know how ideas are represented in a brain. We don’t know what an idea is, from a scientific point of view. That doesn’t mean we never will understand these things scientifically, just that we don’t yet understand them.
The foundation of the search for truth must be the ability to notice one’s own ignorance. Acknowledging ignorance is a beautiful feature that science and spirituality hold in common. BUMMER rejects it.
The purpose of life, according to BUMMER, is to optimize.
Facebook has pulled ahead: A recent revision in its statement of purpose includes directives like assuring that “every single person has a sense of purpose and community.” 5 A single company is going to see to it that every single person has a purpose, because it presumes that was lacking before. If that is not a new religion, I don’t know what is.
The best way you can help is not to attack those who would manipulate you from afar, but simply to free yourself.
You can even still watch YouTube videos, for now at least, without a Google account. Watching without an account and with some privacy plugins will give you access to a much less manipulative experience.
You can’t use the internet well until you’ve confronted it on your own terms, at least for a while. This is for your integrity, not just for saving the world.
However, unless and until you know yourself, even you won’t have standing to argue about what’s right for you.
You need to make sure your own brain, and your own life, isn’t in a rut. Maybe you can go explore wilderness or learn a new skill. Take risks. But whatever form your self-exploration takes, do at least one thing: detach from the behavior-modification empires for a while—six months, say? Note that I didn’t name this book Arguments for Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now and Keeping Them Deleted Forever. After you experiment, you’ll know yourself better. Then decide.
Okay, anyone who knows me knows I am a big fan of Classic Stoicism, which is a far cry from Modern Stoicism which is essentially, "Grin, shut the f--- up, bear it," as best represented by the character Spock. Classic Stoicism is more about accepting reality as it is, being neither really happy nor really sad, knowing that pretty much everything but ourselves is outside of our control, recognizing fortune is fickle, and that we are all going to f'ing die so accept it already. There are elements of acceptance in Stoicism, but the acceptance is of things outside of our control, not for things inside of our control nor for things we can affect. As someone with a strong sense of fair play and a large amount of frustration with the lack of fairness in the world, I find Stoicism to be a way to endure the crappiness of being human.
Which is to say, I've been looking for a book that I can hand to people who are curious about Classic Stoicism, without suggesting they read a dozen books to gather the different parts into one cohesive unit, much as I would hand over a copy of Mindfulness in Plain English if asked for a book about mindfulness.
I think this book might be that book, that I recommend for Stoicism. Maybe. It's hard to beat Meditations and many of Seneca's works. I'll reread it at the end of the year and see if it holds up.
Yet, I do strongly recommend this book.
Although public criticism of religion (or of any idea) is the staple of a healthy democratic society, people don’t respond very well to being belittled and insulted.
Seneca connected this test to the rest of our existence on earth: “A man cannot live well if he knows not how to die well.”
Of course, Stoicism is a philosophy, not a type of therapy. The difference is crucial: a therapy is intended to be a short-term approach to helping people overcome specific problems of a psychological nature; it doesn’t necessarily provide a general picture, or philosophy, of life. A philosophy of life is something we all need, however, and something we all develop, consciously or not.
One of the first things he learned from his new teacher was to practice not being ashamed of things of which there is nothing to be ashamed.
Like Socrates before them—and unlike a number of other philosophers then and since—they were not interested in theory for theory’s sake. If philosophy was not useful to human life, then it wasn’t useful at all.
There are three departments in which a man who is to be good and noble must be trained. The first concerns the will to get and will to avoid; he must be trained not to fail to get what he wills to get nor fall into what he wills to avoid. The second is concerned with impulse to act and not to act, and, in a word, the sphere of what is fitting: that we should act in order, with due consideration, and with proper care. The object of the third is that we may not be deceived, and may not judge at random, and generally it is concerned with assent.
Moreover, biologists have systematically been finding that a long list of allegedly unique human traits are actually not unique to us at all. We are not the only animals to live in cooperatively social groups, nor the only ones to use tools. Nor are we the only species with complex communication abilities, nor even the only ones displaying what we would call moral behavior (which can be seen among bonobos and other primates).
In the end, it seems that neither biological variation nor cultural diversity can be reasonably deployed to reject what the ancients thought was obvious: we are a very different species from anything else that planet Earth has produced over billions of years of evolution, both for better (our stunning cultural and technological achievements) and for worse (the environmental destruction and the pain and suffering we have imposed on other species as well as on our own).
When we consult the belly, or our passions, when our actions are random or dirty or inconsiderate, are we not falling away to the state of sheep? What do we destroy? The faculty of reason.
The Stoics perfected this idea of ethical development and called it oikeiôsis, which is often translated as “familiarization with” or “appropriation of” other people’s concerns as if they were our own.
First, it is a forceful reminder that they were interested in practice, not just theory: their aphorisms were meant to benefit the prokoptôn, that is, to help the student of Stoicism make progress. Unlike modern bumper stickers, T-shirt slogans, and so forth, which primarily signal membership in a particular group and tend to be used as a metaphorical club with which to beat those who are not like-minded, Stoic stock phrases were employed by practitioners as personal reminders, as aids for daily meditation, or as a guide to behavior when they were in doubt.
Being vegetarian, in and of itself, is no proof of superior moral quality, but it is a good thing to do if other considerations do not outweigh that choice.
We live in far too intricate social environments to be able to always do the right thing, or even to do the right thing often enough to know with sufficient confidence what the right thing is to begin with. Most of the different demands made on us have an ethical dimension (animal suffering, environmental damage, the treatment of waiters), but some are also more practical (I need to eat, but where is my food coming from? I need to bank, but which bank am I supporting?).
Stoicism is about developing the tools to deal as effectively as humanly possible with the ensuing conflicts, does not demand perfection, and does not provide specific answers: those are for fools (Epictetus’s word) who think the world is black and white, good versus evil, where it is always possible to clearly tell the good guys from the bad guys. That is not the world we live in, and to pretend otherwise is more than a bit dangerous and not at all wise.
In other words, by all means go ahead and avoid pain and experience joy in your life—but not when doing so imperils your integrity. Better to endure pain in an honorable manner than to seek joy in a shameful one.
I would be intellectually dishonest, however, if I did not put forth my own opinion, just as I did during my friendly chat with Epictetus. This is what good philosophers—and reasonable people in general—are supposed to do: listen to each other’s arguments, learn and reflect, and go out for a beer to talk it over some more.
Hume’s point is subtle but crucial: he is basically saying that arguments from analogies, of which the one from design is an example, are notoriously problematic because analogies are always imperfect, and in some cases downright misleading.
The only difference between human beings and other animals is that we are capable of the highest attribute of God/ Universe: reason. That is why the proper way to live our lives is by using reason to tackle our problems.
Seneca aptly put it, “That which is true is mine,” meaning that a reasonable person makes truth her own, regardless of whether it comes from friends or foes.
One of the things that attracted me to it from the get-go is precisely what others may consider one of its weaknesses: given the Stoic ambiguity over how to interpret the Logos, Stoics can build a very large tent indeed, welcoming everyone from atheists to agnostics, from pantheists and panentheists to theists, as long as none of these guests impose their own metaphysical views on the others.
‘And I am bound to say what seems right to me.’ ‘But, if you say it, I shall kill you.’ ‘When did I tell you that I was immortal? You will do your part, and I mine. It is yours to kill, mine to die without quailing: yours to banish, mine to go into exile without groaning.’
Conservatives tend to talk a lot about both character and virtue, even when they do not actually practice the latter, while liberals reflexively treat their valorization as thinly disguised tools of oppression.
The reason why wisdom is the “chief good,” according to Socrates, is rather simple: it is the only human ability that is good under every and all circumstances.
To be sure, being wealthy is better than being poor, being healthy is better than being sick, and being educated is better than being ignorant (standard pairs of preferred and dispreferred indifferents).
The Stoics adopted Socrates’s classification of four aspects of virtue, which they thought of as four tightly interlinked character traits: (practical) wisdom, courage, temperance, and justice. Practical wisdom allows us to make decisions that improve our eudaimonia, the (ethically) good life. Courage can be physical, but more broadly refers to the moral aspect—for instance, the ability to act well under challenging circumstances, as Priscus and Malala did. Temperance makes it possible for us to control our desires and actions so that we don’t yield to excesses. Justice, for Socrates and the Stoics, refers not to an abstract theory of how society should be run, but rather to the practice of treating other human beings with dignity and fairness.
Basically, Aquinas kept the four Stoic virtues and added three peculiarly Christian ones, originally proposed by Paul of Tarsus: faith, hope, and charity.
a set of six “core” virtues: Courage: Emotional strengths that involve the exercise of will to accomplish goals in the face of opposition, external or internal; examples include bravery, perseverance, and authenticity (honesty). Justice: Civic strengths that underlie healthy community life; examples include fairness, leadership, and citizenship or teamwork. Humanity: Interpersonal strengths that involve “tending and befriending” others; examples include love and kindness. Temperance: Strengths that protect against excess; examples include forgiveness, humility, prudence, and self-control. Wisdom: Cognitive strengths that entail the acquisition and use of knowledge; examples include creativity, curiosity, judgment, and perspective (providing counsel to others). Transcendence: Strengths that forge connections to the larger universe and thereby provide meaning; examples include gratitude, hope, and spirituality.
at the center of the Cynic-Stoic concept of cosmopolitanism: the idea that we ought to extend the sympathy we have for kin to our friends, acquaintances, fellow countrymen, and beyond to humanity at large (and even, some Stoics hinted, to the suffering of sentient animals).
conservatives insisting that we should go back to emphasizing character in schools, families, and the country at large, and liberals rejecting such talk as a not-so-subtle attempt to maintain white male privilege, patriarchy, and the like.
