^zhurnaly 0.9951

mindfulness nonattachment oneness
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And see Insight Dice for a new experiment in Mindfulness + Nonattachment + Oneness!

Being You

Anil Seth, professor of cognitive and computational neuroscience, in his 2021 book Being You: A New Science of Consciousness does an excellent job of examining big, important ideas about mind and mathematics, intelligence and evolution. What Seth calls "the real problem of consciousness" is to "explain, predict, and control the phenomenological properties of conscious experience" — that is, understand the connections between patterns of body-brain activity and subjective experiences. This is better-defined than the fuzzy-philosophical so-called "hard problem" of the relationship(s) between mind and body.

Seth argues that progress is possible on the real problem in much the same way that progress was made on understanding life during the past century. Biologists and chemists worked on "describing the properties of living systems, and then explaining (also predicting and controlling) each of these properties in terms of physical and chemical mechanisms." Seth concludes that what seems impenetrably mysterious about mental phenomena now may not always be incomprehensible — once the underlying mechanisms are figured out for components of consciousness.

There's much more to be said, and the bulk of Being You is devoted to examining various facets of consciousness. The three big themes are:

Seth discusses objective measures of brain neural activity and their connections to mental states via the "Integrated Information Theory" of consciousness — "IIT". He explains the "top-down" theory of perception, specifically "controlled hallucination" and how:

In other words, stand the usual notion on its head: conscious minds don't see the world through sensory organs, but rather they see a "hallucination", internally generated and updated based on prediction errors.

That's an awesome inversion, one that needs much work to wrap one's mind around. Seth provides excellent examples, explains Bayesian reasoning, and offers good evidence to make a strong case for that new model of mind. He discusses other kinds of consciousness, in animals and machines. He examines the challenges of controlling bodies in the countless ways needed to stay alive, thrive, and reproduce. He distinguishes between intelligence and consciousness, and explores moral issues as well as technological ones.

Bottom line: Being You is a wonderful tour of an important emerging field of science, worth reading and re-reading.

(cf The Mysterians (1999-08-02), Thoughtful Metaphors (2000-11-08), Conscious Mind (2013-06-22), ...) - ^z - 2023-11-01

- Wednesday, November 01, 2023 at 21:47:17 (EDT)

Is Math Real?

Eugenia Cheng's new (2023) book "Is Math Real? How simple questions lead us to mathematics' deepest truths" is a chatty general-audiences discussion of what mathematicians do, and why. In the Introduction Dr Cheng summarizes the entire enterprise:

"... Deep down, math isn’t about clear answers, but about increasingly nuanced worlds in which we can explore different things being true. ..."

The book is rich in geometric examples, personal asides, fascinating trivia, and more. Again from the Intro:

For me, math is also about making something myself: it’s about making truth myself. It’s about being self-sufficient out in the wild world of ideas. This, to me, is an immensely exciting, daunting, awe-inspiring, and ultimately joyful experience, and this is what I want to describe. I want to describe what math feels like, in a way that is quite different from how it’s often thought of. I will describe the expansive side of math, the creative, the imaginative, the exploratory, the part where we dream, follow our nose, listen to our gut instinct, and feel the joy of understanding, like sweeping away fog and seeing sunshine. This is not a math textbook, nor is it a math history book. It’s a math emotions book.

... and from Chapter 4 ("What Makes Math Good"), a lovely description of qualities that mathematicians share:

I’m not sure what it takes to be a great anything, but to be a good mathematician you don’t have to be any of those particular things. You need to be open-minded and be able to think flexibly, and be able to see things from many different points of view at the same time. You need to be able to see connections, which often means being able to ignore certain details about a situation in order to see how it matches up with another when those certain details are ignored. But you also need to be flexible enough to put those details back in, and ignore different ones to see things differently. You need to be able to construct highly rigorous arguments, hold them in your brain, move them around, and fit them together with other highly rigorous arguments. And you need a tolerance, or even a thirst, for the increase in manufactured complexity that this brings with it. This also involves creating ways to deal with that complexity, like creating special eggs and then creating a special egg carton to carry them around in. And then creating a special crate for the special egg cartons, and then perhaps a special truck for those special crates, and so on. Thus it often involves building up gradually bigger and bigger dreams from smaller ones, so it calls for a vivid imagination and ability to bring weird and wonderful ideas to life in your head. There is a myth that math and science are separate from “creative” subjects in the arts, but the line between them is really quite blurry. The myth probably comes from thinking that math is just about step-by-step computations with clear answers. But note that in describing a good mathematician, I did not at any point mention arithmetic, computation, memorization, numbers, or getting the right answers. Some computational parts of math do involve computation, but not all math is computational.

Is Math Real? isn't a "deep" book in a technical-mathematical way; it's deep in philosophy, thoughtfulness, and kindness. Good!

(cf Cakes, Custard, and Category Theory (2016-02-14), Ingressive vs Congressive (2017-07-08), Beyond Infinity (2017-07-24), Ultimate Abstraction (2017-08-24), Eugenia Cheng on Thinking (2017-12-30), Many Worlds of Math (2019-03-15), Eugenia Cheng on Category Theory (2023-03-26), ...) - ^z - 2023-11-01

- Wednesday, November 01, 2023 at 09:02:35 (EDT)

Relaxation and Stress Reduction

The Relaxation and Stress Reduction Workbook by by Martha Davis, Elizabeth Robbins Eshelman, and Matthew McKay was recommended recently in Hope Reese's "Feeling Stressed? These 5 Books Can Help". It's rather pedestrian in style, and prone in places to false precision or overly-certain quick-fix prescriptions. But there are insights, like the list in Chapter 5, "Meditation":

All good! — though expressed rather too strongly and without qualifiers. Other parts of the "Meditation" are beautifully written, especially some of the suggestions for how to focus, relax, let go, and accept. They're reminiscent of another book of the five recommended in Hope Reese's article: Wherever You Go, There You Are by Jon Kabat-Zinn.

(cf Softening into Experience (2012-11-12), Equanimity and Magnanimity (2015-02-19), This Is Equanimity (2015-03-15), Stress Storm (2019-12-26), Worry, Stress, Anxiety (2020-03-04), Resilience Training (2022-10-03), ...) - ^z - 2023-10-30

- Monday, October 30, 2023 at 08:34:04 (EDT)

Nature and Nurture

Genetics Loads The Gun
Environment Pulls the Trigger

... on the heritability of traits, and their expression!

(cf Three Equations for Life (2020-05-03), ...) - ^z - 2023-10-30

- Monday, October 30, 2023 at 07:06:40 (EDT)

Brief History of the Female Body

Deena Emera's delightful (2023) book A Brief History of the Female Body: an evolutionary look at how and why the female form came to be delivers precisely what its title promises. It's a scientific overview of how evolution by natural selection drove the emergence of human physical designs, reproductive systems, and developmental strategies. And in additional to sharp technical commentary, Dr Emera is funny and engaging in discussing her personal experiences as a mother and evolutionary biologist. She reviews how life in other species on Earth met analogous challenges over the eons. She is meticulous in describing current research, open questions, alternative hypotheses, and gaps in the data. Key topics include everything from chromosomes to breasts, menstrual periods to orgasms, pregnancy to menopause, and children to grandmothers. All are treated with a light touch as well as, when needed, deep detail (though no equations). Worthwhile reading on many levels!

(cf Light of Evolution (2006-04-24), Darwin on Altruism (2006-10-31), Darwin in Conclusion (2007-01-05) ...) - ^z - 2023-10-29

- Sunday, October 29, 2023 at 08:03:28 (EDT)

Mantra - Words in the Language of God

All Beings are Words
In the Language of God

... a metaphor by William Irwin Thompson, as quoted by Sallie Tisdale — possibly in the book The Time Falling Bodies Take to Light ...

(cf Talk Dirty to Me (2014-04-08), ...) - ^z - 2023-10-27

- Friday, October 27, 2023 at 13:31:10 (EDT)

Be You, Only Better

Be You, Only Better by Kristi Hugstad, is a short, cheerful guide to "real-life self-care for young adults (and everyone else)", as per its subtitle. The chapters and their sub-heads say it all quite nicely:

... all excellent suggestions!

(cf Optimist Creed (1999-04-16), Bennett on Life (2000-03-19), Just One Thing (2012-12-02), ...) - ^z - 2023-10-27

- Friday, October 27, 2023 at 10:31:36 (EDT)

Mantra - Sit with the Void

Sit with the Void
instead of
Trying to Fill It

... about the need for deep patience and self-knowledge when seeking love in one's life — from an NY Times essay by Annie Dwyer, which ends with:

Recently, my children and I were talking and laughing together, and it was the brightest joy. I remembered how the man with the red thread said I didn’t lose. He was right. I also remembered how he struggled with fantasy. “I need to learn how to sit with the void instead of trying to fill it,” he had explained.

At the time, I didn’t understand what he meant, but now I do. I’ve had to learn how to sit with the void too. I’ve needed to be present and love myself.

I’m no longer embarrassed that my path is unusual. I look in the mirror and feel such tenderness for the woman I see. I smile, thinking: It’s already been a full life. And there’s still time.

(cf No Thing and Every Thing (2015-09-20), Mantra - Gap (2015-11-11), Mantra - No Self (2016-10-25), Nobody Home (2016-11-13), Mantra - Be the Silence (2016-12-10), Not All About Me (2018-02-18), Mantra - Be Meta, Be Open, Be Love (2018-11-11), Compassion and Balance (2023-05-17), Bubble of Peace (2023-07-05), ...) - ^z - 2023-10-27

- Friday, October 27, 2023 at 08:18:45 (EDT)

Friday Barnes, Big Trouble

Big Trouble: A Friday Barnes Mystery, third in the series of R. A. Spratt novels, follows the path of its predecessors in pre-teen detective work, with snappy dialogue between the hyper-quantitative title character and her idiosyncratic-orthogonal roommate-best-friend Melanie. The girls each view the world from their unique perspectives. Result: delightful humor!

An example, from Chapter 12 ("A Picture Is Worth a Thousand Words"), as Friday and Melanie examine a gossip magazine photo of two of their fellow boarding-school students apparently embracing, captioned "Secret Smooching at Swanky School":

"The first thing we've got to figure out," said Friday, "is where the photo was taken."
"At the school," said Melanie.
"Yes, obviously," said Friday. "But where at the school? It's hard to work out because the photo is black-and-white and the background is fuzzy."
"Plus you're in love with lan," said Melanie. "So you can't take your eyes off his lips."
"I am not in love with Ian," said Friday.
"Uh-huh," said Melanie. "And yet here you are, staring at a photo of him."
"I'm looking at the background!" said Friday.
"Of course you are," said Melanie. "Maybe you should look at his hair."
"I'm not obsessed with his hair," said Friday.
"No, I mean the angle of it," said Melanie. "It's strange."
"Maybe Ingrid ran her hand through his hair," said Friday. "That is something kissing people are known to do."
"How would you know? asked Melanie.
"We didn't only have physics books in our house growing up," said Friday. "There was a small sociology section, too."
"Still," said Melanie, "his hair seems to be defying gravity."
Friday looked at lan's hair. "You're right."
"I am?" said Melanie. "That's a nice change."
Friday tilted her head. "This photograph is at the wrong angle." She turned the magazine around. "They aren't standing up. They're horizontal."
"Ew," said Melanie, shielding her eyes. "Too much information.
"We need to talk to the victims," said Friday.
"My eyeballs?" asked Melanie.

Fast, fun, a bit more picaresque than the prior books in the series — and all good!

(cf Friday Barnes, Girl Detective (2023-10-18), Friday Barnes, Under Suspicion (2023-10-23), ...) - ^z - 2023-10-26

- Thursday, October 26, 2023 at 07:22:52 (EDT)

Friday Barnes, Under Suspicion

Book 2 in the "Friday Barnes, Girl Detective" series by R. A. Spratt, Under Suspicion, continues the tween-fiction-mystery in entertaining directions – including sly asides involving physics ("M-Theory" and "electroweak bosons"), physiology ("benign positional paroxysmal vertigo"), classic myth ("Sisyphean"), and other break-the-vocabulary-list terms. There's snappy dialog, pre-teen pre-romance humor, and cute sleuth action. Fast and fun, like its predecessor!

^z - 2023-10-23

- Monday, October 23, 2023 at 09:51:16 (EDT)

David Brooks on Being Human

"The Essential Skills for Being Human" by David Brooks is a thoughtful essay adapted from his new book How to Know a Person: The Art of Seeing Others Deeply and Being Deeply Seen. Brooks discusses how to connect — crucial skills for helping self, others, and World:

... Being openhearted is a prerequisite for being a full, kind and wise human being. But it is not enough. People need social skills. The real process of, say, building a friendship or creating a community involves performing a series of small, concrete actions well: being curious about other people; disagreeing without poisoning relationships; revealing vulnerability at an appropriate pace; being a good listener; knowing how to ask for and offer forgiveness; knowing how to host a gathering where everyone feels embraced; knowing how to see things from another’s point of view.

Brooks defines diminishers and illuminators:

... In any collection of humans, there are diminishers and there are illuminators. Diminishers are so into themselves, they make others feel insignificant. They stereotype and label. If they learn one thing about you, they proceed to make a series of assumptions about who you must be.

Illuminators, on the other hand, have a persistent curiosity about other people. They have been trained or have trained themselves in the craft of understanding others. They know how to ask the right questions at the right times — so that they can see things, at least a bit, from another’s point of view. They shine the brightness of their care on people and make them feel bigger, respected, lit up.

