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1. “The price that man pays for consciousness is insecurity”
An Antidote to Helplessness and Disorientation: The Great Humanistic Philosopher and Psychologist Erich Fromm on Our Human Fragility as the Key to Our Survival and Our Sanity – Maria Popova – (The Marginalian)
As the lengthy title indicates, this is a reflection on some thoughts of the writer and philosopher Erich Fromm. The concept that resonates for me is that of hope.
Hope — and the wise, effective action that can spring from it — is the counterweight to the heavy sense of our own fragility. It is a continual negotiation between optimism and despair, a continual negation of cynicism and naïveté. We hope precisely because we are aware that terrible outcomes are always possible and often probable, but that the choices we make can impact the outcomes.
That and our own fragility, which is something that grows in our awareness the longer we live.
Do this: Have hope.
2. “When everything is available […] nothing is perceived as valuable.”
The Sterile World of Infinite Choice – Anne Helen Petersen – (Culture Study)
The essay starts out feeling like nothing more than nostalgia for the way things used to be. Outlining how college life was different, the author contrasts with all of the technology that’s been made available since, and how it’s changed basic interactions.
It then takes a more philosophical turn, examining how these changes have affected more than just how we interact, but also how it’s affected how we feel, how we think, and what we do.
the ability to constantly communicate has made us bad communicators
I’m not really doing it justice. It’s a fascinating exploration into the impact of many of the things we now take for granted.
Do this: Take nothing for granted.
3. “You can’t eliminate risk”
Riskophilia – Learning to Love Risk – Packy McCormick – (Not Boring newsletter)
McCormick riffs off a recently published study of children and their exposure to risk. Specifically that as a society we’ve been reducing their exposure to, and ability to deal with, risk. His position is that it applies to everyone, not just children. He makes an interesting case that we’ve all become risk averse.
We stopped embracing risk and started trying to eliminate it. We went from riskophilia to riskophobia.
“Safety culture”, as he terms it, has had a dramatic rise in recent decades, much to our detriment. It’s not that we shouldn’t aim for safety, but we must realize that risk can never be completely eliminated.
Do this: Be realistic.
4. “Drowning out your pain with even stronger emotions”
On Disruption and Distraction – Cal Newport – (Blog)
On the surface, this is yet another case of blaming social media and smartphones for our current malaise and generally broken society. It’s hard to disagree.
The problem, though, is the solution proposed: leaning in to your core values.
If you can resist the allure of the easy digital palliative and instead take on the heavier burden of meaningful action, a more lasting inner peace can be achieved.
I’m not convinced that enough people are self-aware enough to even recognize their core values, much less taking on a heavier burden.
Do this: Choose wisely.
5. “People are still people”
Practical Religion: Ancient Rituals as ‘Vaccination’ – Eleanor Konik – (Obsidian Iceberg newsletter)
This is almost a “correlation is not causation … but maybe it is” exploration of ancient rituals. The upshot is that perhaps that shaman smudging your home to rid it of evil spirits had a practical impact by warning the rest of the village to stay away. The impact would be a decreased chance of spreading what we’d now recognize as a communicable disease.
Maybe some stodgy old priest was just waving incense around and being useless — but maybe it looked more like an expert showing up at someone’s house, using chemicals the homeowner didn’t understand but had reason to trust, and getting paid.
This made me think of the adage coined by Arthur C. Clarke: “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” What I realized is that this adage is always relative to the technological acumen of the observer, and no one else. Honestly, it’s no wonder so many people today believe in the unbelievable.
Do this: Improve your acumen.
6. “The suppression of viewpoint diversity”
The Canceling of the American Mind Explains the Silence of University Leaders Last Week – Jon Haidt – (After Babel newsletter)
In this excerpt from his forward to the new book, The Canceling of the American Mind, Haidt presents a overview of a disturbing and growing trend.
… use social media like a “dart gun” to intimidate leaders into making rapid pronouncements on the issues the activists care about, and to intimidate leaders into silence about issues and events that contradict their preferred narrative …
“Cancel culture” is growing, and it’s suppressing healthy debate on important issues. And if this sounds familiar, it was also the subject of a takeaway last week as well (2. “Humans, individually, are often bad at truth.”)
Do this: Foster healthy debate.
7. “Savoring the moments”
The One Habit I Wish I Discovered in My Twenties – John P. Weiss – (Medium & What Life Should Be About: Elegant Essays on the Things That Matter – ebook)
I think we all hear the advice to “slow down” often. This essay is a type of variation on that, focused on the concept of “savoring”.
There are so many things we can savor if we just learn to slow down. We can savor a meal, a relationship, a conversation, a book, a movie, a piece of music, past memories, and more.
My initial reaction was to compare it to mindfulness, but as I read on, he draws a distinction.
“Like mindfulness, savoring is another way to exercise being present, but it takes things a step further. ‘Mindfulness asks you to observe the present moment without judging it and then let go of it,’ explains Fred Bryant, a psychology professor at Loyola University who pioneered the field of research. ‘Whereas with savoring, you observe a specific type of moment, a positive one, and then you try to cling onto it and not let it go.’”
Do this: Slow down and savor more.
More random links & thoughts
- WTF Happened In 1971? – Indeed.
deepculture – “We send you 10 interesting things every Tuesday. It’s a quick read, interesting, useful and fun to read. If you have a curious mind, it’s the perfect newsletter for you.” This week’s takeaway #2 came via deepculture.
Full (and growing) list on the sources page.
What I’m Reading
- What Life Should Be About: Elegant Essays on the Things That Matter – John P. Weiss
- Ancillary Mercy – Ann Leckie
- Chatter: The Voice in Our Head, Why It Matters, and How to Harness It – Ethan Kross (audio)
- What’s Our Problem? – A Self-help Book for Societies – Tim Urban
- It Can’t Happen Here – Sinclair Lewis
- The Daily Stoic: 366 Meditations for Clarity, Effectiveness, and Serenity – Ryan Holiday, Stephen Hanselman
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