In other words, your character is your best calling card, and if you interact with good judges of character, that’s all you’ll need.
Indeed, what will be needed are exactly the fundamental virtues: the courage to do the right thing under difficult circumstances, the temperance to rein in excesses, a sense of justice in considering how people are going to be affected by his decisions, and of course the practical wisdom that will allow him to negotiate treacherous and always-changing waters.
Epictetus used an apt seafaring metaphor to make a related point: For the helmsman to wreck his vessel, he does not need the same resources, as he needs to save it: if he turn it but a little too far to the wind, he is lost; yes, and if he do it not deliberately but from mere want of attention, he is lost all the same. It is very much the same in life: if you doze but a little, all that you have amassed up till now leaves you. Keep awake then and watch your impressions: it is no trifle you have in keeping, but self-respect, honor, constancy, a quiet mind, untouched by distress, or fear, or agitation—in a word, freedom. What are you going to sell all this for? Look and see what your purchase is worth.
And above all, we need to be cognizant of what our integrity is worth: if we decide to sell it, it shouldn’t be for cheap.
One of the intriguing characteristics of the piece is that it can be (and has been) read either as a tale of misogyny and xenophobia (Medea is a woman and a barbarian) or as a proto-feminist story of a woman’s struggle in a patriarchal society.
‘Suppose I am in error, my father, and ignorant of what is fitting and proper for me. If, then, this cannot be taught or learnt, why do you reproach me? If it can be taught, teach me, and, if you cannot, let me learn from those who say that they know.
The point is that nobody errs on purpose. Whatever we do, we think it is the right thing to do, according to whatever criterion we have developed or adopted to establish right action.
Part of the controversy hinged on the idea Arendt developed that “evil” is often the result of lack of thought, meaning that people usually don’t want to do evil, and certainly don’t think of themselves as evildoers. But they also tend to follow the general opinion without critical analysis, and indeed—as in Eichmann’s case—they are often convinced that they are doing a good job.
There’s simply the reluctance ever to imagine what the other person is experiencing, correct?
If what we are doing is simply labeling a particularly nasty type of bad behavior, then there is little problem. But not infrequently, when we talk of evil, we slide into a fallacy known as “reification” (literally, making a thing), which means speaking of a concept as if it has some kind of mind-independent existence, as if it is in some sense “out there.”
It has no metaphysical consistency: it is simply a shorthand for the really, really bad stuff that people do, or for the really, really bad character that leads people to do said stuff.
“A-gnoia means literally ‘not-knowing’; a-mathia means literally ‘not-learning.’ In addition to the type of amathia that is an inability to learn, there is another form that is an unwillingness to learn.… Robert Musil in an essay called On Stupidity, distinguished between two forms of stupidity, one he called ‘an honorable kind’ due to a lack of natural ability and another, much more sinister kind, that he called ‘intelligent stupidity.’”
Medea knew it was wrong to make her children suffer to punish Jason, but emotion (vengeance), not reason, drove her to act as she did. Epictetus
That is, Medea did not wish to err, but was simply convinced that she was doing the right thing.
Cognitive dissonance is a very uncomfortable psychological state that occurs when someone becomes aware of the conflict between two judgments that he holds to be equally true. People do not want to experience cognitive dissonance, just as Epictetus said that people do not want to knowingly be in error.
The uncomfortable truth is, again, that people suffering from cognitive dissonance are neither stupid nor ignorant.
As the writer Michael Shermer has observed, the more clever people are, the better they are at rationalizing away the sources of their cognitive dissonance.
As far as the rest of us are concerned, remembering that people do bad things out of lack of wisdom is not only a reminder to be compassionate toward others, it also constantly tells us just how important it is to develop wisdom.
I had moved to the United States from Rome a couple of years earlier, and the whole idea of televised debates as “infotainment” was very new to me.
When he was asked in an interview who didn’t make it out of the Hanoi Hilton, Stockdale replied: Oh, that’s easy, the optimists. Oh,
Stockdale understood an important truth about war that applies to life in general: holding the moral high ground and maintaining self-respect is more important than the facts on the ground, be they the weaponry on each side (in the case of war) or the circumstances of our ordinary lives.
The results were striking: those who had spent less than two years in confinement said that torture was the worst; those who had spent more than two years in isolation said that the latter experience trumped even torture.
Stockdale interpreted Rutledge’s finding in the light of Epictetus’s teachings—that it is shame, not physical pain, that truly brings down a human being.
Observing and imitating role models, then, is one powerful way to work on our own virtue.
The problem nowadays is that, by and large, we do a pretty bad job of picking role models. We glorify actors, singers, athletes, and generic “celebrities,”
A similar problem arises with the contemporary, highly inflated use of the word “hero,” especially in the United States. Some brave people who are willing to sacrifice themselves for the common good truly deserve that appellative (though they don’t have to be almost exclusively drawn from the ranks of the military or the police). But someone who dies, say, as a result of a terrorist attack is not a hero—he is a victim. He probably did not display courage and other-regard; he just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. We should most certainly mourn him, but labeling him a “hero” does not do justice to what actually happened, and it does a great injustice to actual heroes, confusing people about the very meaning of the term.
The other thing to remember about role models—and the Stoics understood this very well—is that they are not perfect human beings, for the simple reason that there is no such thing. Moreover, making perfection an integral part of our concept of role model means that we are setting a standard that is impossibly high.
For Christians, the model of universally good behavior is Jesus, but that’s a tough role model to actually attempt to emulate, since believers are literally trying to be like gods. Bound to fail, we have to accept the divinity’s mercy as our path to salvation.
For instance, in 72 bce, he volunteered to fight against the rebel slave Spartacus, clearly not having paused to consider that the revolt might have been a reaction to extreme injustice.
But that would be exactly the wrong way to look at him, because it would be an attempt to make him a godlike figure capable of doing what no human being can do: completely transcend his own upbringing.
“Alea iacta est” (The die is cast).
by hearing about great deeds that we not only become inspired by what human beings at their best can do, but also are implicitly reminded of just how much easier most of our lives actually are.
Larry’s first point is to realize the importance of agency. It has been crucial for him to feel like an agent in the world, not a patient.
After you have reclaimed your agency, Larry points out, you are in the same position as everyone else: you have to become good at being an agent. This, he says, requires lining up the following elements: values, preferences, goals, deliberations, decisions, and actions. If these are incoherent, incomplete, or weak, then you are paralyzed no matter what your physical condition happens to be. You can also be paralyzed by indecision, because you are not committed to a particular course of action and wish to keep multiple possibilities open. Facing too many choices on the menu, or too many cars on the dealer’s lot, isn’t a good thing, as modern cognitive science clearly shows. To complicate things, there is the fact that the world itself changes, requiring constant adjustments to our goals, decisions, and actions. In other words, we need to learn how to maintain agency under changing circumstances.
Knowing our physical and psychological abilities includes knowing our limits. Ignorance, or worse, self-deception about our own abilities can be very dangerous. We need to keep an up-to-date, accurate account of what is possible for us.
Larry also counsels us to train ourselves to recognize when we have lost a good fit between our abilities and our activities. We must develop what he calls an internal alarm system, which will tell us when it’s time to stop suffering and begin (or resume) taking charge.
Rather, Larry suggests making a habit of reflecting on what is important to us and on the best way to achieve it, and also to continuously revise our life plan, according to our changing abilities and circumstances. Our dynamic plan should be coherent, ambitious, achievable, revisable, and—ideally—compatible with a generally rising level of life satisfaction.
Lastly, Larry cautions us to beware of brick walls. We need to recognize them when we hit them; even better is to see them coming before we hit them hard. The
To begin with, he says that one of the crucial things for people affected by depression is to constantly monitor themselves and their mental condition. If there is anything that Stoicism trains people to do it is to monitor their own reactions and reflect critically on how they perceive and interpret the world.
suffering from a depression that stemmed in part from the gulf he had gradually realized existed between his expectations about his life and the world, on the one hand, and his life and the world as they were, on the other hand.
“Depressed people are rather self-aware; in fact, they are too self-aware, and too negatively so, often deriding themselves for small infractions of their own idealized standards, putting themselves down for not being perfect even in a world they recognize as being full of imperfections and human capital squandered.
For one thing, I have become a collector of insults: On being insulted, I analyze and categorize the insult. For another thing, I look forward to being insulted inasmuch as it affords me the opportunity to perfect my ‘insult game.’
Think of Irvine’s “insult game”: what someone says to us is his opinion, which may or may not be grounded in fact. Whether we perceive someone else’s remark as an insult or not is entirely up to us, quite regardless of the intention of our interlocutor.
Well, is it true? At one time in my life it was. In which case, why get offended? What does it even mean to feel insulted by a fact? Conversely, is it not true? Then the fellow who hurled the insult is both childish in his behavior and factually wrong. How is that going to injure me? If anything, he is the one who loses in the confrontation.