Brooks lists the "skills illuminators possess":

Brooks describes those who are most helpful:

The really good confidants — the people we go to when we are troubled — are more like coaches than philosopher kings. They take in your story, accept it, but prod you to clarify what it is you really want, or to name the baggage you left out of your clean tale. They’re not here to fix you; they are here simply to help you edit your story so that it’s more honest and accurate. They’re here to call you by name, as beloved. They see who you are becoming before you do and provide you with a reputation you can then go live into.

Echoes of Cardinal Newman's "Definition of a Gentleman", eh?!

(NYT-gift-link - cf Cardinal Newman (2001-10-04), Discussion and Dialogue (2006-01-07), AntiArrogance (2007-12-24), True Gentleman (2008-07-10), Eagles Are All about Efficiency (2020-05-12), ...) - ^z - 2023-10-21

- Saturday, October 21, 2023 at 12:58:09 (EDT)

All the World's Babies

A powerful, wise, loving, peaceful metaphor:

A nation is defined as a group of people with a common language, a common past and common dreams. By this definition, any parent will tell you that all the world’s babies are children of a single nation. They have a common language, a common past, common dreams. They speak the same, get angry and cry at the same things, laugh the same way. When my three children were young, I marveled at how they communicated effortlessly with other babies, no matter the language of the lullabies their parents sang them at night.

... from "All the World’s Babies Are Children of a Single Nation" by Ayman Odeh, in a New York Times essay calling for peace:

The whole of this nation of infants — Jewish, Arab, Palestinian, Israeli — wants just one thing: to grow up to a good life. It’s a simple dream. Our role as leaders is simple too: to make that possible.

As adults, we all become expatriates of that nation, and we take the dream of a good life with us: To put food on the table for our families. To know we are free to go where we want. To speak, pray and celebrate as we like. To come home safely at the end of the day. To know our loved ones will too.

NYT gift-link - (cf Our Balance Sheet (1999-09-22), Independence Day (2001-07-04), ...) - ^z - 2023-10-19

- Thursday, October 19, 2023 at 08:04:19 (EDT)

Friday Barnes, Girl Detective

What a great paragraph — in a novel that says it's for "ages 8-12" — as protagonist Friday Barnes confers with her best friend Melanie:

Friday sighed. There was no point arguing with Melanie. Words had very little semiotic meaning for her. She usually lost concentration somewhere between the beginning and the end of a sentence.

... and later on that same page:

... Friday had received an A+ for her presentation on Rosalind Franklin and how Watson, Crick, and ovarian cancer had combined to cheat her out of a Nobel Prize for her role in the discovery of the structure of DNA. ...

That's not atypical prose for R. A. Spratt's book Friday Barnes, Girl Detective. It's a delightful fast-paced tongue-firmly-in-cheek first-in-a-series of stories featuring a scary-smart somewhat-shy socially-skewed young lady who solves crimes and other mysteries. The author is Australian, and (judging by an interview with her) much like her central character. Highly recommended for all who cherish cleverness and silly fun.

(cf Three Man Boat (2002-01-10), Detectives in Togas (2003-08-06), Frog and Toad (2009-01-09), Enchanted Castle (2010-07-17), ...) - ^z - 2023-10-18

- Wednesday, October 18, 2023 at 21:39:51 (EDT)

Princess Diaries

Recommendation from a good friend: The Princess Diaries, a young adult novel by Meg Cabot. Best bit: the quote at the beginning from Frances Hodgson Burnett's A Little Princess:

"Whatever comes," she said, " cannot alter one thing. If I am a princess in rags and tatters, I can be a princess inside. It would be easy to be a princess if I were dressed in cloth of gold, but it is a great deal more of a triumph to be one all the time when no one knows it."
Princess Diaries is cute and silly. Deep? Not very. Naughty? Only a wee bit. Framework? A series of journal entries by a young lady, over a three-week period, as she learns that she's the crown heir of a tiny European nation. Discovery? Her prior teen troubles are radically changed into new, albeit equally tiny, troubles. Bottom Line? Hmmmmmm ... hard to say. First in a series of a dozen books plus some films. Fast and fun reading.

^z - 2023-10-15

- Sunday, October 15, 2023 at 11:18:13 (EDT)

Other Minds

Peter Godfrey-Smith's 2016 book Other Minds: The Octopus, the Sea, and the Deep Origins of Consciousness is a fun, fast romp through evolutionary biology, philosophy of mind, neurophysiology, and the author's personal relationships with cephalopods as a scuba diver. It raises an ocean of questions and suggests some potential answers. As Godfrey-Smith says in the first chapter, "Doing philosophy is largely a matter of trying to put things together, trying to get the pieces of very large puzzles to make some sense." Some big takeaways from Other Minds include:

Godfrey-Smith summarizes near the end of Chapter 7:

The lifespans of different animals are set by their risks of death from external causes, by how quickly they can reach reproductive age, and other features of their lifestyle and environment. That is why we can live for about a century, a nondescript fish can live for twice as long, a pine tree's life can run from John the Baptist's to your own, and a giant cuttlefish—with its wild colors and friendly curiosity—arrives and is gone in a couple of summers.

In the light of all this, I think it is becoming clearer how cephalopods came to have their peculiar combination of features. Early cephalopods had protective external shells which they dragged along as they prowled the oceans. Then the shells were abandoned. This had several interlocking effects. First, it gave cephalopod bodies their outlandish, unbounded possibilities. The extreme case is the octopus, with almost no hard parts at all, and neurons spread through the body instead of bones. Back in chapter 3 I suggested that this open-endedness, this sea of behavioral possibility, was crucial to the evolution of their complex nervous systems. It's not that the loss of a shell alone created the evolutionary pressure leading to those nervous systems. Rather, a feedback system was established. The possibilities inherent in this body create an opportunity for the evolution of finer behavioral control. And once you have a larger nervous system, this makes it worthwhile to further expand the body's possibilities—collecting all those sensors on the arms, creating the machinery of color change and a skin that can see.

The loss of the shell also had another effect: it made the animals much more vulnerable to predators, especially fast-moving fish, with bones and teeth and good vision. That put a premium on the evolution of wiles and camouflage.

But there is only so much those tricks will achieve, only so many times they will save the animal. An octopus can't expect to live a long time, especially as they must be active as predators themselves. They can't just hide in a hole and wait for food to come to them. They have to be out and about, and once in the open they are vulnerable. This vulnerability makes them ideal candidates for the Medawar and Williams effects to compress their natural lifespan; a cephalopod's lifespan has been tuned by the continual risk of not making it to the next day. As a result, they have ended up with their unusual combination: a very large nervous system and a very short life. They have the large nervous system because of what those unbounded bodies make possible and the need to hunt while being hunted; their lives are short because their vulnerability tunes their lifespan. The initially paradoxical combination makes sense.

And besides conceptual insights, Other Minds also has lots of stories and photographs of cute octopuses!

(cf Bits of Consciousness (2000-01-21), Suffer the Animals (2000-06-11), Drawing the Line (2004-07-11), ...) - ^z - 2023-10-12

- Thursday, October 12, 2023 at 15:02:43 (EDT)

Placebo Effect

"No Better Than a Placebo" by Ted Kaptchuk (NYT 2023-10-10) explains some of the complex psycho-physical issues surrounding health:

To date, the best explanation for the results of open-placebo trials suggests that for certain illnesses in which the brain amplifies symptoms, engaging in a healing drama can nudge the brain to diminish the volume or false alarm of what’s called central sensitization — when the nervous system overemphasizes or amplifies perceptions of discomfort. This mostly involves nonconscious brain processes that scientists call Bayesian brain, which describes how the brain modulates symptoms. The intensification and the relief of symptoms use the same neural pathways. Considerable evidence also shows that placebos, even when patients know they are taking them, trigger the release of neurotransmitters like endorphins and cannabinoids and engage specific regions of the brain to offer relief. Basically, the body has an internal pharmacy that relieves symptoms.

So placebos should be used – with full recognition of both their benefits and limitations: "[They] shouldn’t be a first-line treatment; patients should be given what effective medicines are available. After all, placebos rarely, if ever, change the underlying pathology or objectively measured signs of disease. I like to remind people that they don’t shrink tumors or cure infections."

Kaptchuk's bottom-line conclusion is a crucial one:

... rituals, symbols and human kindness matter immensely when it comes to healing.

(cf Medicine and Statistics (2010-11-13), Dizzy Doc (2023-06-22), ...) - ^z - 2023-10-11

- Wednesday, October 11, 2023 at 08:28:28 (EDT)

Paul Bloom on How to Teach

In "Diminishing returns and tripping balls" psychology professor Paul Bloom offers excellent advice on how to be a great teacher. Abridged and arranged to include Bloom's additional commentary:

  1. Enthusiasm. When you’re in class, you should act like there’s no place in the world you’d rather be. Enthusiasm is infectious ...
  2. Confidence. ...
  3. Mix it up. Don’t just do the same thing over and over again, throw in some variety. ...
  4. Bring in other people. ... [but this] is risky, particularly for a lecture class. Most guest lecturers are awful (most lecturers are awful) ...
  5. Be modest in your goals for each class. The most common mistake of beginning teachers is cramming too much material in any single session. ...
  6. Be yourself. Everyone has strength; teach in a way that aligns with what you’re good at. ...
  7. Teaching prep can leech away all your time; don’t let it. Say to yourself: Diminishing Returns. Then say: Opportunity Costs. Repeat as needed.
  8. A well-timed “Great question. I don’t know — but I’ll find out for next class” is really charming and makes everyone feel good. ...
  9. Use specific students as examples in arbitrary ways. ...
  10. . ... Every question a student asks is, at minimum, “Interesting!”. If it’s total gibberish, go for something like: “Parts of your question might go a bit too far beyond our topic for today, but one of your points raises something really neat ...” ...
  11. Use concrete examples whenever possible ...
  12. Many good teachers self-medicate before class, especially if they suffer from anxiety. ...
  13. At least for the first class, get there early, and make small talk with the students who are also there early. ...
  14. Take notes after class about what worked and what didn’t. ...
  15. You have a captive audience that relies on you for your grades. ... Don’t abuse this. ... Be [expletive] professional.
  16. If you can help it, don’t swear unnecessarily.
  17. [Avoid] having students give presentations in seminars. Most student presentations are awful (of course they are—it’s really hard to give a good presentation; as I said above, most professors give awful presentations) and while the students might get something out of preparing and presenting, it’s boring for everyone who has to listen.
  18. ... make sure that every student talks in every meeting of a seminar. ...
  19. Remember: It’s not about you.

(cf Tufte Thoughts (2000-12-18), Helpful Homilies (2007-09-02), ...) - ^z - 2023-10-09

- Monday, October 09, 2023 at 15:21:52 (EDT)

Mantra - Less I, Less Me

Less I
Less Me

Send the self off-stage sometimes, and give the starring rôles to others — start sentences with fewer first-person pronouns — turn the knobs on the Utility Function to place greater weight on the rest of the universe — open more windows, doors, eyes, ears, arms, mind ...

... so magically, everything becomes easier, quieter, more graceful, less brittle, and perhaps infinitely happier!

(cf Unselfing (2009-01-14), Unselfing Again (2009-11-01), Mantra - Let Others Be (2015-11-19), I Want Happiness (2015-12-04), Mantra - Cling to Nothing (2016-04-17), Mantra - Unself Together (2018-03-30), Less I (2018-05-26), Less Me (2021-12-14), ...) - ^z - 2023-10-06

- Friday, October 06, 2023 at 07:43:16 (EDT)

Nasty, Brutish, and Short

"Ask Questions, and Question Answers!" Think of Socrates as a comedian, with little children as his props. That's what Scott Hershovitz's book Nasty, Brutish, and Short: Adventures in Philosophy with My Kids is about: deep issues, explored entertainingly as dialogues with his two sons, plus extensive asides and commentary. Major themes, as per chapter titles:

Among the best bits, from the Introduction ("The Art of Thinking"), on how to read the book:

... That's one of the things I love about philosophy: you can do it anytime, anywhere, in conversation with others or all by yourself. You just have to think things through.

To that end, I want you to read this book a bit differently than you would many others. Most nonfiction writers want you to believe the things they say in their books. They're hoping that you'll accept their authority and adopt their way of thinking about the world.

That's not my aim at all. Sure, I'd like to persuade you to see things my way. But the truth is: I'm happy for you to think differently—as long as you've thought it through. In fact, I suggest that you approach the arguments I offer skeptically. Don't assume that I'm right. In fact, assume that I've gone wrong somewhere, and see if you can spot the spot.

But do me a favor. Don't just disagree. If you think I'm wrong, work out the reasons why. And once you've done that, think through what I might say in response. And how you'd reply, and what I'd retort. And so on, until you feel like you aren't learning anything anymore. But don't give up too quick; the further you go, the more you understand.

That's how philosophers work (at least the grown-up ones). I tell my students: when you have an objection to another philosopher's work, you should assume that she already thought of it—and that she thought it so misguided it wasn't even worth mentioning. Then you should try to work out why. If you give it a good try and you can't figure out where you've gone wrong, it's time to tell other people about it. The goal is to get in the habit of treating your own ideas as critically as you treat other people's. ...