The basic idea, again adopted by modern cognitive behavioral therapy and similar approaches, is to regularly focus on potentially bad scenarios, repeating to yourself that they are not in fact as bad as they may seem, because you have the inner resources to deal with them.
Now, why would anyone, let alone someone who is depressed, want to imagine the worst on purpose? Well, for one thing there is the empirical observation that it actually works: visualizing negative happenings decreases our fear of them and mentally prepares us to deal with the crisis when and if it ensues. But there is a flip side to visualizing the negative: we gain a renewed sense of gratitude and appreciation for all the times when bad things do not happen to us, when we leisurely drive down the road on a beautiful day or enjoy the presence of our loved ones because they are very much alive and well.
Seneca wrote about self-knowledge and suggested that sometimes we are the worst obstacles to our own improvement: we see where we should go, which is where we want to go, and yet somehow we can’t pick ourselves up and begin the journey.
all the major Stoic authors insist that it is crucial that we reflect on our condition and truly make an effort to see things in a different light, one that is both more rational and more compassionate.
The second point Epictetus makes is crucial: we are so distraught about the prospect of our own death precisely because, unlike wheat and most other species on earth presumably, we are capable of contemplating that thought. And yet, knowing something does not change the nature of the thing of course—it just changes our attitude about it.
the fundamental Stoic idea of the dichotomy of control: death itself is not under our control (it will happen one way or another), but how we think about death most definitely is under our control.
“Will you realize once for all that it is not death that is the source of all man’s evils, and of a mean and cowardly spirit, but rather the fear of death?
Those around us cannot cure our illness or save us from death, but they can accompany us part of the way, comforting us before we get there.
“What do you mean by ‘die’?” Epictetus corrected me. “Do not use fine words, but state the facts as they are. Now is the time for your material part to be restored to the elements of which it was composed. What is there dreadful in that?
If so, how would an already diseased planet sustain the thirst for natural resources of a population that grows so relentlessly and manage its ever-escalating production of waste products?
Others must come into being, even as you did, and being born must have room and dwellings and necessaries. But if the first comers do not retire, what is left for them?
Just as, for the Stoics, death itself is what gives urgent meaning to life, the possibility of leaving life voluntarily gives us the courage to do what is right under otherwise unbearable circumstances.
It is, in other words, our own judgment that tells us whether it is time to walk through the open door or whether we should stay and fight another day.
he was a flawed man (as he himself repeatedly wrote) who tried his best under nearly impossible circumstances. Seneca succeeded in guiding Nero and containing the damage for the first five years of his reign, even if he eventually lost control of the increasingly unhinged emperor.
Goethe’s The Sorrows of Young Werther
It is not in our power to make thievery disappear from the world, but it is in our power to engage in a battle of attention with thieves, if we think that’s worth our efforts and time.
And Seneca explicitly advised taking a deep breath and going for a walk around the block upon first feeling the uncontrollable rise of rage, which he considered a type of temporary madness.
The APA tells us to change standard phrases like “this is terrible!” to something along the lines of “I’d rather not have to deal with this, but I can manage it, and getting angry isn’t going to help me at all.”
Epictetus—reminds us: “Logic defeats anger, because anger, even when it’s justified, can quickly become irrational. So use cold hard logic on yourself.”
we need to realize that—contra common cultural belief—it just isn’t the case that every problem has a solution. We therefore need to cut ourselves some slack for not being able to solve everything, so long as we have done all we can reasonably do under the circumstances.
Additional suggestions from professional psychologists include changing your environment, for instance, by taking a physical break from the problematic situation; shifting the timing of your interaction with another person if the present moment seems not to be the best time to handle the problem, but being sure to set an alternative time for coming back to it in order to send the signal that you are not dodging it; practicing avoidance by not exposing yourself, if possible, to the cause of your distress; and finding alternative ways of doing what you need to do that may reduce the opportunity for conflict while still allowing you to accomplish your goals.
Killeen distinguishes loneliness from similar, yet separate, related concepts, such as alienation (which may be the result, or in some cases the cause, of depression) and solitude (which actually has a positive connotation, more akin to my own behavior).
The Killeen paper provides a handy summary diagram identifying a series of causes related to our situations and our characters that lead to loneliness, including bereavement, psychological vulnerability, reduced social network, depression, and radical life changes.
As Killeen says: there is no reason to be embarrassed because (some degree of) loneliness is a natural condition for humanity, and Stoics reject the whole idea of embarrassment, especially with respect to societal expectations, because we have no influence over other people’s judgments, only over our own behavior.
We may have little or no control over the external circumstances that force us into being alone at some times in our lives. But (save for pathological conditions, for which one needs to seek medical help), it is our choice, our own attitude, that turns solitude into loneliness. We may be alone, but we do not consequently need to feel helpless.
The point, rather, is that human affection needs to be guided—trained even—by a sound assessment of whatever situation triggers our feelings.
true friendship, like true love, is revealed when the going gets tough, not when things are nice and easy.
friendship of the good is that rare phenomenon when two people enjoy each other for their own sake because they find in each other an affinity of character that does not require externalities like a business exchange or a hobby. In those cases, our friends become, as Aristotle famously put it, mirrors to our souls, helping us grow and become better persons just because they care about us.
Each day reread Epictetus’s words several times, whenever you have a minute, and focus on putting into practice that day a specific piece of advice.
four Stoic virtues: (Practical) wisdom: Navigating complex situations in the best available fashion Courage: Doing the right thing, both physically and morally, under all circumstances Justice: Treating every human being—regardless of his or her stature in life—with fairness and kindness Temperance: Exercising moderation and self-control in all spheres of life
1. Examine your impressions.
stepping back to make room for rational deliberation, avoiding rash emotional reactions, and asking whether whatever is being thrown at us is under our control (in which case we should act on it) or isn’t (in which case we should regard it as not of our concern).
2. Remind yourself of the impermanence of things.
we should constantly remind ourselves of just how precious our loved ones are precisely because they may soon be gone. Anyone
“Memento homo” (Remember, you are only a man).
I always regretted the way I responded to my father’s illness—until Stoicism taught me that regret is about things we can no longer change and the right attitude is to learn from our experiences, not dwell on decisions that we are not in a position to alter. Which
None of this made the experience any less hard, since Stoicism isn’t a magic wand. But I tried my best to be present in the hic et nunc, the here and now, as the Romans used to say.
he is advising us to care and appreciate very much what we now have, precisely because Fate may snatch it from us tomorrow.
3. The reserve clause.
I love the “which is impossible if I go all to pieces whenever anything bad happens” bit. It conjures an image of people who are too fragile to withstand even minor challenges in life because they let themselves be fragile. They always assume that of course things will go well, since bad things only happen to other people (possibly because they somehow deserve them). Instead, as Stoics, we should bring the reserve clause to anything we do, and even use it as a personal mantra: Fate permitting.
There is a nice analogy in Stoic lore meant to explain the point. It is attributed to Chrysippus—the third head of the original Stoa of Athens—and was allegedly recounted in one of Epictetus’s lost volumes of the Discourses. Imagine a dog who is leashed to a cart. The cart begins to move forward, in whatever direction the driver, but certainly not the dog, chooses. Now, the leash is long enough that the dog has two options: either he can gingerly follow the general direction of the cart, over which he has no control, and thereby enjoy the ride and even have time to explore his surroundings and attend to some of his own business, or he can stubbornly resist the cart with all his might and end up being dragged, kicking and screaming, for the rest of the trip, accumulating much pain and frustration and wasting his time in a futile and decidedly unpleasant effort. We humans are, of course, the dog: the universe keeps churning according to God’s will (if you have religious inclinations) or cosmic cause and effect (if your taste is more secular).
Rather, it is to deploy the wisdom that sometimes things will not go our way even if we do our best, and regardless of whether we deserved to win the match or get the promotion.
4. How can I use virtue here and now? “For every challenge, remember the resources you have within you to cope with it.
you cannot control disease and pain, and it will happen at some point or another in your life. But you can manage it, not just with medications (there is certainly nothing in Stoic doctrine that precludes the use of medicine when appropriate), but also by way of your own mental attitude.
5. Pause and take a deep breath. “Remember, it is not enough to be hit or insulted to be harmed, you must believe that you are being harmed. If someone succeeds in provoking you, realize that your mind is complicit in the provocation.
Naturally, it is far easier to maintain equanimity (which, again, is not to be confused with emotional impassivity!) when little inconveniences, or even disasters, happen to others rather than to ourselves.
Accidents, injuries, disease, and death are unavoidable, and while it is understandable to be distraught over them
we can take comfort in knowing that they are in the normal order of things. The universe isn’t after anyone—or at least, it isn’t after any one of us in particular!
7. Speak little and well. “Let silence be your goal
Why should we care at all about what the Kardashians (or any other celebrities of the moment) are doing? To say that an interest in such matters is the hallmark of a rather shallow mind sounds elitist of course, and therefore distasteful to our modern sensibilities, but only because we have been conditioned to think that “serious” talk is boring and at any rate requires more background knowledge and attention than most of us associate with good conversation.
8. Choose your company well.
people who are interested in following virtue and cultivating their character.