... and in the chapter "Mind", on the importance of not coming to conclusions prematurely:

... Jules Coleman has been a friend and mentor for decades. He was my teacher in law school. And he taught me one of the most important lessons I ever learned.

I saw him in the hall when I was a student, and we started to talk philosophy. I can't remember what the question was. But I do remember attempting to share my view.

"In my view . . ." I started.

He cut me off.

"You're too young to have views," he said. "You can have questions, curiosities, ideas . . . even inclinations. But not views. You're not ready for views."

He was making two points. First, it's dangerous to have views, because often you dig in to defend them. And that makes it hard to hear what other people have to say. One of Coleman's signal virtues as a philosopher is his willingness to change his views. That's because he's more committed to questions than answers. He wants to understand,and he's willing to go wherever his understanding takes him, even if it requires him to backtrack from where he's been before.

Second, you have to earn your views. You shouldn't have a view unless you can defend it, make an argument for it, and explain where the arguments against it go wrong. When Coleman said I was too young for views, he wasn't really making a point about age. (I was twenty-six.) He was saying I was too new to philosophy. Decades on, I have lots of views. I can say why I hold them and where I think others go wrong. But I don't have views on every question, because I haven't done the work to earn them. ...

Bottom line: Nasty, Brutish, and Short is full of fine stuff, though at times perhaps it gets a bit too personal-narrow, with too much foul language and too much bias toward what-would-be-nice-if-it-were-true currently-conventional political beliefs. But that's ok – the reader has already been warned not to accept "answers" unquestioningly! Worth reading, and pondering.

(cf Living Philosophy (1999-06-12), Deliberate Opinion (2001-10-14), Robert Nozick (2002-02-02), Most Important (2002-05-16), Think Again (2002-08-29), No Dogs or Philosophers Allowed (2003-10-13), Discussion and Dialogue (2006-01-07), Question Answers (2016-10-09), Philosophy Now (2019-08-18), ...) - ^z - 2023-10-02

- Monday, October 02, 2023 at 17:10:10 (EDT)

Jimmy Buffett, R.I.P.

Lovely thoughts and quotes from Maureen Dowd's NYT column "Living and Dying in ¾ Time", celebrating the life of Jimmy Buffett (1946-2023):

“Well, I have learned one thing from my latest in a series of the ever-appearing speed bumps of life — 75 is NOT the new 50,” he emailed me. “Thinking younger doesn’t quite do it. You still have to do the hard work of, as the Toby Keith song says, ‘Don’t let the old man in.’ And that is my job now, the way I see it.”


“I have always loved books, reading and libraries, a gift from my mother,” Jimmy said. “The Library of Congress is a monumental treasure you don’t have to dig up; you just walk in the door of American history. ‘Margaritaville’ in the Library of Congress. I just have to giggle, but with pride. I haven’t received many awards in my profession, but I am OK with that. I think the best reward for a performer is to please the audience.”


But in the last couple of years, he often wrote from less exotic places, Boston and Houston, where he was being treated for an aggressive form of skin cancer, Merkel cell carcinoma. (Was there a price for trademarking the sun? Even so, I bet he wouldn’t have changed a thing.) He stayed upbeat on the “juice,” as he called his infusions to treat the cancer, and spoke proudly about his “all-female doctor team dedicated to keeping the old man out” on the road. He would say he had to “go into the pits for some adjustments” and reassure me that he was getting “weller.” He called it an irritation, a Southern fingernail on an English chalkboard.

(cf Bennett on Life (2000-03-19), Charles Lambiana (2000-10-24), Old Age (2007-05-22), ...) - ^z - 2023-10-02

- Monday, October 02, 2023 at 07:47:09 (EDT)

No Harm, Yes Foul

The "No Harm, No Foul" rule is simply wrong – as per the lovely anecdote told by wise investor-philosopher-professor Benjamin Graham ("Current Problems in Security Analysis", Lecture, New York Institute of Finance, 1947) quoted in the Hussman Funds Annual Report for 2023:

I recall to those of you who are bridge players the emphasis that bridge experts place on playing a hand right rather than on playing it successfully. Because, as you know, if you play it right you are going to make money and if you play it wrong you lose money – in the long run. There is a beautiful little story about the man who was the weaker bridge player of the husband-and-wife team. It seems he bid a grand slam, and at the end he said very triumphantly to his wife "I saw you making faces at me all the time, but you notice I not only bid this grand slam but I made it. What can you say about that?"

And his wife replied very dourly, "If you had played it right you would have lost it."

(cf Lecture #10 of The Rediscovered Lectures of Benjamin Graham, and Capital Ideas (2000-04-08), Bubble Busters (2002-02-06), Harry Browne Rules of Financial Safety (2019-12-24), Shiller Price Earnings Ratio (2021-03-29), Irrational Exuberance (2021-08-13), ...) - ^z - 2023-10-02

- Monday, October 02, 2023 at 07:27:44 (EDT)

Jubilant Retirement

The word for "retirement" in Spanish is Jubilación – an obvious cognate for "jubilation", and the perfect term for an ideal transition from the Work-for-Pay-from-Others back to the Learn-and-Grow-for-Self early phases of Life!

(cf Bird's Nest on the Ground (2009-07-19), Bob Williams Sketch - Nearing Retirement (2011-07-21), Retirement News (2011-08-18), Bob Williams Sketch - Retirement Express (2011-10-04), Retirement Mental Health Advice (2023-05-25), and course notes parts [1], [2], [3], [4], [5], ...) - ^z - 2023-10-02

- Monday, October 02, 2023 at 07:04:21 (EDT)

Ways to Mend the World

Another kind, helpful, loving list to ponder, Anglican priest Tish Harrison Warren's "11 Small Ways You Can Help Mend the World", in her newsletter from the New York Times dated 12 June 2022:

  1. Have more in-person conversations. — "... interaction, however profound, however fleeting, helps us connect with others in ways that cannot be replicated online but that form the very fabric of our lives and society."
  2. Get outside. — "... We are made to be creatures who spend a lot of time in the natural world, and doing so humanizes us in deeply necessary ways."
  3. Eschew mobs – online and in real life. — "... when a protest or conversation becomes unruly and vicious, certainly if it skews toward violence, then it contributes more heat than light to the world."
  4. Read books. —"... the world is complex. In order to even attempt to understand it, we have to sit with slower, longer arguments, stories and ideas."
  5. Give money away. — "... the first question to ask in making a budget is, 'How can I use what I have to repair the world?'"
  6. Invest in institutions more than personal brands. — "... One way to rebuild a better world is to invest time, money and energy into reforming broken institutions and sustaining healthy ones."
  7. Invest in children. — "... If we want a flourishing future, we must seek the flourishing of children in the present."
  8. Observe the Sabbath. — "... We, as a people, need rest. One intentional way to find it is to use one day of seven to chill out. Don't work. Don't get on screens. Don't spend money, if you can avoid it. Enjoy the world or a nap. Slow down. ... allow those who work for us or around us to also embrace both meaningful work and rest."
  9. Make a steel man of others' arguments. — "... Choosing to seek out the best arguments of those with whom we disagree requires humility and curiosity, and it makes for healthier societal discourse."
  10. Practice patience. — "... 'Patience outfits faith, guides peace, assists love, equips humility, waits for penitence, seals confession, keeps the flesh in check, preserves the spirit, bridles the tongue, restrains the hands, tramples temptation underfoot, removes what causes us to stumble. ... It lightens the care of the poor, teaches moderation to the rich, lifts the burdens of the sick, delights the believer, welcomes the unbeliever. ... For where God is there is his progeny, patience. When God's Spirit descends patience is always at his side.' [Robert Louis Wilken]"
  11. Pray. — "... prayer and work go together. And because, ultimately, true renewal requires more than we can do on our own."

... yes, rather religious – and yes, full of hope and good ideas for the future.

(cf Inspiration Prayer (2003-04-10), Help, Thanks, Wow (2013-02-25), Mr Rogers Asks (2019-11-18), Clearly, Dearly, Nearly (2020-02-05), Mantra - Greater Love (2020-02-21), ...) - ^z - 2023-09-30

- Saturday, September 30, 2023 at 07:35:00 (EDT)


"Being There" by David French (NYT Gift Link) is a beautiful ode to friendship – including:

... the first commandment of friendship:
Simply being there ...

It concludes with the author's advice to some young people:

Stay together, I said. It's going to get hard. Your kids are young. Your careers are just starting to take off. But stay together. Be there, even when it's hard. Even when it's inconvenient. After I got off the call, I kicked myself for not remembering a quote by C.S. Lewis: "Friendship is unnecessary," he wrote, "like philosophy, like art, like the universe itself (for God did not need to create). It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things which give value to survival."

That single quote says so much. Compared with the competing demands of family and work, in any given moment friendship can feel unnecessary. But as the years roll on, and countless justifiable individual absences wear down our relationships, there will come a time when we will feel their loss. But it need not be that way, especially when our simplest and highest command is merely being there.

... and that's what friends do!

(cf Friendship and Meditation (2012-11-06), Stand by You (2017-01-11), Friend Sits by Friend (2018-07-04), Unconditional Friendliness (2018-08-10), What Friends Do (2019-11-26), ...) - ^z - 2023-09-28

- Thursday, September 28, 2023 at 08:58:59 (EDT)

Money and Happiness, Analyzed

"The Rich Are Not Who We Think They Are. And Happiness Is Not What We Think It Is, Either." by Seth Stephens-Davidowitz is a cute data-analytic 2022 book-excerpt. It begins by noting that most high-earning people – the top 0.1% who take in more than ~$1.5M/year – are not famous billionaires. They're owners of a "regional business" like an auto dealership or beverage distributor. These tend to be local quasi-monopolies that make money in a boring way.

More fascinating are Stephens-Davidowitz's comments on happiness and its sources. Getting more money helps, but only logarithmically. ("You need to keep doubling your income to get the same happiness boost.") The leading factors behind feeling good are unsurprising:

The activities that make people happiest include sex, exercise and gardening. People get a big happiness boost from being with a romantic partner or friends but not from other people, like colleagues, children or acquaintances. Weather plays only a small role in happiness, except that people get a hearty mood boost on extraordinary days, such as those above 75 degrees and sunny. People are consistently happier when they are out in nature, particularly near a body of water, particularly when the scenery is beautiful.

The data behind this are in the study "Are You Happy While You Work?" by Alex Bryson and George MacKerron. Its abstract summarizes:

Using a new data source permitting individuals to record their wellbeing via a smartphone, we explore within-person variance in individuals' wellbeing measured momentarily at random points in time. We find paid work is ranked lower than any of the other 39 activities individuals can report engaging in, with the exception of being sick in bed. Precisely how unhappy one is while working varies significantly with where you work; whether you are combining work with other activities; whether you are alone or with others; and the time of day or night you are working.

The results are in Table 3, "Happiness in Different Activities (fixed effects regression model)":

Activity% change in Happiness
Intimacy, making love14.20
Theatre, dance, concert9.29
Exhibition, museum, library8.77
Sports, running, exercise8.12
Gardening, allotment7.83
Singing, performing6.95
Talking, chatting, socialising6.38
Birdwatching, nature watching6.28
Walking, hiking6.18
Hunting, fishing5.82
Drinking alcohol5.73
Hobbies, arts, crafts5.53
Meditating, religious activities4.95
Match, sporting event4.39
Childcare, playing with children4.10
Pet care, playing with pets3.63
Listening to music3.56
Other games, puzzles3.07
Shopping, errands2.74
Gambling, betting2.62
Watching TV, film2.55
Computer games, iPhone games2.39
Eating, snacking2.38
Cooking, preparing food2.14
Drinking tea/coffee1.83
Listening to speech/podcast1.41
Washing, dressing, grooming1.18
Sleeping, resting, relaxing1.08
Browsing the Internet0.59
Texting, email, social media0.56
Housework, chores, DIY-0.65
Travelling, commuting-1.47
In a meeting, seminar, class-1.50
Admin, finances, organising-2.45
Waiting, queueing-3.51
Care or help for adults-4.30
Working, studying-5.43
Sick in bed-20.4

The comments for the above table observe:

In Table 3 we see how working compares to the correlations with other activities. The most pleasurable experience for individuals is love-making and intimacy, which raises individuals' happiness by roughly 14% (relative to not doing this activity). This is followed by leisure activities such as going to the theatre, going to a museum and playing sport. Paid work comes very close to the bottom of the happiness ranking. It is the second worst activity for happiness after being sick in bed, although being sick in bed has a much larger effect, reducing happiness scores by just over 20%.