Even more generally, this is simply the sound advice that our life is short, temptation and waste are always lurking, and so we need to pay attention to what we are doing and who our companions are.
we want to be with friends who are better than ourselves, so that we can learn from them. At the very least, we want our friends to be the sort of people who can hold up a mirror to our soul, so that we can look into it frankly and gain a better idea of just how much work needs to be done on it
9. Respond to insults with humor.
“If you learn that someone is speaking ill of you, don’t try to defend yourself against the rumors; respond instead with, ‘Yes, and he doesn’t know the half of it, because he could have said more.’”
I have begun to internalize the concept that an insult works, not because it is intended as such by the person who delivers it, but because the target allows it to become an insult.
The more you train yourself to endure insults the stronger you feel psychologically, and therefore the more you can react appropriately and effectively, and vice versa: taking a stance against bullying enables you to see it for the infantile attitude that it really is (even, or especially, when engaged in by “adults”), and this insight then leads to the fostering of greater resilience.
Is this person a friend or someone you look up to? If yes, then it is more likely that she is just offering advice, perhaps in a somewhat pointed fashion, but with good intentions nonetheless.
10. Don’t speak too much about yourself.
It feels good because, as we have seen with a number of the other exercises—and indeed as the Stoics themselves clearly recognized—there is a peculiar pleasure in being able to exercise some self-control.
gym. I don’t know about you, but when I get to my local gym and someone from behind the reception desk smiles and greets me with a loud and cheerful, “Enjoy your workout!” the first thought that comes to my mind is: Who on earth enjoys working out? Yes, I know, some people actually do enjoy it, but most of us don’t. And yet, it is the sort of thing we do because we have reflected on the benefits of doing it and decided that the gain is worth the pain, as they say. But it is also the case that once we get to the end of the workout and head to the shower, we feel a peculiar sort of satisfaction, not only from the physiological benefits of the exercise but also from being able to pat ourselves on the back and say: it was hard, we didn’t really want to do it, but we did it!
11. Speak without judging.
The idea is to distinguish between matters of fact—to which we can assent if we find them justified by observation—and judgments, from which we generally ought to abstain, since we usually don’t have sufficient information.
12. Reflect on your day.
“Admit not sleep into your tender eyelids till you have reckoned up each deed of the day—How have I erred, what done or left undone? So start, and so review your acts, and then for vile deeds chide yourself, for good be glad.”
conceal nothing from myself, and omit nothing: for why should I be afraid of any of my shortcomings, when it is in my power to say, “I pardon you this time: see that you never do that anymore”?…
I would argue that this book is less a how to book on aging and more a plea for those who have not yet aged to the point of infirmary or elderly or even somewhat slowing down to be more considerate of those who are aged.
"Aged" has so many different meanings these days. Used to be old was 50, now it's when you stop living, when you give up, when the years of treating your physical and mental health for shit and said years come rumbling back on top of you. If you're still active, if you're still learning, if you move and think and moderate, then the sagging skin doesn't sag as much, the white hair doesn't matter as much, and the joys of living are larger than the accumulated pains of living.
Sadly, I don't know that I'd have been positively influenced in any meaningful way if I had read this book when young. Currently being in the middle, not young, not old, I'd have to say I see the wall of old age that I'm going to crash into, but it won't be head first. I'm going feet first with the intent of jumping off it.
Growing old means "still alive" and what a "privilege" (the book's word) that would be!
This book is worth reading, as many of the School of Life books are, I recommend it.
It sees ageing as a lifelong process, not something confined to its latter stages, and an opportunity to develop –indeed an intrinsic part of life itself.
A long life signals that we’re privileged, either through genetic serendipity, affluence or sheer luck.
This acknowledgement of ageing involves mourning, because there are inevitable losses associated with getting older, whether in function
or the death of friends and family, or the recognition of one’s own mortality.
Gina’s fear of ageing is directed at some amorphous, creeping, malign change, which prevents her from appreciating the benefits that she has already derived from the ageing process.
The capacity to be surprised, curious and engaged isn’t the prerogative of young people
and indeed it can intensify as we age.
The man-child holds on tightly to his video games and comics, and refuses to change. He equates being grown up with joylessness.
But perhaps it’s less about having a mortgage or a pension and more about learning to take responsibility for your spending; about being able to defer gratification instead of insisting ‘I want it now’; about not saying the first thing that comes into your head and thinking about other people as well as yourself?
similarly, we can try to foster in ourselves qualities that deepen and enrich over the years. These qualities differ for each of us, but for most people they include finding enduring sources of meaning –in work, or through relationships, interests or making a social contribution; getting to know themselves; making genuine contact with other people; and developing the capacity to love –whether people, ideas or experiences.
But the ability to laugh, like any other emotional facility, develops through use, and finding oneself convulsed with laughter, decades after childhood when it’s so common, is sweet indeed.
It’s much easier to adopt this outlook if we don’t take a long lifespan for granted, but recognize instead that it isn’t given to the majority of people in the world, especially the developing world: that to age is in fact to be blessed.
Those who age best are those who travel lightest, who can jettison the prescriptive ideas they’ve cleaved to at one stage of their lives when they find them ill-suited to another. A certain suppleness of spirit is needed.
Letting go of old narratives can be an extremely painful business: it involves mourning what never happened as well as what did, and admitting failure, wrong-headedness and poor decisions. Most unforgivably, it demands that we recognize that life unfurls beyond our control.
For to age is to live and to live is to age, and being anti-age (as so many products proudly proclaim themselves) is tantamount to being anti-life.
By embracing age we embrace the life process itself, with all its pain, joy and difficulty. If
metaphors). We’re no longer at risk of an invasion of triffids or Martians but of old people –invariably portrayed as a major social problem and a drain on resources, rather than as a resource themselves.
What they don’t realize is that they’re banking disgust that they’ll have to draw on themselves –ourselves.
this unique feature of ageism: that it’s prejudice against one’s future self.
It’s fuelled, as we’ll see, by a refusal to admit that we too will age –by a profound dis-identification with old people.
people. Clare Temple in Norah Hoult’s remarkable 1944 novel, There Were No Windows, is a woman aware of her creeping dementia:
Older people are rarely referred for psychotherapy
because depression is seen as just another inevitable aspect of old age.
since third-agers like Sara and Clive have convinced themselves that, with enough discipline and self-control, the body can always be transcended. But it can’t. Perhaps
For the truth is that we all have to go into that good night eventually, gently or otherwise –to deny this is nothing more than magic thinking.
They encourage you to deal with the prejudice against old people not by challenging it but by trying not to look old.
It’s all very well intoning ‘use it or lose it’, but this doesn’t allow for the possibility that you may still lose it despite using it.
each time we see an older person, we need to imagine them as our future self, and, rather than recoil from their wrinkles or infirmities, applaud their resilience. We need to rehumanize older people, to attribute to them the same rich internal world, set of passions and network of complex human relationships that we assume exist in younger people and in ourselves.
At some point or other, age resistance becomes frankly futile –you’ll either die or start to look old –but the energy you use to accept the fact of ageing but refuse its stereotypes will serve you well for the rest of your life.
Although it might seem paradoxical, mourning is an essential part of ageing with gusto, because it helps you say goodbye to some features of life, freeing you to welcome in new ones.
We’ve learnt to assume that age will bring radical discontinuities to our lives, whether at 4 or 40. But it doesn’t. Perhaps this is one of the truths about ageing that we find hardest to learn.
Perhaps the greatest calumny committed against old people –and the one that most frightens the not-yet-old –is the belief that ageing causes us to leech vitality.
Cicero clocked this. People, said the Roman orator in De Senectute, his treatise on old age, ‘who have no resources in themselves for securing a good and happy life find every age burdensome.’
As Barbara Strauch, author of The Secret Life of the Grown-up Brain, observes, for years most research into ageing was conducted in nursing homes, where bodies and brains are rarely stimulated, and this shaped beliefs about what it means to get old.
Research at the University of Cambridge challenges the idea of cognitive ageing as a monolithic process of universal, inexorable, progressive decline.
One was that they’d never retire –it would be tantamount to retiring from life. Another was that they were highly satisfied with their lives. This suggests that physical activity, work or an absorbing interest of some kind, as well as consciously maintaining social networks, both enrich the ageing process.
Lighter can mean not spreading oneself so thinly, monotasking rather than multitasking, learning to say no. Yet in order to do this we may have to let go of a lifetime’s obsessions and grievances.
It reminds us that, ultimately, pain can be modified by optimism and love. Why is this so hard to remember?
A 100-year-old woman, when she was interviewed on radio, was asked if she had any regrets. ‘If I’d known I’d live to be 100’, she replied, ‘I’d have taken up the violin at 40. By now I could have been playing for 60 years!’
It’s not just older people who are scared of ‘getting left behind’ –all of us are having to learn to live with long-term precariousness; we’re all only as good as our last project.
This line of thought pits Us against Them and sees public policy as a zero-sum game: whatever They get leaves less for Us.
Interestingly, too, the countries that have the fewest inequalities between generations also have the fewest inequalities within them.
We’ve age-cleansed our society. Under the banner of welfare we’ve corralled old people into day-care centres and homes; removed them from families, schools, universities, workplaces, general-hospital wards and sports centres, creating age ghettoes. It might soon be perfectly possible to go through life without meeting an old person until you become one. No wonder the prospect of ageing is terrifying.
Indeed young people’s lack of contact with old people not only encourages them to believe that they’ll never get old, but also to treat old people as if they’d never been young.
Age segregation denies the fact that interests and preoccupations cross the ages: you can love reggae or oppose the renewal of Trident whatever your age –instead of age dividing us, passions can unite us.
Homeshare programmes around the world introduce older homeowners who’d value company and assistance to younger people threatened with homelessness. In the USA ‘cyber-grandparents’, aged 60 to 105, are supplied by the Elder Wisdom Circle to provide anonymous advice to people in their twenties and thirties.
A skincare company which surveyed a large number of them found that they become anxious about ‘losing their looks’ at around 28.
Clive always thought his own lines and greying hair made him look ‘distinguished’, but he’s noticed a growing number of his colleagues of the same age resorting to the chemical and surgical procedures they’d always dismissed as women’s territory.
And will the sexual older man ever lose the prefix ‘dirty’? The arrival of Viagra has only reinforced this description, confirming them as unreconstructed priapics and libertines. Though what it really demonstrates is precisely the opposite: that male sexuality can be a fragile thing.
It’s easy to understand why we feel flattered when told that we don’t look our age. But basking in compliments like these brings only short-term relief. In the long term they’re dangerous: they only allow us to defer our discomfort until the time when we do look our age.
The classicist Mary Beard, whenever she appears on television, has her appearance savaged on social media by trolls. Retorts Beard, ‘Grey is my hair colour. I really can’t see why I should change it. There clearly is a view of female normative behaviour but more women of 58 do look like me than like Victoria Beckham.’
Whenever grievances about the invisibility of older women are voiced, paradoxically they reveal how older women are becoming culturally more prominent. They’re speaking out because they aren’t prepared to withdraw from public life and debate purely on grounds of their age and gender.
When someone asked the German Princess Palatine in the eighteenth century at what age sexual desire disappeared, she replied, ‘How should I know? I’m only 80.’
Some are resourceful. Jane Juska put an ad in the New York Review of Books that read ‘Before I turn 67, next March, I would like to have a lot of sex with a man I like. If you want to talk first, Trollope works fine.’
There is no template for ageing, or ageing well. The best way is one’s own way.
The first British Older Women’s Cohousing project, set to open in 2015, is a creative new way of maintaining independence while also combating isolation: its first residents, currently aged between 50 and 84, will own or rent their own flat but also have communal areas and will look out for each other.
As with history, so with gender: the more we’re able to understand how ageist assumptions shape our thoughts and behaviour, the less hold they’ll have over us. If you recognize, for example, how far women are judged by their appearance and men by their vigour, you’ll find it easier, as you leave your teens and twenties, to situate and challenge those stereotypes of the woman who’s losing her looks and the man whose vigour is ebbing away.
Since 1951 no one in the USA has died of old age. This was the year old age was deleted as a cause of death from death certificates; from then on you could only die of a disease.
Severing any link between ageing and death is another manifestation of our denial of death –death has to go underground, and not just literally.
Along with gerontophobia, our culture suffers from thanatophobia, an overwhelming fear of death.
more people now die in hospital or a nursing home than in their own home. Such is the taboo against death that children are often excluded from the funerals of relatives on the grounds that ‘it will upset them’, though they often later express regret that they had no opportunity to say goodbye.
In highly individualistic cultures death seems like a personal affront, a narcissistic wound, an attack on our individual subjectivity.
researchers have found, for example, that nursing staff with high levels of ‘death anxiety’ have significantly more negative attitudes to older people.
Death, when it approaches, ought not to take one by surprise. It should be part of the full expectancy of life.
At ‘Death Cafe’ events, people come together in a relaxed and safe setting to discuss death, drink tea and eat cake.
Maggie Kuhn used to encourage people to compile a life line or life review from their birth. When she urged them to also put in the year they thought they’d die, people always gasped. She maintained, though, that this helped raise their consciousness of their own death. For once you start to really take on board the fact that you’re going to die, old age becomes a lot less terrifying: it means you’re not dead yet.
‘Symmetry’, a TV ad for Marie Curie Cancer Care, attracted almost universal praise when it was launched in 2013.
People who live their earlier lives as if they’re never going to age often find retirement and the loss of a professional identity particularly traumatic: they’ve failed to cultivate those qualities that can endure, and without the containing structure imposed by work, even if they complained about it at the time, they’re at a loss.
In addition, researchers at King’s College London have found that twenty-two molecules already present when we’re born are linked to our health in old age.
In a slim cowritten volume called Aging: The Fulfillment of Life, first
Germany is now ‘exporting’ –some call it ‘deporting’ –thousands of old and sick Germans to retirement and rehabilitation centres in Eastern Europe and Asia because it’s cheaper. This is ‘disowning’ old people literally.
Powerlessness is perhaps the hardest state for us to tolerate today.
We say that we cannot be human all by ourselves; we need each other.
Psychotherapist Marie de Hennezel has observed many older people entrusting their body to other people’s care with grace, and without embarrassment or humiliation. It’s as if they help their carers look after them.
Yet at every stage of life some attachments need to be given up for others to develop, in order to move forward.
Mourning creates a space in which a sense of gratitude can develop –gratitude for what remains, or for what unfolds in place of what’s been lost.
Maggie Kuhn saw older people in precisely the opposite way. In the vanguard of social change, they’re society’s futurists –testing out new instruments, technologies, ideas and styles of living.
The ones who fare best not only care about what they leave behind for the next generation, but are also able to keep learning from people both older and younger than themselves.
Those who urge us to fight ageing are, in effect, inviting us to stop growing and developing. In so doing, they’re depriving us of the opportunity to carry out and successfully complete the task of being alive and human.
Gina is also coming to realize that growing older is a privilege which, instead of fearing, she might do better to hope for. (Hope I age –what a slogan this would be!) In short, she has started to understand that ageing is a process, and not a crisis.
Or the right for old people to remain embodied: as much as younger people, older people need to touch and be touched; to taste good food; to stretch, move and dance.
Acknowledging death graces us with a sense of perspective: it reminds us that we have only a finite number of breaths; it makes us ask ourselves ‘How will I feel when I get to the end of my life having done/ without having done this?’
For the novelist Edith Wharton it was being ‘unafraid of change, insatiable in intellectual curiosity, interested in big things, and happy in small ways.’ The cellist Pablo Casals, when asked by one of his pupils why, at the age of 91, he continued to practise, replied, ‘Because I am making progress.’
I was trying to finish this book before the end of last year, as January is going to be a non-fiction only month for me.
I didn't make it, so this is the first book of the new year that I have finished!
I picked up this book because "by Claire North" and, let's be real, The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August was a fun read. This was also on NPR's recommended list, so I figured I'd read it.
While I believe I understand the message of the book (that when you put a price tag on people's lives, the system is incentivized to profit off of everything people do, to the detriment of the system), I didn't really enjoy this book. The format of past to present to past was good story-telling, I liked that aspect.
North (a pseudonym) has a number of other books, so I'll likely try another of hers. This book has good reviews from others, so maybe just me?
The man whose name was sometimes Theo Miller had been twenty-two years old when they abolished human rights. The government insisted it was necessary to counter terrorism and bring stable leadership to the country.
They wavered, avoiding each other’s gaze. Finally Theo mumbled, looking at some place a few hundred miles above and a little to the left of her forehead, “Are you …”
Love this description, "few hundred miles above."
If you’re rich enough, you get to pay less tax if you turn yourself into a company, and if you’re a company you can buy a parole.
But as the years went by, anger had faded.
Most things faded, given time.
Good rate of return that, decent interest on time spent, I respect that, I understand that, not my language but it’s my song.
[D]reams were for children and she was a grown-up now. Grown-ups just dealt with things. They carried on—that’s what being grown-up meant.
Beyond, the world carries on.
Vagrants could be Tasered on sight in this part of the city—they caused emotional distress, and emotional distress was basically assault.
By night Mala Choudhary practised Muay Thai. She won most of her fights but found those she lost more exciting.
He used to see them sometimes in the snarling boys who liked it when their dogs growled at passing strangers, because the dogs made people scared, and if people were scared of you then you were powerful, and if you were powerful, you mattered. Even if you didn’t know what mattering was good for.
The queen says this country is a slave state. That there aren’t any chains on our feet or beatings on our backs because there don’t need to be. Cos if you don’t play along with what the Company wants, you die. You die cos you can’t pay for the doctor to treat you. You die cos the police won’t come without insurance. Cos the fire brigade doesn’t cover your area, cos you can’t get a job, cos you can’t buy the food, cos the water stopped, cos there was no light at night and if that’s not slavery, if that’s not the world gone mad if that’s not … … but we got used to it. Just the way things are.
I don’t think it matters. We got taught not to care. It’ll pass. It’ll pass.
“Loneliness is a state of mind. You have to want something, to be lonely. You have to need some sort of reassurance, someone to tell you that this is who you are. I’m not lonely. I don’t want anything."