Bottom lines:

(cf Optimist Creed (1999-04-16), Unenviable Happiness (2006-02-27), Pursuit of Happiness (2008-11-19), Models of Happiness (2012-01-05), Happiness Buffer (2013-12-22), Mantra - Happiness Is (2018-03-20), Happiness and Excellence (2021-11-10), ...) - ^z - 2023-09-26

- Tuesday, September 26, 2023 at 07:48:24 (EDT)

Abundance Mindset

Sonia Vadlamani's essay "Abundance mindset: why it’s important and 8 ways to create it" suggests a rich set of strategies to pursue toward happiness, prosperity, sharing, and hope:

  1. Believe in infinite possibilities
  2. Understand the power of your thoughts
  3. Stop comparing yourself to others
  4. Incorporate gratitude as a daily practice
  5. Build win-win situations for all
  6. Be willing to learn
  7. Create daily affirmations that encourage abundance
  8. Surround yourself with others with abundance mindset

(cf Incalculable Wealth (2000-11-12), Hopeful Rejoinders (2001-06-23), Millions of Good Deeds (2014-05-20), See the Good in Others (2018-01-02), Sharing Awareness (2020-07-06), Cup Full of Love (2021-08-02), Genuine, Gallant, Generous, Grateful, Good (2023-09-16), ...) - ^z - 2023-09-21

- Thursday, September 21, 2023 at 07:48:50 (EDT)

Eleven Laws of Systems Thinking

Suggestions from Peter Senge's book The Fifth Discipline:

  1. Today's problems come from yesterday's solutions.
  2. The harder you push, the harder the system pushes back.
  3. Behavior grows better before it grows worse.
  4. The easy way out leads back in.
  5. The cure can be worse than the disease.
  6. Faster is slower.
  7. Cause and effect are not always closely related in time and space.
  8. Small changes can produce big results – but the areas of highest leverage are often the least obvious.
  9. You can have your cake and eat it too – but not all at once.
  10. Dividing an elephant in half does not produce two small elephants.
  11. There is no blame.

(cf Transient Behavior (1999-05-11), Epistemological Enginerooms (2000-08-10), Fifth Disciplinarians (2000-09-10), Discussion and Dialogue (2006-01-07), Awareness, No Blame, Change (2009-04-19), Learningful Life (2021-07-02), Work as School (2023-06-02), ...) - ^z - 2023-09-20

- Wednesday, September 20, 2023 at 07:47:41 (EDT)


Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach (2003) is a humorous survey of dead bodies. The chapters cover a wide range of applications:

... and more! Roach's writing style is smooth and chatty; the technical content seems reliable; the only major fault is the lack of an index.

(cf Prayers of Comfort (2004-01-07), Johnson Condolences (2008-01-05), ...) - ^z - 2023-09-18

- Monday, September 18, 2023 at 14:02:15 (EDT)

Recovery to Health

From "The Checkup With Dr. Wen: Three lessons for people struggling with prolonged recovery", gentle-wise suggestions by Leana S Wen for those facing medical (or other!) challenges:

  1. Push for an answer, but know there might not be one.Much of medicine exists in a gray area. Often, things are clear only in retrospect. A course of treatment can be a form of diagnosis. What works for one person might not work for another. Being an advocate for your care means bringing up concerns to your providers, but they, too, are limited in what they can do. That doesn't mean patients should give up. Keep a journal of how you feel in response to various treatments. Learn from online communities and proactively bring up options with your providers. You are the expert when it comes to your body; speak up when something isn't right and continue pushing to try methods that could help.
  2. Redefine your goals.Goals need to be calibrated to your circumstances. If you’re facing setbacks from illness or other life events, it’s okay — indeed necessary — to set new objectives and take things day by day.
  3. Find joy and gratitude where you can.

All so difficult to do, and so important to try (or at least try to try) — even when not (totally) successful — and to Dr Wen's list, perhaps add:

Help Others

(cf Optimist Creed (1999-04-16), Personal, Permanent, Pervasive (2009-04-27), Disease as Journey (2009-12-16), Tough-Minded Optimists (2009-12-22), Power of Optimism (2016-02-23), Sheryl Sandberg on the Hard Days (2016-05-22), ...) - ^z - 2023-09-18

- Monday, September 18, 2023 at 07:00:58 (EDT)

Longevity List

Obvious and important: observations in the article "4 things the world’s longest-living people—residents of ‘Blue Zones’ like Okinawa and Sardinia—do to stay healthy and happy" by Renée Onque (CNBC, 2023-09-16), citing Dan Buettner:

... not a lot of rocket science, and not bad ideas to practice!

(cf Bennett on Life (2000-03-19), Life Time Management 1 (2001-06-13), Old Age (2007-05-22), Old Age Hardening (2012-06-07), Ikigai (2020-07-18), Awe Walk (2020-10-04), ...) - ^z - 2023-09-17

- Sunday, September 17, 2023 at 07:59:50 (EDT)

Genuine, Gallant, Generous, Grateful, Good

Turn around some common character woes – scared, selfish, spiteful, small – and make a list of positives, perhaps in an alliterative style to aid memory and encourage virtue?

... and of course:

(cf Smile and Listen (2011-08-20), Let Others Be Right (2012-12-31), The Heart of Buddhism (2015-01-10), See the Good in Others (2018-01-02), 2019-06-16 - Self-Discovery, Skills of Mind, Generosity of Heart (2019-07-07), Mantra - Give More Praise (2019-07-28), Being Simply Beautiful (2021-06-04), Gratefulation and Gratituding (2021-11-11), ...) - ^z - 2023-09-16

- Saturday, September 16, 2023 at 08:00:38 (EDT)

The Marriage Question

Clare Carlisle's book The Marriage Question: George Eliot's Double Life is a deeply detailed and insightful literary biography of Mary Anne Evans aka Marian Evans aka George Eliot (1819-1880), the extraordinary British novelist who "married" — but not in the eyes of the law or society — the love of her life, George Lewes. Carlisle's analysis of Eliot's maculate situation is fascinating and raises profound, important questions about life. As the book's synopsis says:

... Through the immense ambition and dark marriage plots of her novels, we see Eliot wrestling—in art and in life—with themes of desire and sacrifice, motherhood and creativity, trust and disillusion, destiny and chance. ...

And there are indeed so many questions, including:

Carlisle in her Preface touches upon such issues and their relevance today, more than a century later:

... how do you tell the difference between protectiveness and control, between love and selfishness, between loyalty and submission? Who has compromised more, sacrificed more, suffered more? Who has the most power? ... Many of the themes [Eliot] explores in her art — desire, dependence, trust, violence, sanctity — could be transferred to wider, less traditional ideas of married life. ... Eliot's unusual circumstances brought her closer to a modern experience of marriage. She was involved with several men before settling down with a long-term partner in her mid-thirties. She chose not to have children, and navigated relationships with Lewes's sons. Within a few years of her married life she was earning much more than her husband. Living at once inside marriage and outside its conventions, she could experience this form of life — so familiar yet also so perplexing — from both sides. A successful marriage was never, for this woman, an easy lapse into social conformity, but a precarious balancing act — and people were watching to see if she would fall.

Earlier in the preface, via rich metaphors, Carlisle sketches the reality of long-term relationships:

Marriage is made of these intimate and ephemeral moments, yet it also has epic proportions. It stretches out through time, into the future, growing and changing: that is why George Eliot had to write grand novels such as Middlemarch to bring it into view. Like a plant, a long-term relationship has its phases of development, its cycles, its seasons, its changing weather. Under adverse conditions, it might wither and die; it might come close to death and then revive. When we imagine a marriage like this, we think about how it is connected with other living things — other people, other relationships — and rooted in an ecosystem. Victorian philosophers learned to call this ecosystem a 'milieu' or 'environment'. We could also call it a world: a mixture of natural, social and cultural conditions.

Getting together with another person means stepping into their world: their family, friendships, culture, career path, ambitions; the places they know and the possibilities they contemplate; their taste and style and habits. Being in a marriage — legal or otherwise — means living in a shared world. We might even say that the marriage is this shared world: again, something that grows and changes.

... beautiful, thoughtful, provocative!

(cf My Religion (2000-11-06), Barrett and Browning (2001-11-11), Interracial Checkmate (2004-07-20), Painting vs Writing (2006-03-29), Love and Marriage (2007-08-01), Passage to India - Love and Marriage (2017-10-30), Hearing the Grass Grow (2020-02-08), ...) - ^z - 2023-09-12

PS And there's also arch humor, as in Chapter 11 ("The Other Shore") where Carlisle breaks the fourth wall in discussing Eliot's marriage, two years after Lewes death in 1878, to John Cross, 20 years younger than she:

When he reaches this part of the book, my editor is shocked. He has been filled with admiration for Eliot — so gifted, so brave, so thoughtful and profound — and now I am suggesting that she married John Cross so that he would write her biography and have her buried in Westminster Abbey. He does not like it at all. Why must we ascribe to her such mercenary motives? No!' I cry — it comes out louder than I meant it to — and explain that of course her reasons were mixed: she liked Cross, genuinely cared for him, probably fancied him too. My editor is still frowning. Usually I am rather in awe of him, but now I launch into a vehement speech. Why does anyone get married? people don't choose a partner just for their intrinsic qualities, but for the whole world they bring. Very often marriage promises some change for the better: an end to loneliness, alleviation of hardship, escape from parental control, the kudos of an attractive or successful spouse, a nicer home, a new social circle, the prospect of children, help with life's practicalities, creative inspiration . . . When a relationship seems to be reduced to such extrinsic motives, we are quick to judge it harshly. But this is not how I see Eliot's marriage to Cross at all! I pause for breath. 'So say all that! he says with a sweep of the hand, and of course I follow his advice.

While Romanticism bursts through conventional moral codes, it carries a moralism of its own — an urge to purify marriage of its self-interest, its worldliness, its pragmatism. I am sure that ambition, mixed with love and loneliness, provided Eliot with a motive for marrying Cross — just as a similar mixture had led her to choose Lewes. Like my editor, she disapproved of this particular motive, and devised a marriage plot that carefully concealed it.


- Tuesday, September 12, 2023 at 19:09:52 (EDT)

Better Memory

So as not to forget 😊, some obvious-and-good suggestions from Jancee Dunn's NYT essay "Phone. Keys. Wallet … Brain?:

(cf Parallel Processing Paradox (2004-09-24), Mediocre Multitaskers (2009-09-01), Mantra - Do Less, Better (2016-12-14), Memory Improvement (2022-07-10), ...) - '^z - 2023-09-12

- Tuesday, September 12, 2023 at 08:41:06 (EDT)

Don't Do Your Best

Memorable bits from Keith Johnstone's TEDx YYC talk "Don't Do Your Best (transcriber Midori T, reviewer Hiroko Kawano):

I always think teachers should reveal everything to their students, especially when they don't know something. All the teachers I ever had always knew something, which was really discouraging. They teach you that they choose really good poems, so then you think, 'I can never write one like that.' ...

... and

I decided when I was just before my ninth birthday not to believe anything the grown-ups said. And the next day, I decided to always see if the opposite could be true. I think it changed my life. I've been doing it ever since. And it taught me to be looking for the obvious and not the clever. The obvious is really your true self. The clever is an imitation of somebody else, really.

... and

The audience think inside the box. If the phone rings, they think you're going to answer it. The phone can ring on an improvisation stage, and somebody will hide behind the sofa because they're wanting to be original.

... and from the slides of quotes – of which only four of the eleven were used:

(cf Impro (2012-11-10), Yes, and... (2012-11-14), Positive and Obvious (2012-12-12), Status and Teaching (2012-12-19), Make Mistakes (2013-02-27), Check Your Partner (2013-03-30), Keith Johnstone Improv Quotes (2013-12-26), ...) - ^z - 2023-09-10

- Sunday, September 10, 2023 at 19:51:36 (EDT)

Electrolyte Friends

Funny how giving or receiving a tiny gift can lead to something marvelous! Three dear trail buddies, for instance, first met during ultramarathons a decade or more ago. One or the other of us was suffering from electrolyte imbalance, cramping up, or game-ending fatigue. A timely mid-course present of a few electrolyte capsules ("Succeed!" brand e-caps, as it turned out) solved the problems and laid the foundations for long-term friendships. The stories began at:

... and continued in dozens of runs, races, and other meetings thereafter. So wonderful we met, comrades!

^z - 2023-09-07

- Thursday, September 07, 2023 at 07:59:04 (EDT)

They Have a Word for It

Howard Rheingold's 1988 book They Have a Word for It is subtitled "A Lighthearted Lexicon of Untranslatable Words and Phrases". It's fun, albeit a bit dated in tone, not dense in information, and erratic in quality. Some of the better words are widely known already; others are deservedly forgotten. Here a few examples that may lie somewhere in between:

Many of Rheingold's words are ostentatiously obscure, arcane, or of questionable utility. May they rest in piece, along with their forgotten siblings!

(cf Weekend Bridge (2014-04-16), ...) - ^z - 2023-09-06

- Wednesday, September 06, 2023 at 21:42:08 (EDT)


The End of Burnout: Why Work Drains Us and How to Build Better Lives, by Jonathan Malesic is, sadly, a mostly-personal report on the author's tragic life-experiences, clothed in a discussion of historical-societal exhaustion, depression, and general suffering associated with "work". There are insightful bits – esp perhaps the discussion of "workload, control, reward, community, fairness, and values" as six key areas (identified by Michael Leiter and Christina Maslach). As Malesic summarizes near the end of Chapter 4:

... Workload and reward represent what you put into work and what you get in return. The relation between them is a question of justice, of getting what you deserve. Fairness is also about justice. Autonomy is indispensable to moral responsibility and action. Community is the human context for our ethical actions and the source of our moral norms. And values inform all aspects of our moral lives.

Justice, autonomy, community, values: these are the basic components of ethics. And when they are damaged or absent in a workplace, employees are likely to feel drawn across a widening gap between their ideals and the reality of their jobs. They're more likely to become exhausted and cynical and lose their sense of accomplishment. This means burnout is fundamentally a failure of how we treat each other; it's a failure of ethics, the norms of action within our culture. People burn out because, in our organizations, we do not afford them the conditions they desire or deserve.