"Our lives exist in many different, contradictory states, all at once. I am a liar. I am a killer. I am honest. I am fighting for a good cause. I am burning the world. We want things simple, and safe, and when they aren’t, when the truth is something complicated, something hard, or scary, we stop. The words run out. Everything becomes …”
“It’s how it happens, of course. The worst of it. Not ‘My neighbour has been taken to be burned alive, their house stolen, their children dead and I am so, so scared to speak of it.’ Just ‘They went away. Just—away.’ And we smile. And everyone else is as scared as we are, and knows what that smile means. Is grateful that you didn’t make the terror real. Thankful that you haven’t caused a stink. Because it would hurt … someone. Someone who isn’t a stranger would get hurt, if we ever managed to speak the truth of things. If we ever had the courage to say what we really think, even if it destroyed who we want the world to think we are. Who it is we think we should be. There would be too much pain. So we say nothing. Things just … trail away into a smile, which everyone understands and doesn’t have to mean a thing. We are grateful for that silence, for the thing that can’t be expressed. To fill it would be a terrible thing.”
There was probably a bit of love left, somewhere. It simply hadn’t been a priority for either of them.
"Then I started screaming too, just screaming, and it felt good. I’d never done nothing like that before but I was crying after, I screamed and then there was nothing left and I just cried and it was the best thing it was … They don’t bother me now. They’ve got this guy, this boss bloke, he goes to the sea every morning and rages at it. Just rages at it, cos of how he was born into this shit, and he didn’t ever find no way to make his life good, and he rages at the sky cos it never helped him, and at the earth cos it never carried him somewhere else, and his raging it’s … it’s sorta good, you know? It’s like going to church, only different like. Sometimes I scream, it’s like praying, but different."
"Is she dead?” An afterthought, a thing which was probable but which the girl hadn’t wanted to ask.
The sea the sky the earth they never carried me I hate them for letting me be born for making me breathe I hate them I hate—but she gotta love ’em. If she’s your daughter you gotta find her, you gotta help her be something which isn’t … you know.
Even thin ice can puncture the hull, can sink a narrowboat. They drown as they sleep they wake the water rushing down their noses it is.
Indecision. Martyrdom. Suspension of all things, a failure to act, the need to look at things from a new perspective, a willing victim a … Neila doesn’t like the word “victim.” If you’re “willing” then how are you a “victim”? Victim is the denial of choice …
Or maybe … maybe that’s unfair. Maybe they care. But caring isn’t the same as doing something, and doing something is hard. It’s very, very hard.
Simon is a shit. I’m not saying this to excuse my son. My son is also a shit. But Simon was the shit that blocked the toilet, if you’ll pardon my saying so. Naturally he assumes he isn’t. Most people assume they aren’t shits. It’s just good business. That’s what it amounts to. Business is good. Good is business it is
I think he hits her sometimes, but she always says … when it’s good, it’s really good, and when it’s bad, he always says sorry afterwards and that’s how she knows he loves her. I always thought I’d tell her to run away. It’s a very easy thing to say, much easier than anything that matters—but I never mustered the courage.
When my daughter died I spent so long trying to make it my fault, because if it was my fault it wasn’t just luck. It was the action of man, it was fate, it was God,
If you call him terrible you have to ask yourself why, you have to blame yourself and no one wants to do that. It’s the hardest thing in the world to say ‘I am a bad mother, and he is a bad father,’ it is impossible, it is devastating it is … because if I am a bad mother then I am … there is nothing worse.
And she said, “My brother had depression, he had depression and we all told him to get over it, we told him to just try and see the good side of things I mean, the good side it was just …”
“You ask people, when they tell you something terrible, you ask them ‘Are you okay?’ Of course they’re not fucking okay but what else are you meant to say. ‘Oh you must be feeling shit you must be so shit you must be …’”
The Hanged Man is the crossroads, is suspension, a choice that holds you back or will send you forward, a moment where all things stand on the edge.
Sometimes I catch myself making stories from the things that happened in my life, making stories of who I will be, and in these stories I’m always the hero or the villain because that way I made a choice, I made a choice and I chose to be here and there wasn’t ever anything which I couldn’t control, there wasn’t a part of me that is …”
“Do you regret?” she asked. “Do you look back, do you look at—when you think about the time you’ve had and the things—do you regret? Is that what you feel?” Theo thought about it. “I think I would,” he said at last. “If there wasn’t something more important to do.”
“Half the people we ask don’t even know if the queen is real, they can’t imagine it, anything changing. But the idea makes them feel better. That maybe they can do this really small thing, like this up yours to the world and maybe it’ll make a difference, maybe they count.
Rob was reading this book, so I jumped in to start reading it, too. In it, Kelly posits twelve inevitable (hence the title) technological forces / trends / changes that will shape our future. He gives them odd names, so that they are all gerunds:
Becoming: everything's upgrading, so we'll always forever be newbies
Cognifying: I suspect a made up word, basically AI everywhere, even dumb ai
Flowing: everything is real-time and instant access becomes more instanter (yes, I did make up that word)
Screening: everything becomes a screen, hate this idea
Accessing: no one owns much, so the corps own the big stuff, we just rent
Sharing: no one owns much, so the corps own the big stuff, we just rent, and share it
Filtering: everything is curated, unfortunately, likely by the AI
Remixing: everyone steals from everyone else and makes a meme out of it, or at least makes things better, pretty much humankind forever
Interacting: AR / VR
Tracking: total surveillance nominally "for the benefit of citizens and consumers" but in reality to an authoritarian state
I think Kelly started reaching on these, but there's also:
Questioning: the idea that good questions are far more valuable than good answers (except that too many people don't question, don't think)
Beginning: going global
There were parts of the book that I really wanted to scream NO NO NO at. Except Kelly isn't saying "here's what I propose," he's saying, "here's what I see." Screaming "No!" at a wall of water doesn't stop the flood, building a seawall stops the worst of it. Which might have been a reason for writing and reading this book.
Worth reading. Maybe reading twice.
Our greatest invention in the past 200 years was not a particular gadget or tool but the invention of the scientific process itself.
Get the ongoing process right and it will keep generating ongoing benefits. In our new era, processes trump products.
You may not want to upgrade, but you must because everyone else is. It’s an upgrade arms race. I used to upgrade my gear begrudgingly (why upgrade if it still works?) and at the last possible moment. You know how it goes: Upgrade this and suddenly you need to upgrade that, which triggers upgrades everywhere. I would put it off for years because I had the experiences of one “tiny” upgrade of a minor part disrupting my entire working life.
[D]elaying upgrading is even more disruptive. If you neglect ongoing minor upgrades, the change backs up so much that the eventual big upgrade reaches traumatic proportions.
I can confirm this statement.
Technological life in the future will be a series of endless upgrades.
No matter how long you have been using a tool, endless upgrades make you into a newbie—the new user often seen as clueless. In this era of “becoming,” everyone becomes a newbie. Worse, we will be newbies forever. That should keep us humble. That bears repeating. All of us—every one of us—will be endless newbies in the future simply trying to keep up.
Second, because the new technology requires endless upgrades, you will remain in the newbie state. Third, because the cycle of obsolescence is accelerating (the average lifespan of a phone app is a mere 30 days!), you won’t have time to master anything before it is displaced, so you will remain in the newbie mode forever. Endless Newbie is the new default for everyone, no matter your age or experience.
We keep inventing new things that make new longings, new holes that must be filled. Some people are furious that our hearts are pierced this way by the things we make. They see this ever-neediness as a debasement, a lowering of human nobility, the source of our continual discontentment.
This discontent is the trigger for our ingenuity and growth. We cannot expand our self, and our collective self, without making holes in our heart.
A world without discomfort is utopia. But it is also stagnant.
None of us have to worry about these utopia paradoxes, because utopias never work. Every utopian scenario contains self-corrupting flaws.
The flaw in most dystopian narratives is that they are not sustainable. Shutting down civilization is actually hard.
Nature finds away. Especially when said nature contains people.
The problems of today were caused by yesterday’s technological successes, and the technological solutions to today’s problems will cause the problems of tomorrow.
The problem with constant becoming (especially in a protopian crawl) is that unceasing change can blind us to its incremental changes. In constant motion we no longer notice the motion.
The disruption ABC could not imagine was that this “internet stuff” enabled the formerly dismissed passive consumers to become active creators.
The total number of web pages, including those that are dynamically created upon request, exceeds 60 trillion. That’s almost 10,000 pages per person alive.
What we all failed to see was how much of this brave new online world would be manufactured by users, not big institutions.
The audience was a confirmed collective couch potato, as the ABC honchos assumed. Everyone knew writing and reading were dead; music was too much trouble to make when you could sit back and listen; video production was simply out of reach of amateurs in terms of cost and expertise.
One study a few years ago found that only 40 percent of the web is commercially manufactured. The rest is fueled by duty or passion.
In fact, the business plans of the next 10,000 startups are easy to forecast: Take X and add AI. Find something that can be made better by adding online smartness to it.
The list of Xs is endless. The more unlikely the field, the more powerful adding AI will be.
When you type “Easter Bunny” into the image search bar and then click on the most Easter Bunny–looking image, you are teaching the AI what an Easter Bunny looks like.
My prediction: By 2026, Google’s main product will not be search but AI.
Cloud computing empowers the law of increasing returns, sometimes called the network effect, which holds that the value of a network increases much faster as it grows bigger. The bigger the network, the more attractive it is to new users, which makes it even bigger and thus more attractive, and so on. A cloud that serves AI will obey the same law. The more people who use an AI, the smarter it gets.
As a result, our AI future is likely to be ruled by an oligarchy of two or three large, general-purpose cloud-based commercial intelligences.
Because of a quirk in our evolutionary history, we are cruising as the only self-conscious species on our planet, leaving us with the incorrect idea that human intelligence is singular.
One of the advantages of having AIs drive our cars is that they won’t drive like humans, with our easily distracted minds.
Imagine we land on an alien planet. How would we measure the level of the intelligences we encounter there? This is an extremely difficult question because we have no real definition of our own intelligence, in part because until now we didn’t need one.
Our most important mechanical inventions are not machines that do what humans do better, but machines that can do things we can’t do at all. Our most important thinking machines will not be machines that can think what we think faster, better, but those that think what we can’t think.
Today, many scientific discoveries require hundreds of human minds to solve, but in the near future there may be classes of problems so deep that they require hundreds of different species of minds to solve. This will take us to a cultural edge because it won’t be easy to accept the answers from an alien intelligence. We already see that reluctance in our difficulty in approving mathematical proofs done by computer.
We’ll spend the next three decades—indeed, perhaps the next century—in a permanent identity crisis, continually asking ourselves what humans are good for. If we aren’t unique toolmakers, or artists, or moral ethicists, then what, if anything, makes us special?
We aren’t giving “good jobs” to robots. Most of the time we are giving them jobs we could never do. Without them, these jobs would remain undone.
It is a safe bet that the highest-earning professions in the year 2050 will depend on automations and machines that have not been invented yet. That is, we can’t see these jobs from here, because we can’t yet see the machines and technologies that will make them possible. Robots create jobs that we did not even know we wanted done.
The one thing humans can do that robots can’t (at least for a long while) is to decide what it is that humans want to do. This is not a trivial semantic trick; our desires are inspired by our previous inventions, making this a circular question.
This is not a race against the machines. If we race against them, we lose. This is a race with the machines.
It is inevitable. Let the robots take our jobs, and let them help us dream up new work that matters.
We can’t stop massive indiscriminate copying. Not only would that sabotage the engine of wealth if we could, but it would halt the internet itself.
The initial age of computing borrowed from the industrial age. As Marshall McLuhan observed, the first version of a new medium imitates the medium it replaces. The first commercial computers employed the metaphor of the office.
Then, in the second age, along came the web, and very quickly we expected everything the same day.
Our cycle time jumped from batch mode to daily mode. This was a big deal.
Now in the third age, we’ve moved from daily mode to real time.
In predigital days I bought printed books long before I intended to read them. If I spied an enticing book in a bookstore, I bought it.
Over the years, I have bought Kris a number of baseball-related books. Some have been peripherally baseball related, sorta like the movie For the Love of the Game is a baseball movie (for the record, it is not, it is a romance movie with baseball elements, it is not a baseball movie). Some were definitely baseball related.
This one, however, is the first baseball book Kris recommended back to me.
That's right, I bought baseball books for him, but hadn't actually read them.
So, on his recommendation, I read this one.
I didn't know Ankiel's story. In a few sentences: he was a baseball phenomenon, likely to be better than Sandy Koufax, who, depending on how your stats rank your pitchers, is considered the greatest pitcher of all time. Then he threw a wild pitch that got into his head, and he couldn't get it out. He tried, he failed, he left baseball, he came back a hitter and an outfielder instead. He had a good career.
This book is his autobiography of that career. Many parts of the book read like the inner dialog of a person talking with himself, trying to psych himself up, convince himself that he can do this next thing, that the last thing wasn't so bad.
A result of the style of inner chatter writing and not knowing Ankiel's story is that I was really confused in the first two chapters. of the book. By chapter five, Ankiel had written enough of his story that I understood the why of this book, and was engrossed in the story.
I really enjoyed this book. If you like biographies, baseball, or stories about the hero's journey, this I strongly recommend this book. It isn't one where the hero triumphs, but it is a tale of continuing to do the work, to try, to succeed in a different way, and, in the end, to accept that the life you have isn't the one you wanted, but it can still be a good one.
I would stand behind him when he needed a push, before him when he needed a shield, beside him when he did not.
Denise, my mom, wished she’d had the sense to leave Richard. Right then. The bruises generally healed while my father was away.
I understand this wish.
She couldn’t shake the notion that a boy should have a father nearby. She couldn’t not believe in having a family, even if it were all fouled up and volatile and hurtful.
Another problem was that Dad was a bully, and Mom, because she so wanted to believe the nightmare would end and didn’t want to be threatened again and also didn’t want to lie in a puddle of her own blood on the kitchen floor, was afraid. She had nowhere to go.
I was too small, and then I was too afraid, and even when I grew up there remained the notion that to challenge one’s father was to call out the whole universe into the middle of the street to decide who was the better man. And how long would that have lasted? A punch or two? And what would that have cost my mother in bruises?
An acquaintance of mine has this deep-seated belief that victims can alway speak, that they can always walk away or continue to fight. He never quite understands that sometimes the victim cannot do those things, because the victim understands the consequences of those actions can sometimes be worse than the abuse. My acquaintance does not understand that.a
My mother didn’t deserve the life she got, and I would not — could not — choose the same. I was going to chase something better. I was going to let myself dream and go after that.
Though I’d worn a facsimile of the uniform briefly the fall before, the first day in a real clubhouse — a spring training clubhouse, but still, surrounded by real major leaguers — buttoning that bright jersey and curling the brim of that new cap felt meaningful.
"... curling the brim ..." Hee!
The way to nine months of every single day was an hour at a time, a minute at a time even. Try not to look back. Definitely do not look forward, because the destination is tiny in the distance, and to chase that would be a reasonable path to exhaustion.
No, just hit the next mark in the routine. Do that, and when that is done the next mark will appear. Hit them all, and at the end of the day you’re fed and rested and healthy and strong and clear-headed and confident.
Miss one, then another, and that day gets wobbly, and the next is too full trying to cover for the previous one, and the next is messier, and this is how sore elbows and bad Aprils and doubt and stomachaches are born.
Your brain quit on you. Unless, and this was something to think about, your brain knew best, and it really was protecting you. You don’t want to throw this pitch, it’s not going to end well, so I won’t let you throw it.
It’s a spark of fear, of humiliation, of regret before the fact.
“The yips,” he said, “can be explained in both psychological and neuromuscular terms, and it’s extremely complicated. It’s very difficult to treat and very difficult to understand.… What it boils down to, a mistake is made, ultimate trust is eroded, pressure interferes with the lack of trust, and that compounds the problem. Now there’s anxiety, and a vicious cycle ensues.”
Along come the obsessive thoughts, Dr. Oakley said, the failure, the pursuit of perfection now fouled by anxiety and more failure and more anxiety. “This,” he added, “is a phenomenon on steroids.”
“When a person’s really distressed, they’re overwhelmed by that,” Dr. Oakley said.
“Turn it on its head. Instead of curtailing that moment, bring it on. Experience that. Spend more time with it.
“Most people, of course, don’t want to spend time with it. It’s not a pleasant thing. So what I do, and it goes along with treating anxiety disorders, I try prolonged exposure to it. You actually need more time with it, what my friend Ken Ravizza calls ‘getting comfortable with being uncomfortable.’”
We knew that wouldn’t last forever, but twenty-one years old or even thirty-one years old hardly seemed a time to stop believing in tomorrow. Our arms were strong. Our hearts were set to the rhythms of the game. So we’d run our laps and take the ball and try to throw it past hitters. That was the plan.
In some ways, I told him, the Thing is not unlike cancer. A lot of people who get cancer did nothing to attract it. They are not flawed people. They did not abuse themselves. It’s not as though they stood too close to someone who already had cancer. So they, perhaps, can wonder why they were chosen, but they cannot blame themselves. “It’s not your fault,” I said, repeating a line I heard often.
Here's one of the things our the modern American culture: unfortunate random things happen to people and said people are blamed for being morally bankrupt and deserving the unfortunate random thing.
Which is, in reality, total bullshit.
In Lincoln's day, a clinically depressed person was supported by his community and had a chance to heal. Today, a clinically depressed person is thrown (likely non-effective) drugs and told to walk it off. Depression doesn't work that way. Sames as other random things like the yips. Or some cancers.
And if I couldn’t bury the monster, I would drown it. “Hey,” I said to Darryl Kile, “think you could get me a bottle of vodka?”
It was humiliating. He returned with a full bottle. Something cheap. No judgment. I shrugged. “Do what you gotta do, kid,” he said. “I understand.”
“Do what you have to do, Ank,” Harvey said, just like Darryl had said, maybe amused at the tactic and definitely concerned for the consequences. “Just know it’s not real.”
“Real,” I told Harvey, “and the rest of it is getting a little blurry right now. I have to pitch. This is how I can.”
“Ank,” he said, “it’s still there. You’re not winning. You’re stalling.”
I made three starts. They went like this: 4 1/ 3 innings, 3 hits, 17 walks, 12 wild pitches, a 20.77 ERA. That’s a lot to happen over 13 outs.
In rookie ball, yes. Against a bunch of kids whose best stories were about high school.
I have a couple friends like this.
But I also didn’t have to pretend I was fine when I wasn’t. I could walk around between starts and not feel the weight of the last start and the next start.
“Real” tasted better chased by Bud Lights. It slept better with Xanax. It looked better after one last round and a boozy promise that tomorrow would be happier.
Darryl had been good to me for no reason but to be good to me, and I wanted more than anything in that moment to be his teammate again.