Excellent insights! But overall, Burnout is long on anecdote and short on higher-level analysis. Malesic includes appropriate disclaimers, like "... I am just one worker; I want to be careful not to overdraw any conclusions about work itself from experience that may be peculiar to me. ...". And Malesic's vision is a noble one, as he summarizes in Chapter 6:

To overcome burnout, we have to get rid of that ideal and create a new shared vision of how work fits into a life well lived. That vision will replace the work ethic’s old, discredited promise. It will make dignity universal, not contingent on paid labor. It will put compassion for self and others ahead of productivity. And it will affirm that we find our highest purpose in leisure, not work. We will realize this vision in community and preserve it through common disciplines that keep work in its place. The vision, assembled from new and old ideas alike, will be the basis of a new culture, one that leaves burnout behind.

The vision, however, is far better captured in his op-ed essays in the NY Times, parts of which are derived from Burnout.

(cf Future of Work (2021-09-26), Not Your Job (2023-09-04), ...) - ^z - 2023-09-06

- Wednesday, September 06, 2023 at 14:07:54 (EDT)

Not Your Job

Jonathan Malesic in his NYT op-ed "College Students: School Is Not Your Job" offers a deep insight on work versus being and learning and growing and flourishing:

College is a unique time in your life to discover just how much your mind can do. Capacities like an ear for poetry, a grasp of geometry or a keen moral imagination may not ‘pay off’ financially (though you never know), but they are part of who you are. That makes them worth cultivating. Doing so requires a community of teachers and fellow learners. Above all, it requires time: time to allow your mind to branch out, grow and blossom.

... and openness to new learning applies to old retirees too! – and everyone else, eh?

(cf Pursuit of Excellence (2002-02-22), Knowledge and Society (2002-03-25), Improving My Mind (2003-06-22), What We Know (2006-08-15), Asimov on Libraries (2007-12-28), Learn to Learn (2020-01-29), Learningful Life (2021-07-02), Future of Work (2021-09-26), Work as School (2023-06-02), ...) - ^z - 2023-09-04

- Monday, September 04, 2023 at 21:20:25 (EDT)

Proud Hugs

Public embraces:
   ... in the gas station driveway
         — as if we were newlyweds
   ... at the metro parking lot
         — as if it were time to part forever
   ... beside the giant MRI magnet
         — as if someone were about to enter surgery
   ... next to the table in the restaurant after dinner
         — as if this were the last meal before an execution

Or maybe ... we're just sharing our loving friendship with the World!

(cf Startled by Beauty (2002-12-31), Silver Anniversary (2003-09-06), Public Glimpses (2007-03-10), In a Poem (2010-06-17), Elements (2015-06-02), Startled by Beauty (2016-11-17), Be the Loving (2018-06-03), In Your Eyes (2018-08-04), Imagine Meaningless Beauty (2018-11-09), Like a Bud (2020-03-21), Like a Hand, Like a Wind (2021-04-26), ...) - ^z - 2023-09-04

- Monday, September 04, 2023 at 15:48:35 (EDT)

Goodnight Mind for Teens

Books on how to reduce insomnia are many and diverse. Goodnight Mind for Teens: Skills to Help You Quiet Noisy Thoughts and Get the Sleep You Need by Colleen Carney focuses on helping adolescents get better sleep via science, mindfulness, and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) methods. It's fast-reading and — maybe, for some people who follow its suggestions for a few months — could be helpful. The ten "tips" are actually a good high-level outline of the approach:

  1. Identify Your Sleep Problem with the Right Tool: The Sleep Tracker
  2. Use Your Body Clock to Get Better Sleep and Feel Better During the Day
  3. Wind Down Before Bed
  4. Make a Plan for Managing Anxiety
  5. Stay Awake During the Day by Addressing Sleepiness
  6. Develop a Plan for Getting Out of Bed in the Morning
  7. Develop a Plan to Feel More Alert During the Day
  8. Manage Substances That Rob You of Deep Sleep
  9. Think Like a Good Sleeper
  10. Make a New Plan If Your Sleep Remains a Problem

... good steps for problem-solving in general!

^z - 2023-09-03

- Sunday, September 03, 2023 at 15:25:01 (EDT)

Lost Art of Reading Nature's Signs

Tristan Gooley's book The Lost Art of Reading Nature's Signs has the enchanting subtitle "Use outdoor clues to: find your way; predict the weather; locate water; track animals; and other forgotten skills". And it really does deliver on those promises!

Lost Art isn't summarizable – it's a semi-organized buffet of observations, methods, phenomena, rules, and connections. The main focus is mindful walking – paying attention and asking oneself questions about what one is sensing. Gooley explores Earth and sky, plants and animals, natural and artificial structures, and the Sun, Moon, planets, and stars. There are also safety tips, personal stories, and silly cynical asides. For instance, from the Introduction:

Most of the walking books I have come across over the years get bogged down in obsessive attention to safety and equipment. I have rarely found myself enjoying these books, because I do not go walking with the purpose of staying within a world of perfect safety and comfort. Personally, I would rather die walking than die of boredom reading about how to walk safely. This is a theory I have experimented with over the years, as you will see.

In this book I will take the original approach of assuming that you are capable of walking safely and with roughly the right socks on. If you are the sort of person who likes to go ice-climbing in a nightie, then you probably don't read many walking books and I suspect it would take more than a book to mend your ways. With a handful of exceptions, my advice in the area of safety is three words long: don't be daft.

That said, everyone needs the right tools for certain jobs.

The Introduction concludes with a fine Executive Summary of the whole mission:

This is a book about outdoor clues and signs and the art of making predictions and deductions. The aim of the book is to make your walks, however long or short, eminently more fascinating. I hope you enjoy it.

A smörgåsbord of delight follows ...

(cf Weltschmertz Rx (2005-07-13), Seeing Nature (2005-07-19), Miracles and Wonders (2007-03-31), Mantra - Keep Looking (2017-05-30), ...) - ^z - 2023-09-03

- Sunday, September 03, 2023 at 08:13:09 (EDT)

Mindfulness: an Eight-Week Plan

Insightful bits from Mindfulness: An Eight-Week Plan for Finding Peace in a Frantic World (2012, by Mark Williams and Danny Penman) beginning with Chapter 1 ("Chasing Your Tail"):

A typical meditation consists of focusing your full attention on your breath as it flows in and out of your body (see "A one-minute meditation"). Focusing on each breath in this way allows you to observe your thoughts as they arise in your mind and, little by little, to let go of struggling with them. You come to realize that thoughts come and go of their own accord; that you are not your thoughts. You can watch as they appear in your mind, seemingly from thin air, and watch again as they disappear, like a soap bubble bursting. You come to the profound understanding that thoughts and feelings (including negative ones) are transient. They come and they go, and ultimately, you have a choice about whether to act on them or not.

Mindfulness is about observation without criticism; being compassionate with yourself. When unhappiness or stress hovers overhead, rather than taking it all personally, you learn to treat them as if they were black clouds in the sky, and to observe them with friendly curiosity as they drift past. In essence, mindfulness allows you to catch negative thought patterns before they tip you into a downward spiral. It begins the process of putting you back in control of your life.

... and later in that chapter:

Mindfulness meditation teaches you to recognize memories and damaging thoughts as they arise. It reminds you that they are memories. They are like propaganda, they are not real. They are not you. You can learn to observe negative thoughts as they arise, let them stay a while and then simply watch them evaporate before your eyes. And when this occurs, an extraordinary thing can happen: a profound sense of happiness and peace fills the void.

Mindfulness meditation does this by harnessing an alternative way in which our minds can relate to the world. Most of us know only the analytical side of the mind; the process of thinking, judging, planning and trawling through past memories while searching for solutions. But the mind is also aware. We do not just think about things, we are also aware that we are thinking. And we don't need language to stand as an intermediary between us and the world; we can also experience it directly through our senses. We are capable of directly sensing things like the sounds of birds, the scent of beautiful flowers and the sight of a loved one's smile. And we know with the heart as well as the head. Thinking is not all there is to conscious experience. The mind is bigger and more encompassing than thought alone.

Meditation creates greater mental clarity; seeing things with pure open-hearted awareness. It's a place—a vantage point—from which we can witness our own thoughts and feelings as they arise. It takes us off the hair trigger that compels us to react to things as soon as they happen. Our inner self—the part that is innately happy and at peace—is no longer drowned out by the noise of the mind crunching through problems.

Mindfulness meditation encourages us to become more patient and compassionate with ourselves and to cultivate open-mindedness and gentle persistence. These qualities help free us from the gravitational pull of anxiety, stress and unhappiness by reminding us what science has shown: that it's OK to stop treating sadness and other difficulties as problems that need to be solved. We shouldn't feel bad about "failing" to fix them. In fact, that's often the wisest course of action because our habitual ways of solving such difficulties often make them worse.

Mindfulness does not negate the brain's natural desire to solve problems. It simply gives us the time and space to choose the best ways of solving them. Some problems are best dealt with emotionally—we select the solution that "feels" best. Others need to be slogged through logically. Many are best dealt with intuitively, creatively. Some are best left alone for now.

... and from Chapter 2 ("Why Do We Attack Ourselves?"):

When you try to solve the "problem" of unhappiness (or any other "negative" emotion) you deploy one of the mind's most powerful tools: rational critical thinking. It works like this: you see yourself in a place (unhappy) and know where you want to be (happy). Your mind then analyzes the gap between the two and tries to work out the best way of bridging it. To do so, it uses its "Doing" mode (so called because it performs well in solving problems and getting things done). The Doing mode works by progressively narrowing the gap between where you are and where you want to be. It does so by subconsciously breaking down the problem into pieces, each of which is solved in your mind's eye and the solution reanalyzed to see whether it's got you closer to your goal. It often happens in an instant and we're frequently not even aware of the process. It's a tremendously powerful way of solving problems. It's how we find our way across cities, drive cars and arrange hectic work schedules. In a more refined form, it's how the ancients built the pyramids and navigated the world in primitive sailing ships, and it is helping humanity to solve many of our most pressing problems.

It's perfectly natural, then, to apply this approach to solving the "problem" of unhappiness. But it's often the worst thing you can do because it requires you to focus on the gap between how you are and how you'd like to be: in doing so, you ask such critical questions as, What's wrong with me? Where did I go wrong? Why do I always make these mistakes? Such questions are not only harsh and self-destructive, but they also demand that the mind furnishes the evidence to explain its discontent. And the mind is truly brilliant at providing such evidence.

... thoughtful introductory remarks, which lead into the later chapters of detailed step-by-step practices to try for the next two months.

(cf Coming to Our Senses (2009-01-01), Finding the Quiet (2009-12-05), Waking Up to What You Do (2010-03-21), Beginning Mindfulness (2013-09-22), Mindfulness in Plain English (2015-11-01), ...) - ^z - 2023-09-01

- Friday, September 01, 2023 at 20:07:17 (EDT)

Commitment, Discipline, Playfulness, Lightness

Delightful words in Jon Kabat-Zinn's introduction to Mindfulness: an Eight-Week Plan for Finding Peace in a Frantic World (2012, by Mark Williams and Danny Penman), with emphasis added:

The practice of mindfulness has been shown to exert a powerful influence on one's health, well-being and happiness, as attested to by the scientific and medical evidence presented in this book in a very accessible fashion. However, because it is a practice rather than merely a good idea, its cultivation is a process, one that of necessity unfolds and deepens over time. It is most beneficial if you take it on as a strong commitment to yourself, one that requires a degree of stick-to-it-ness and discipline, while at the same time being playful and bringing to each moment, as best you can, a certain ease and lightness of touch—a gesture of kindness and self-compassion, really. This lightness of touch, coupled with a steadfast and wholehearted engagement, is really a signature of mindfulness training and practice in all its various forms.

Such a beautiful combination of hard work and good humor!

(cf Posture (2009-06-05), Mindfulness As a Love Affair (2013-08-10), Simple but Not Easy (2018-01-10), ...) - ^z - 2023-09-01

- Friday, September 01, 2023 at 20:04:51 (EDT)

Happiness Projects

In 2007-2008 as Gretchen Rubin was beginning her "Happiness Project" she shared some excellent thoughts online (see zhurnalyWiki notes [1], [2], [3]). Alas, looking a decade-plus later at the results – her books The Happiness Project and Happier at Home etc – there's a lot more length but not much depth or breadth or height.

First, to get a mundane truth out of the way: Ms Rubin is rather wealthy: a lawyer's daughter who went to Yale law school, clerked for a Supreme Court justice, married the son of Robert Rubin (the former US Treasury Secretary and investment bank CEO). She doesn't need to worry much about money. Maybe that's irrelevant to her happiness.

The Happiness Project's preface summarizes with a big disclaimer the mission of the book:

Could I discover a startling new secret about happiness? Probably not. People have been thinking about happiness for thousands of years, and the great truths about happiness have already been laid out by the most brilliant minds in history. Everything important has been said before. (Even that statement. It was Alfred North Whitehead who said, "Everything important has been said before.") The laws of happiness are as fixed as the laws of chemistry.

But even though I wasn’t making up these laws, I needed to grapple with them for myself. It’s like dieting. We all know the secret of dieting—eat better, eat less, exercise more—it's the application that’s challenging. I had to create a scheme to put happiness ideas into practice in my life.

And what follows? Relentlessly first-person anecdotes, gambit-suggestions to nudge oneself into action, quotations from famous people, ... and few non-obvious insights. Lots of self-described petty behavior, however – egocentrism, anger, and short-sightedness. Plenty of personal data about her family, as well as the author herself. Self-indulgence galore. Not much "So what?"