I quit drinking, a special point for Harvey, who for years had seen me hose down bad days with alcohol — and sometimes pills — and celebrate good days with the same.
Harvey’s point, that I must feel the pain in order to treat the pain, was that I’d require clarity to cope with whatever came next. To beat whatever came next. Or, perhaps, to live with whatever came next.
Every ballpark could be a test of past failures and buried memories, some new way to summon the anxiety that was only too eager to return.
But I’d become pretty skilled at keeping the bad thoughts out, holding off what before had felt — and surely was — the inevitable wave of panic.
By then, I was less afraid. Not unafraid,
I liked dawn for the way I remembered it smelling, that being before the accident and the concussion, which jostled just enough in my head to kill my sense of smell. I was thirteen then, being towed on a skateboard behind a go-cart, an event that concluded predictably with a crash, a trip to the emergency room, and my being down one sense.
Dislike mornings. Understand the lack of the sense of smell.
I liked dawn because of its coolness, how it foretold — demanded, even — a fresh start, a ball’s-stuck-in-the-tree do-over.
“Today’s the day,” I said. “I’m going to do it.”
“OK, Ank. You go do it. We’ll talk later. You good?”
Ballplayers didn’t walk away. They were shoved, forcibly removed from the premises at the end of a cattle prod, railing against the injustices of age and declining skills and the idiots who decided who was too old and unskilled.
I. Can’t. Do. It. Anymore. Every word a hammer strike, loud and final. Each report echoing in my head as my old life vanished, my old dreams with it, dying of self-inflicted chaos.
I’d invited him out of obligation. I sat in a dark bus out of obligation. Those years were hard on him too, he said, and I listened out of obligation, for what I didn’t know. Maybe I was still hoping I was wrong about him, the evidence notwithstanding.
Obligation can be an ugly thing.
In this case, Ankiel tells it as this being a gift to his future wife, to try one more time. He tried, it didn't work out. Kudos to him for trying.
I don’t miss him. I miss the notion of a father, though.
[W]hen I rose to the top step to say thank you to those who were kind enough to remember me, I felt no pain. What I felt was strength. Power. Energy. The game was good again. And I was good at it again. My heart was smiling. And I wanted everyone to see.
"Yes, a very tough set of circumstances growing up, but not making excuses, not being a bum on the street, and here he is a father of two, so I love him. I just will never quit hoping that he had a good quality of life.’”
What happens to all of us. How a grown man who has performed a single act his entire life, an act that is so simple or has become so simple, finds that it becomes not simple and, beyond that, in a lot of ways, incapacitating.
[Harvey]’d tell me it wasn’t my fault. I was not responsible for who — more precisely, what — my father was, or what he’d done to my mother and me, or what I should have done about it.
What happened happened. Now what?
I’ve told my friends, “You ever find me hanging from the garage rafters, I was murdered.”
Harvey showed me how, sometimes simply by asking, “OK, what the fuck you gonna do about it?” Emphasis on the profanity, hard like that, as if to say, It’s a big-boy world out there, Ank, and bad stuff happens, and then you decide: I’m in or I’m out.
It’s what they called the guy who knew too well the doubts swimming in Domenick’s heart and head. Where they’d send him. How they’d probably never leave. But you fight. You find a way through it or around it. You ask for help. They send me in. And we go to breakfast.
We start there. So very few people actually got it. Fewer still knew how to help. And there was only one Harvey. We didn’t slay the monster together, but we stood shoulder to shoulder and tried. Then we bandaged up and got on our feet and tried again. Some days, we had our pick of monsters.
How many I’d told there was no trick to beating this thing, and hell, there might be no beating it at all, but there was no shame in trying. Trying was the only way to find out. Trying required courage. Trying meant allowing for failure. Trying was hard and lonely. So yeah, I recommended trying. I thought about Harvey. What would Harvey say? “Go on, Ank, what the fuck”? Or, maybe, “What’s the point, Ank? What do you have left to prove? Don’t do it for the money. Don’t do it for any reason except that you want to.”
This is book 6 of the Peter Grant series.
I really enjoyed this book. I'm unsure why I enjoyed this one more than the others, and I enjoyed the others. Maybe the plot was more action, less internal thinking? Unsure.
This one has Peter tracking down the drugs involved in the death of a teen in an expensive, and empty, unit of One Hyde Park. A child of a river is involved, which said river would prefer not disclosed (doesn't happen). We also learn of another pocket of leftover magic pracitioners, passed down from mother to daughter for generations.
And there's search of the Third Principia, Newton's tome on magic. Oh, and the introduction of Guleed, a female Muslim cop who does just fine.
I will probably read the book again in a few years, and realize why I like this one more than the others. In the meantime, this is a "if you're reading the series, keep reading, this is a fun one."
I recommend the series in general. Start with Midnight Riot.
I waited about a minute, just so I could claim I’d waited five, and then headed back up the garden.
Olivia glanced at the picture, then sideways at her mother, and I saw her make the wrong decision. But, before I could say anything, she opened her mouth and stuck her future in it.
Guleed always knew how to keep her mouth shut, and had this mad way of just fading into the background whenever she wanted to. Well, we all have our ways of dealing with difficulties — mine is to ask stupid questions.
Because, for police officers, “close relative” frequently rhymes with “prime suspect,”
He spoke with that deliberately toned down posh accent that, before they allowed regional dialects on the radio, used to be known as BBC standard.
Did not know.
Useful or not, it still had to be written up because a) empirically speaking a negative result is still a result, b) someone cleverer than you might make a connection you missed and c) in the event of a case review it’s sensible to at least look like you’re being competent.
Yay, scientific method!
That’s the trouble with community policing — strangely, people start expecting you to be part of the community.
Melanie who was one of those round perky people who give the impression that it’s only a great effort of will stopping them from bouncing around the room.
Beverley said that she found that people stuck the first vaguely appropriate label on, whether it fit the facts or not.
“I know it’s hard, Peter,” she’d said. “But if you could contain your erudition and ready wit for just a little while we’d be most grateful.”
“Am I allowed to be cheeky?” I’d asked.
“No you’re fucking not,” said Seawoll.
That, as they say, is fighting talk. But, as Nightingale once told me during boxing practice, the best blow is the one your opponent doesn’t even notice until he keels over.
The word “bollocks” is one of the most beautiful and flexible in the English language. It can be used to express emotional states ranging from ecstatic surprise to weary resignation in the face of inevitable disaster.
Either the management were paying them way over the odds, or their HR department had been outsourced to Stepford, Connecticut.
I love references like these.
I'm pretty sure I've missed over half of them, too.
Generally when you’re interviewing somebody and they seem remarkably calm about one crime, it’s because they’re relieved you haven’t found out about something else.
You see, even the clever ones can’t resist being clever and the next move, if you want them to stay being clever, is to play dumb.
“Women carried on “practicing”,” said Lady Helena, “just as they carried on composing, painting and all the other professions from which history has erased them. Mother taught daughter, who passed on the skills through the generations — just as women have always had to do."
The media always calls this sort of thing senseless, but the motive made sense — it was just stupid, is what it was.
This one was a white woman with slate gray eyes which she narrowed at me when I introduced myself.
Slate gray eyes... hmmmmmm....
“My father was somebody important right up to the day he was nobody at all,” she said. “Power in the material world is fleeting.”
So, back to Mayfair where the constant flow of money keeps the streets clean and free of unsightly poor people.
This was off the books — I was not here, this never happened — the spice must flow.
“La majestueuse égalité des lois, qui interdit au riche comme au pauvre de coucher sous les ponts, de mendier dans les rues et de voler du pain,” said Nightingale later when we were preparing our case notes.
Which is French for “Them that has, gets.”
Which was totally not my fault, I might add, although I probably shouldn’t have used the word Krynoid in my official report.
Though, I have to admit the Doctor Who reference was entertaining in and of itself to me, based on my ongoing and lifelong fascination with crinoids.
Every spare centimeter of the wall space had been covered with shelves, all of which were stuffed with books.
The previous summer I’d done the exact same thing while being chased by an invisible unicorn — so at least I had form.
How not to be seen, lesson number one: Don’t stand up.
Because the alternative is you, I wanted to shout back. But the second lesson on how not to be seen is: Don’t answer back.
Sometimes courage is easy, and sometimes you have to scream at your own body to act in its own bloody best interest, and sometimes it refuses the call altogether. And the pisser is that you never know which one it’s going to be until you try.
Mercifully it must have been quite late on because it wasn’t the featureless box so favored by the American modernists, and the architect had actually made an attempt to fit it in with the rest of street.
“But we are not always the sons our fathers dream of — as you should know.” As I did know, and all the things sons do to make their fathers proud until you learn to choose your own life for your own reasons.
Hyde Park Corner is what happens when a bunch of urban planners take one look at the grinding circle of gridlock that surrounds the Arc de Triomphe in Paris and think — that’s what we want for our town.
It was full night by the time I crossed the street and the Portland stone of the Arch was bleached white by spotlights, the bronze on top lit up in blue.
Once more into the breach, I thought.
“If it’s all the same to you, sir, I think I’m going to have to see this through,” she said. “Inshallah.” As God wills it.
“Good show,” said Nightingale.
This is it, I thought. We’re all going to die.
“When you’re married you get used to each other — you really only see the person you expect to see.”