The book goes month-by-month through a year, in unfortunately pedestrian fashion: January = "vitality" (sleep, exercise, tidy up); February = the Relationship; March = work (blog, experiment); April = parenthood; etc, etc. No visible coherence, just stuff thrown against a wall.

Bottom Line: Happiness is an intrinsically important topic, and there are many extraordinary quotes and important ideas in Ms Rubin's books – but the density is low and the disorganization makes it hard to learn much. Sad.

(cf AntiArrogance (2007-12-24), Pursuit of Happiness (2008-11-19), Habitual Virtue (2008-12-18), ...) - ^z - 2023-09-01

- Friday, September 01, 2023 at 12:34:01 (EDT)

Insight Dice

draft "documentation" for version 1.0 of the Insight Dice ...


The Dice offer gentle suggestions for insight. There are many ways to use them – for example:


The Symbols on the Dice are adapted from "toki pona", a beautiful tiny language designed to catalyze calm and joy. Look them up on the Cards, or see the Matrix on the back of the Box. Some seem simple, some subtle. Learn more at tokipona.org and Wikipedia.


The Matrix summarizes the 3 dice and the 18 symbols they bear. The rows of the Matrix are Dimensions of insight. The columns of the Matrix move toward increasing simplicity, in patterns that may add meaning or aid memory.


The Dimensions of insight are three:


The Words are mere labels for half-a-dozen facets of each Dimension – sounds, symbols, and suggestions that point toward underlying unspoken concepts that form the foundations of insight.

(cf Mantra - Mindfulness, Nonattachment, Oneness (2017-01-25), Meditation Map (2019-01-19), Awakening Matrix (2019-04-29), Mind Matrix in toki pona (2023-03-13), How to Navigate the Awareness Matrix (2023-06-08), ...) - ^z - 2023-08-28

- Monday, August 28, 2023 at 10:44:15 (EDT)

Various Virtues

For further thought, adding to the lists of Franklin's Virtues (2008-05-23) and Epistemic Virtues (2018-06-05), from Wikipedia's "Cardinal Virtues":

... plus three "Theological Virtues":

And from a description of Martin Seligman's taxonomy:

... lots of words, in lots of categories – but is there systematic way to organize the Good? And how about balancing the trade-offs when multiple Good goals clash?

(cf Ethical Fitness (2000-12-15), ...) - ^z - 2023-08-24

- Thursday, August 24, 2023 at 14:55:20 (EDT)

Perfect Theory

The Perfect Theory by Paolo G Ferreira is a delightful history of General Relativity (GR), Einstein's explanation of gravity. It focuses on people (a wild menagerie of characters) and problems (including the most important questions in the cosmos). The Prologue puts it neatly:

It sounds like the ultimate overstatement, but I can’t resist it: the reward for harnessing Albert Einstein’s general theory of relativity is nothing less than the key to understanding the history of the universe, the origin of time, and the evolution of all the stars and galaxies in the cosmos. General relativity can tell us about what lies at the farthest reaches of the universe and explain how that knowledge affects our existence here and now. Einstein’s theory also sheds light on the smallest scales of existence, where the highest-energy particles can come into being out of nothing. It can explain how the fabric of reality, space, and time emerges to become the backbone of nature.

What I learned during those months of intense study is that general relativity brings space and time alive. Space is no longer just a place where things exist, nor is time a ticking clock keeping tabs on things. According to Einstein, space and time are intertwined in a cosmic dance as they respond to every single speck of stuff imaginable, from particles to galaxies, weaving themselves into elaborate patterns that can lead to the most bizarre effects. And from the moment he first proposed his theory, it has been used to explore the natural world, revealing the universe as a dynamic place, expanding at breakneck speed, filled with black holes, devastating punctures of space and time, and grand waves of energy, each carrying almost as much energy as a whole galaxy. General relativity has let us reach further than we ever imagined.

Much of the feel of the GR research in The Perfect Theory is that of exploring a cave or a labyrinth – as mathematician Andrew Wiles said of his work (in Amir Aczel's book Fermat's Last Theorem – see "Good Mistakes"):

"Perhaps I could best describe my experience of doing mathematics in terms of entering a dark mansion. You go into the first room and it's dark, completely dark. You stumble around, bumping into the furniture. Gradually, you learn where each piece of furniture is. And finally, after six months or so, you find the light switch and turn it on. Suddenly, it's all illuminated and you can see exactly where you were. Then you enter the next dark room ..."

That's precisely what the physicists, astronomers, and astrophysicists are doing throughout The Perfect Theory – usually on timescales of decades. In Chapter 11 ("Seeing Gravity"), for instance:

Weber died in 2000, before LIGO started operations. It had taken decades of devotion to get the most perfectly tuned instrument to work. Along the way, there had been delay after delay. Kip Thorne had made a number of bets with colleagues in the 1980s and 1990s that gravitational waves would be discovered before the turn of the millennium, and he lost them all. Even in the beginning of the twenty-first century, LIGO faced setbacks, from the loggers with their circular saws in the Louisiana forest who set off the detectors at Livingston, to mysterious whirrings in the nuclear reactors around the Hanford site in Washington. But when it was finally turned on in 2002 and run for a few years, LIGO was able to achieve the sensitivity everyone had been gunning for. It was the first stage in the experimental journey laid out in the proposal in the early 1990s. Its detectors could pick up vibrations of less than a proton’s width, as had been envisioned decades before. In fact, the LIGO team announced, the instrument was even more sensitive than they had predicted. LIGO was, by all means, a resounding success, even though it didn’t see anything. As expected in its first incarnation, LIGO was not yet sensitive enough to actually detect gravitational waves, but it did show the way forward. The LIGO team can now improve the existing instrument so that at some point it will see the ripples in spacetime that Einstein had first predicted.

It is a long game. Unlike Weber’s results, which came fast and steady the moment he turned on his instrument, LIGO will have used up thousands of technicians over many decades before it can actually detect gravitational waves. The founding trio, Ron Drever, Kip Thorne, and Rainer Weiss, now in their seventies and eighties, might not all be around when that moment comes, and they may have devoted their lives to something they will never see. But there is unwavering confidence that waves are out there; Einstein’s theory predicts them, and they have been seen, albeit indirectly, through the gentle but steady orbital decay of the millisecond pulsars. It is just a matter of time before gravitational waves are seen, and then a field of research that started with Weber’s bang will end with a whimper: the whimper of spacetime shimmering as it passes through Earth.

The Perfect Theory was published in 2014, and LIGO made two detections of gravitational waves that reached the Earth in 2015. The 2017 Nobel Prize in physics was shared Barry Barish, Kip Thorne, and Ray Weiss. (Ronald Drever died shortly before that; R.I.P. Ron!)

Near the end of the book in Chapter 13 ("A Spectacular Extrapolation") Ferreira discusses next steps for GR:

Now, in the early twenty-first century, we seem to be in a similar situation, with a wonderful theory of gravity that, to explain cosmology, requires that more than 96 percent of the universe be made up of something we can’t see or detect. Could this be yet another crack in the edifice that Einstein had constructed almost one hundred years before? That general relativity might have to be corrected due to quantum physics had been accepted without too much fuss. But questioning general relativity’s efficacy on large scales was something different. If the dark matter and dark energy of the universe were eliminated from the picture, Einstein’s beautiful theory would have to be modified. The prospect was as unappealing to many astrophysicists as taking a sledgehammer to a classic car just so it would fit in the garage.

The Perfect Theory is a loving, lovely history of a central field of physics.

(cf Vulnerable Theories (1999-05-17), Relativity Plus Astrophysics (2000-03-29), Cherished Beliefs (2000-04-19), No Concepts At All (2001-02-22), Universal Knowns (2002-06-13), Gravitational Waves - Thirty Years Later (2011-07-15), Little Book of Cosmology (2023-03-31), ...) - ^z - 2023-08-23

- Wednesday, August 23, 2023 at 13:33:09 (EDT)

Mantra - Be a Gray Rock


... a skillful way to deal with difficult people, up to and including "... malignant narcissists, psychopaths, sociopaths, borderlines, drama queens, stalkers and other emotional vampires ...":

... perhaps applicable to other stressful situations as well?!

(cf [0], [1], [2], Mantra - Be Like a Log (2016-01-26), Mantra - Cling to Nothing (2016-04-17), Mantra - Be a Duck, Not a Sponge (2016-08-15), ... ) - ^z - 2023-08-22

- Tuesday, August 22, 2023 at 08:10:27 (EDT)


Buddhish: A Guide to the 20 Most Important Buddhist Ideas for the Curious and Skeptical (2022) by C Pierce Salguero is a delightfully written and well-structured tour through all of Buddhism — not just the narrow Western sliver of secular-humanistic mindfulness. Salguero is a Professor of Asian History and Religious Studies at Penn State University. He describes his book's goal as offering a useful middle path, between pop-psych and scholarly doctrinal analysis. It largely succeeds.

Salguero's "20 Most Important Buddhist Ideas" are summarized in the book's chapter titles: Awakening; Suffering; Path; Karma; Renunciation; Non-Self; Buddha; Mindfulness; Buddha-Nature; The Middle Way; Skillful Means; Bodhisattva; Compassion; Rituals; Well-Being; Zen; Buddhist; Refuge; Interconnectedness; Doubt. The first half of Buddhish is mostly theoretical-philosophical; the second half is mostly real-world applications. Some memorable tidbits follow.

from Chapter 8 ("Mindfulness"), on varieties of meditation:

Buddhist trainings that emphasize concentration often focus on generating what in the Pali language is called jhana, advanced states of absorption in which you become so concentrated on the object of meditation that the rest of the world melts away. When everything else disappears, you're left with states of deep bliss, rapture, or stillness. Trainings emphasizing insight, on the other hand, focus on perceiving your chosen object of meditation as a manifestation of suffering, impermanence, and non-self—which in Buddhism are called the "three marks of all existence." This kind of work is more deconstructive, breaking down your mental and physical experience into increasingly finer phenomena. Many training systems call for you to practice both concentration and insight sequentially or simultaneously. Normally, the goal of all of these kinds of advanced practice is to experience "cessations," moments during which the whole self and the world drop away. In other words, Nirvana.

from Chapter 9 ("Buddha-Nature"), on mystical-breakthrough-realization experiences:

One way of talking about what these experiences have in common is to classify them as "non-dual." Religions and philosophies that are "dual" see an irreconcilable gulf between the ordinary world and the enlightened state, between the soul and God, between the self and the world, or between consciousness and matter. Non-dual systems, on the other hand, teach that these boundaries are illusory. In India, entire religions have been built up around the premise that you can unify the individual self—with all of its problems of anxiety, fear, sadness, helplessness, and self-identification—with a greater, cosmic, divine, wise, and perfect whole that encompasses all of reality. Such traditions include most forms of Hinduism and Buddhism.

However, there is one thing that separates Buddhism from many other non-dual traditions, both in India and beyond. That is its emphasis on using subtraction rather than addition to describe its non-dual insights. A non-dual form of Hinduism, such as Advaita Vedanta, says that an individual's soul merges or unites with God. Buddhism, on the other hand, generally prefers to describe this insight in the negative. The self is inherently illusory, it insists. There is no God with which to merge. Instead, our true inner nature is a vast, still emptiness.

from Chapter 13 ("Compassion"), on the varieties of compassionate feelings:

Buddhists tend to be much more precise about compassion than we usually are in everyday English. We commonly use the word in rather vague ways, to refer to a whole range of positive feelings. Buddhists, on the other hand, differentiate between four different positive mental states that might all be part of the ordinary English notion of compassion. Collectively known as the "immeasurable states of mind" (si wuliang xin) in Chinese or the "heavenly dwellings" (brahma vihara) in Pali, they are as follows:

  • Loving kindness (metta in Pali): a feeling of universal friendliness, goodwill, and love toward all beings
  • Empathetic compassion (karuna): a feeling of wanting to remove the suffering experienced by other beings.
  • Altruistic joy (mudita): a feeling of joy at the happiness and success of other beings, untinged by jealousy or pride.
  • Equanimity (upekkha): a feeling of tolerance, peace, and tranquility in the face of annoyances, including those caused by other beings.

These four immeasurables were understood to go together as a set in Indian culture long before the Buddha's time, and they appear in other Indian religious traditions as well. However, they were absorbed into Buddhism and came to be among its central ideas. The main idea behind the Buddhist discourses on this subject is that we can and should cultivate these positive states of mind. As is true with mindfulness or concentration, the brain can be trained in the immeasurables.

and from that same chapter, on the benefits of training the mind to feel compassion:

Part of the power of this kind of practice is that it has the ability to disrupt the loops of unkind, negative, and self-destructive thoughts toward ourselves and others that most of us normally hear playing inside our heads. If the thoughts floating down your mindstream are angry, for example, the perfect antidote may be to fill your mind up with loving kindness instead. If your thoughts tend toward cruelty or violence, why not replace them with empathetic compassion? If your thoughts often revolve around jealousy or greed, perhaps balance them with altruistic joy. If your mind is characteristically annoyed or perturbed by the people around you, then try to cultivate a little equanimity. Even if you recognize that this practice involves artificially creating positive affirmations and even if you know you are intentionally planting them in your head, it can still work. In fact, it can still work even if you don't actually feel anything while you are saying these words—even if your repetitions are completely mechanical.

and in conclusion for that chapter:

The simple point I want to emphasize is that, just as the mind can be trained to concentrate more and more through the practice of mindfulness meditation, it can also be trained to become more and more kind, compassionate, and even-keeled through meditation practice focused on the immeasurables. There isn't any magic woo-woo going on here. From what we know about the neuroplasticity of the brain, it is not at all surprising that we can transform anger, anxiety, and self-concern into gentleness, calm, and generosity toward others if we are willing to commit the time to the practice of reprogramming ourselves.

from Chapter 15 ("Well-Being"), re Buddhism and health:

... talk about subtle energies or winds is at its core an elaborate cluster of metaphors that clearly describes—and tunes you into—how the sensations in your body change in response to your mind. I don't think there's necessarily anything mystical or supernatural going on here. Rather, I see it as a culturally specific way of describing a common everyday experience that all human beings share—and that any of us can notice if we pay attention.


... the main point Buddhism is trying to get across is that it’s helpful for your health to improve your interoception, your attention to what's going on inside your body. When you pay more attention to what's going on inside, you can see how the mind triggers negative reactions in the body and the body responds to the mind. Once you can observe this process in real time, you can learn ways to intervene in order to bring yourself a bit of relief.

from Chapter 16 ("Zen"), re open awareness as opposed to narrow focus:

... in the Zen practice of "just sitting," one keeps one's attention wide open, choicelessly accepting anything that comes into one’s awareness, chirping birds and all. Far from tuning them out, it seems that sounds, sights, and other perceptions become heightened by this kind of practice. You start to perceive things more crisply, and everything can seem more beautiful than ever. This enhanced perception may be one reason that Zen masters have frequently celebrated the natural world and have lovingly dwelt on small details in the environment.

and also in Chapter 16:

You'll notice the suffix -do (pronounced something like the English word “doe”) on the end of both kyudo and chado, as well as on the word for calligraphy, shodo, the word for flower arrangement, kado, and on the words for many other traditional Japanese arts. On its own, do means "path" or "way." When you add do to an activity in Japanese, you are implying that it is no longer a conventional activity but an intentional practice. You're no longer just doing calligraphy or shooting arrows or arranging flowers or drinking tea. Rather, you have elevated these activities to rituals with great significance. It's now a matter of form arising spontaneously out of emptiness, an expression of your Buddha-nature, an enactment of the non-dual union of ultimate truth and conventional truth.

To become a do, a practice requires years—decades, in fact—of training and a very high level of expertise. The Zen emphasis on naturalness does not mean that actions are unplanned—the whole idea is that it takes intricate focus and exactitude to execute a simple spontaneous action. With the right attention to detail and the right mindset, however, anything at all can be a do. At least that's my interpretation. If you remain grounded in emptiness, allow the actions to spontaneously occur, and are unattached to the outcomes, your whole life can be a do. Every mundane action can be transmuted into an expression of your Buddha-nature. What would it be like to live life from that place?

from Chapter 19 ("Interconnectedness"), on Indra's Net:

For most Buddhists, it's not only all beings but also all objects that are intricately interconnected. The Vietnamese monk Thich Nhat Hanh calls this interrelatedness "interbeing." In an essay titled "What is Interbeing?," he uses the example of a piece of paper to illustrate the idea. A piece of paper, he says, could not exist independently of all the other things with which it is connected. In order for the paper to arrive in your hand, we need the sun, clouds, rain, trees, loggers, paper mills, warehouses, stores, and everything else along the way. Each of those links in the chain, in turn, can't exist independently of all sorts of additional interconnected factors—the logger, for example, wouldn't exist if it wasn't for his parents and grandparents, or all the food he has eaten throughout his life.

There is an ancient Indian metaphor called Indra's net, or Brahma's net, that makes this same point in a more visual way. This vivid image is found in both the Flower Ornament Scripture and the Brahma's Net Scripture, two Mahayana texts that have been highly influential in East Asia. The metaphor hinges on the image of a massive net belonging to the god Indra or Brahma, which is made completely of jewels. The net extends infinitely in all directions so that it covers the entire cosmos, and the jewels are so clear and so bright that each one reflects all the others simultaneously. Thus, if you look at any one jewel, you see the reflection of the entire universe all at once.

Both the example of the paper and the metaphor of the jeweled net make the same point: Begin from any object, no matter how simple—whether a piece of paper, a cup of coffee, your own fingernail, or a discarded piece of trash on the side of the road—and follow the connections of interbeing outward. Before you know it, you'll realize that, in that seemingly mundane thing, you are looking at a reflection of the entire cosmos. All objects are inseparable from each other, and everything is constantly arising and existing together in one interconnected whole.

and later in that chapter, re Awakening:

The mystical experience of the oneness of everything is emphasized more in Mahayana forms of Buddhism than in Theravada, and particularly in Zen and Vajrayana. Having this kind of realization even for a moment can have a profound, irreversible, and liberating effect on how you perceive yourself and the world. You may discover a bottomless well of compassion that you can effortlessly share with all beings, because you see them all as inseparable from yourself. You may experience all things as interlinked entities and be overwhelmed with gratitude for how each one plays its own unique role within the grand unfolding of the universe. You may experience all things, including yourself, as a single field of experience that has no boundaries and is always transforming and giving birth to something new. You may be struck by the sheer beauty of nature or of everyday objects, seeing each as a miraculous expression of its own "suchness" (tathata) that couldn't ever be anything other than the way it perfectly exists right now. Some of the most mystical descriptions of this kind of realization say that the whole universe reveals itself to be the Dharma body of the Buddha. That is to say, the entire universe is experienced as one seamless, alive, wholeness that is Awakeness itself.

Bottom line: Buddhish is a gem of a book!

(cf Buddhism Without Beliefs (2008-09-19), Buddhism - A Way of Life and Thought (2008-09-30), Bodhisattva's Brain (2013-04-20), Buddhism Naturalized (2013-06-02), The Heart of Buddhism (2015-01-10), True Buddhism (2017-02-25), ...) - ^z - 2023-08-20

- Sunday, August 20, 2023 at 10:33:01 (EDT)

Making Friends with the Present Moment

Sylvia Boorstein's (2013) little book Making Friends with the Present Moment is full of sweet insightful thoughts. In her discussion of the Buddha's reputed final words, "Transient are all conditioned things. Strive on with diligence." Boorstein muses about those two sentences:

Things pass. ... however painful this moment is, it will change. ... Things happen and, as a result, other things happen. We need the understanding of impermanence. And we need the understanding of contingency, of interconnection, that things happen because other things happen. ...

... and ...

... what we do makes a difference. We're not individually in charge of the world. We don't run the world. But what each of us does makes a difference. This doesn’t contradict contingency. ...

Boorstein talks about wisdom:

Wisdom is really the goal of practice. Mindfulness is the tool to arrive at wisdom. It's the clarity of mind that allows for wisdom to arise. The Buddha taught that there are three essential insights that constitute the whole of wisdom: the insight of impermanence; the insight of contingency or interconnection; and the insight of suffering and how it arises or disappears depending upon the ability of the mind to accommodate change, and change, and change.

We practice mindfulness in order to, over and over again, see those same insights. It isn't a one-time deal to understand the insights of impermanence, contingency, the causes of suffering, and the end of suffering. It's not as if you understand them and then you're set for life. ... We need the continual practice of mindfulness—being aware of what's happening now, what’s going on—to remind us.

and about different forms of meditation:

... walking meditation is equally potent as a path to insight as sitting is. Each is a posture in which the practice is to have the attention rest steadily with the experience at hand. In both cases the experience involves simplicity—it is just plain sitting and just plain walking. Both have a repetitive rhythmic quality. Breathe in and out. Take one step, then another. The plainness of both of them calms the mind. The constant predictable changes keep the attention steadily focused. Keen, balanced attention allows the mind to see things in new ways. Insights about how the mind operates as well as how life operates are both born out of that calm alertness.

At a typical mindfulness retreat, periods of sitting meditation alternate with periods of walking meditation throughout the day. It seems that sitting has the tendency to deepen concentration since there are fewer stimuli for the mind to process. And walking keeps the attention from becoming drowsy because there are more stimuli present—we need to walk with the eyes open and all the body moving.

She summarizes metta, the meditative practice of lovingkindness:

The technique and practice of loving kindness, in the largest sense, is to wish all beings well as you go about the day, as you meet them on the bus, as you see them on the plane, as you see them in the supermarket, as you encounter them in line. The practice of continual wishing well rescues the mind from falling in on itself in self-concerns. It pulls you out of a well of despair, disgruntlement, unhappiness, or fearfulness and connects you in a warm way with what’s happening out there.

and says that peace is possible:

... Each of us knows that at some point in our lives there have been times—short or long—in which everything was really okay, just the way it was. Peace is possible. That doesn’t mean we won't have loss or difficulties. But we can learn to be with them in a different way.

... such a beautiful collection of gentle, helpful ideas!

(cf It's Easier Than You Think (2011-04-07), Quiet in There (2011-05-31), Verbs, Not Nouns (2011-06-29), SHIP of Lovingkindness (2015-08-15), Unconditional Friendliness (2018-08-10), ...) - ^z - 2023-08-19

- Saturday, August 19, 2023 at 18:56:19 (EDT)

How to Calm Your Mind

How to Calm Your Mind is a 2022 book subtitled "Finding presence and productivity in anxious times", by Chris Bailey, author of Hyperfocus, a book he wrote a few years earlier on developing intense concentration and working more efficiently. How to Calm Your Mind, alas, is relentlessly first-person ("I" is the first word of the Preface and of Chapter 1). It's much like Dan Harris's 10 Percent Happier – well-intentioned, mega-confessional, pedestrian in style, but with some gems amidst the chatter. For instance, a footnote in Chapter 2 suggests:

... Time is the most limited resource we have with which to live a good life. We should value it highly. In fact, we should value our time so highly that we don't just try to use the time to get stuff done.

Yes! – and likewise, in Chapter 8, the recommendation:

Journal for a couple of minutes at the end of the day about how the day went. At the end of the day, set a timer for a few minutes and recount how the day went; what you were able to accomplish, how deliberately you worked, what went well, and what you could improve on the next time around, including how you can become kinder to yourself as you work. Remember that this exercise is more of an opportunity to reflect on what went well than it is a chance to beat yourself up about what you want to change. ...

Not a bad practice – especially the focus on being kind, although perhaps one might reflect upon kindness given to others as well as to oneself. And maybe it would also be good to look for opportunities to give more praise to others, as the Duke of Wellington wished he had done. Unselfing, anyone?

(cf Unselfing (2009-01-14), Unselfing Again (2009-11-01), Ten Percent Happier (2015-03-07), Mantra - Give More Praise (2019-07-28), The Buddha Walks into the Office (2019-10-26), Gratefulation and Gratituding (2021-11-11), ...) - ^z - 2023-08-18

- Friday, August 18, 2023 at 21:03:58 (EDT)

Mantra - Be the Anchor, Not the Waves

⚓️ Be the Anchor
not the Waves

(from MK-sensei; cf Mantra - Let It Go (2014-12-27), Mantra - Be Like a Log (2016-01-26), Mantra - Cling to Nothing (2016-04-17), Mantra - Be a Duck, Not a Sponge (2016-08-15), ...) - ^z - 2023-08-18

- Friday, August 18, 2023 at 07:19:41 (EDT)

Twenty Second Hugs

Pop psychology, and also deep truth? In recent years "The 20 Second Hug" has become increasingly trendy. Maybe there's something to it. Busy Executive Summary: long slow hugs may help reduce stress, build connections, and catalyze happiness. Some representative tidbits:

from "The Healing Power of a 20-Second Hug (and other surprising finds)" by Zoe Yarborough, citing the book Burnout: The Secret to Unlocking the Stress Cycle by Amelia and Emily Nagoski and their interview with Brené Brown:

"... Emotions are cycles that happen in your body. They are neurological events ... When you finally finish a [highly stressful activity], the cycle of stress cannot complete itself through reason. We have to do something to tell our minds and show our bodies we are safe again. ..."

7 Ways to End the Stress Cycle

  1. Any physical activity — "... moving your body is the most efficient way to complete your stress cycle. It can literally be any type of physical activity."
  2. Breathing — "... the 'gentlest' way to complete the stress response cycle, so if you have survived trauma, abuse, or other adverse childhood experiences, 'a great place to start so that you don’t get overwhelmed is just with tuning into your breath' ..."
  3. Positive social interaction – "... connect with other people ... as simple as a pleasant interchange of compliments with your barista ..."
  4. Laughter — not fake-polite social laughter, but "... the slightly embarrassing, mouth hanging open, belly jiggling, uncontrolled, ridiculous laughter that really takes over your body; you can’t stop laughing. That laughter will take you all the way through the end of a stress cycle."
  5. The 20-second hug — "… research suggests a 20-second hug can change your hormones, lower your blood pressure and heart rate, and improve mood, all of which are reflected in the post-hug increase in the social bonding hormone, oxytocin .... it is less about the amount of time and more about it being a tight and equal embracing of your body with someone else's .... Holding your own center of gravity and staying there, breathing together until you feel the shift in your chemistry … that's your body going, 'I have come home to a place of safety … because my body feels safe with this other person pressed against it,' .... In these weird, distanced times, hugging the people in your pod often and longer than usual can help tell your body to end a stress cycle."
  6. A big ol' cry — "... [focus] on the physical sensations felt while crying rather than what's making you cry. 'Usually [it] just takes a few minutes .... if you don’t continue feeding it thoughts about the cause of the stress, really five minutes maybe.'"
  7. Creative expression — "... taking the thoughts and feelings inside you and putting them out in the world through drawing, or knitting, or sculpting, or designing, or choreographing ..."

from "20-Second Hug Effect: trade stress and busyness for love and happiness" by Courtney Carver:

As an introvert, an extra long hug isn't always my favorite thing but there are a few people in my life I never want to let go of and plan on hugging them more frequently. If you need to lean in to the 20-second hug, you'll be happy to hear that research shows a 6-second hug is powerful too. ... Sometimes it's good to say, 'I love you,' sometimes it's good to express that thought without words."


"If you are looking for a simple technique with no negative side-effects that will reduce stress, improve connection with others, and spread love, try the 20-second hug. Hug someone you love for 6 – 20 seconds. If your loves are far away, call them and tell them you can't wait to give them a big hug the next time you see them."

from What Are the Benefits of Hugging? by Erica Cirino:

(cf Cuddlers vs Goths (2001-12-14), Inhabiting the Body (2015-09-10), How Full Is Your Bucket (2016-09-13), Nothing Here (2016-11-21), Cwtch (2017-09-25), Mantra - It's a Blessing (2017-11-23), Comfy Jeans (2021-01-25), ...) - ^z - 2023-08-15

- Tuesday, August 15, 2023 at 20:32:00 (EDT)

Happiness Rules

"The 'World's Happiest Man' Shares His Three Rules for Life" is an interview by New York Times staffer David Marchese with Matthieu Ricard.

On Ricard's three secrets of happiness:

First, there's no secret. Second, there's not just three points. Third, it takes a whole life, but it is the most worthy thing you can do.

On why compassion should be given universally, even toward the most evil people in the world:

... compassion is to remedy suffering wherever it is, whatever form it takes and whoever causes it. So what is the object of compassion here? It is the hatred and the person under its power. If someone beats you with a stick, you don't get angry with the stick — you get angry with the person. These people we are talking about are like sticks in the hands of ignorance and hatred. We can judge the acts of a person at a particular time, but compassion is wishing that the present aspect of suffering and the causes of suffering may be remedied.

On the need to work on sources of suffering at the systemic level:

Delusion is a cause of suffering. If you could get rid of that, that will alleviate suffering in many forms.

On learning to control one's emotions:

... happiness is a skill. It can be deeper, more present in your mental landscape. We deal with our mind from morning to evening, but we spend very little attention on improving the way we translate outer conditions, good or bad, into happiness or misery. And it's crucial, because that's what determines our day-to-day experience of the world!

On a helpful thought to remember throughout life:

If you can, as much as possible, cultivate that quality of human warmth, wanting genuinely for other people to be happy; that's the best way to fulfill your own happiness. This is also the most gratifying state of mind. ... If we try humbly, with some happiness, to enhance our benevolence, that will be the best way to have a good life.

On the best advice ever given to Ricard by the Dalai Lama:

"In the beginning, meditate on compassion; in the middle, meditate on compassion; in the end, meditate on compassion."

... all such wonderful wisdom!

(cf Pursuit of Happiness (2008-11-19), Happiness Buffer (2013-12-22), Lovingkindness - The Revolutionary Art of Happiness (2015-07-12), Happiness Is (2015-07-28), I Want Happiness (2015-12-04), Mantra - Happiness Is (2018-03-20), ...) - ^z - 2023-08-14

- Monday, August 14, 2023 at 09:12:03 (EDT)

How We Got to Now

How We Got to Now by Steven Johnson is subtitled "Six Innovations that Made the Modern World". Those Big Six are its chapter titles (and a six-part PBS tv series):

  1. Glass — bottles, lenses, optical fibers, etc
  2. Cold — refrigeration, air conditioning, etc
  3. Sound — phonographs, telephony, sonar, etc
  4. Clean — sewers, chlorination, etc
  5. Time — clocks, navigation, etc
  6. Light — artificial lighting, flash photography, etc

The book is a well-written, fast-reading, general-audiences history of important technologies. But alas, despite occasional disclaimers and caveats, it tells complex stories of science and engineering largely as single-threaded chains of events, rather than more realistic tapestries of progress. Like many other popularizations it skips past alternatives that didn't happen, the might-have-beens that could have replaced what seem to be extraordinary conjunctions of genius and luck.

Also alas, How We Got to Now is also just plain wrong (or woefully incomplete) in its explanations of some physics (esp in describing atomic clocks, thermodynamics, electromagnetism, etc). A picky technical editor could have caught and fixed those glitches. Maybe in some future edition!

(cf Celebrity History (1999-05-08), Threads of History (2001-06-06), Foxy Fables (2002-04-23), True Story (2002-11-30), Wee Bit More Complicated (2007-08-29), Two Concepts of Liberty (2010-06-27), ...) - ^z - 2023-08-11

- Saturday, August 12, 2023 at 07:13:48 (EDT)

First-Rate Intelligence

"... the test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function. One should, for example, be able to see that things are hopeless and yet be determined to make them otherwise...."

... F. Scott Fitzgerald, writing in 1936, on the pressures of fame, poor health, addiction, poverty, failed relationships, etc ...

(from "The Crack-Up"; cf Hemingway on Letter-Writing (2008-11-23), ...) - ^z - 2023-08-11

- Friday, August 11, 2023 at 07:06:40 (EDT)

Brain in a Bone Box

The "Brain in a Vat" is a famous philosophical puzzle. It raises issues of "How do we know there's a World 'out there'?" and so forth.

But what do we call call a Brain in a Bone Box (skull), connected to the rest of the universe only via feeble electro-chemical membrane-discharge wires (neurons) to noisy unreliable sensors (eyes, ears, nose, skin, etc)? It sure feels like there's a World "out there" – a World that's incredibly complex, overflowing with joy and beauty (and pain and tragedy). As new bits of the World are discovered, they seem completely consistent with what we already know. "Stuff makes sense", though sometimes only after considerable study, as per the discoveries of modern physics, biology, etc.

How awesome and wonderful to be a Brain in a Bone Box, and to know it!

(cf Polygon Power (1999-06-19), Freudian Paralysis (2003-03-23), Appear vs Is (2006-10-19), Problems of Knowledge (2010-07-29), ...) - ^z - 2023-08-10

- Thursday, August 10, 2023 at 06:52:36 (EDT)

Designing Your Life

Designing Your Life by Bill Burnett and Dave Evans (2016) is a useful book that raises good questions to ponder as one moves through school and into a career, and perhaps beyond. The authors recommend five "mind-sets" to approach the challenge of finding one's Good:

(aside: all of those are, in one way or another, aspects of Openness – a dimension in the Mindfulness-Nonattachment-Oneness space of wisdom)

Burnett and Evans begin, in the chapter "Start Where You Are", with a four-parameter "Dashboard" exercise, a personal evaluation of one's:

The self-assessment begins with Health, "...because, well, when you're not healthy, nothing else in your life works very well. Work, play, and love are built on top of health and represent three areas we think it's important to pay attention to ...".

Designing Your Life then challenges readers to draft a short written essay on their "Workview" and "Lifeview", respectively answering questions:


After thinking about those fundamental issues, Designing Your Life offers advice on résumé-writing and the job application process, and then sketches out a four-step "Life Design" methodology:

The book concludes with "just two more things" beyond the "five mind-sets":

(aside: this echoes the Personal Mastery theme in Peter Senge's classic book The Fifth Discipline)

Overall, Designing Your Life is a fast-fun-chatty read, insightful and provocative – perhaps lacking in rigor and poetry, definitely missing an index in the back, and overall valuable.

(cf What Is My Life? (1999-04-30), Bennett on Life (2000-03-19), Self Improvement (2002-07-29), Life As a Work of Art (2008-11-11), Parachute Color (2011-12-06), Work as School (2023-06-02), Eight Life Goals (2023-07-20), Building Is Thinking (2023-08-05), ...) - ^z - 2023-08-08

- Tuesday, August 08, 2023 at 19:51:42 (EDT)

For back issues of the ^zhurnal see Volumes v.01 (April-May 1999), v.02 (May-July 1999), v.03 (July-September 1999), v.04 (September-November 1999), v.05 (November 1999 - January 2000), v.06 (January-March 2000), v.07 (March-May 2000), v.08 (May-June 2000), v.09 (June-July 2000), v.10 (August-October 2000), v.11 (October-December 2000), v.12 (December 2000 - February 2001), v.13 (February-April 2001), v.14 (April-June 2001), 0.15 (June-August 2001), 0.16 (August-September 2001), 0.17 (September-November 2001), 0.18 (November-December 2001), 0.19 (December 2001 - February 2002), 0.20 (February-April 2002), 0.21 (April-May 2002), 0.22 (May-July 2002), 0.23 (July-September 2002), 0.24 (September-October 2002), 0.25 (October-November 2002), 0.26 (November 2002 - January 2003), 0.27 (January-February 2003), 0.28 (February-April 2003), 0.29 (April-June 2003), 0.30 (June-July 2003), 0.31 (July-September 2003), 0.32 (September-October 2003), 0.33 (October-November 2003), 0.34 (November 2003 - January 2004), 0.35 (January-February 2004), 0.36 (February-March 2004), 0.37 (March-April 2004), 0.38 (April-June 2004), 0.39 (June-July 2004), 0.40 (July-August 2004), 0.41 (August-September 2004), 0.42 (September-November 2004), 0.43 (November-December 2004), 0.44 (December 2004 - February 2005), 0.45 (February-March 2005), 0.46 (March-May 2005), 0.47 (May-June 2005), 0.48 (June-August 2005), 0.49 (August-September 2005), 0.50 (September-November 2005), 0.51 (November 2005 - January 2006), 0.52 (January-February 2006), 0.53 (February-April 2006), 0.54 (April-June 2006), 0.55 (June-July 2006), 0.56 (July-September 2006), 0.57 (September-November 2006), 0.58 (November-December 2006), 0.59 (December 2006 - February 2007), 0.60 (February-May 2007), 0.61 (April-May 2007), 0.62 (May-July 2007), 0.63 (July-September 2007), 0.64 (September-November 2007), 0.65 (November 2007 - January 2008), 0.66 (January-March 2008), 0.67 (March-April 2008), 0.68 (April-June 2008), 0.69 (July-August 2008), 0.70 (August-September 2008), 0.71 (September-October 2008), 0.72 (October-November 2008), 0.73 (November 2008 - January 2009), 0.74 (January-February 2009), 0.75 (February-April 2009), 0.76 (April-June 2009), 0.77 (June-August 2009), 0.78 (August-September 2009), 0.79 (September-November 2009), 0.80 (November-December 2009), 0.81 (December 2009 - February 2010), 0.82 (February-April 2010), 0.83 (April-May 2010), 0.84 (May-July 2010), 0.85 (July-September 2010), 0.86 (September-October 2010), 0.87 (October-December 2010), 0.88 (December 2010 - February 2011), 0.89 (February-April 2011), 0.90 (April-June 2011), 0.91 (June-August 2011), 0.92 (August-October 2011), 0.93 (October-December 2011), 0.94 (December 2011-January 2012), 0.95 (January-March 2012), 0.96 (March-April 2012), 0.97 (April-June 2012), 0.98 (June-September 2012), 0.99 (September-November 2012), 0.9901 (November-December 2012), 0.9902 (December 2012-February 2013), 0.9903 (February-March 2013), 0.9904 (March-May 2013), 0.9905 (May-July 2013), 0.9906 (July-September 2013), 0.9907 (September-October 2013), 0.9908 (October-December 2013), 0.9909 (December 2013-February 2014), 0.9910 (February-May 2014), 0.9911 (May-July 2014), 0.9912 (July-August 2014), 0.9913 (August-October 2014), 0.9914 (November 2014-January 2015), 0.9915 (January-April 2015), 0.9916 (April-July 2015), 0.9917 (July-September 2015), 0.9918 (September-November 2015), 0.9919 (November 2015-January 2016), 0.9920 (January-April 2016), 0.9921 (April-June 2016), 0.9922 (June-July 2016), 0.9923 (July-September 2016), 0.9924 (October-December 2016), 0.9925 (January-February 2017), 0.9926 (March-April 2017), 0.9927 (May-June 2017), 0.9928 (June-October 2017), 0.9929 (October-December 2017), 0.9930 (December 2017-March 2018), 0.9931 (March-April 2018), 0.9932 (May-July 2018), 0.9933 (July-September 2018), 0.9934 (September-December 2018), 0.9935 (December 2018-February 2019), 0.9936 (February-April 2019), 0.9937 (April-July 2019), 0.9938 (July-August 2019), 0.9939 (August-November 2019), 0.9940 (November 2019-February 2020), 0.9941 (February-June 2020), 0.9942 (June-August 2020), 0.9943 (August-November 2020), 0.9944 (November 2020-March 2021), 0.9945 (March-July 2021), 0.9946 (July-September 2021), 0.9947 (September 2021-January 2022), 0.9948 (December 2021-August 2022), 0.9949 (August 2022-April 2023), 0.9950 (April-August 2023), 0.9951 (August-November 2023), ... Current Volume. Send comments and suggestions to z (at) his.com. Thank you! (Copyright © 1999-2023 by Mark Zimmermann.)