Fear and Circumstance in Las Vegas

I came home to a cat, her white paws delicately dancing past the typewriter, mine.

Tucked inside the typewriter was a sheet, long dead, with the words I wrote by hand:

“Place yourself in circumstances of want, and ask yourself, “is this what I fear?”

I’ve decided on Tolstoy’s Decision Making Matrix

Here are some excerpts from this excellent article on The Art of Decision Making.

In “War and Peace,” Tolstoy writes that, while an armchair general may imagine himself “analyzing some campaign on a map” and then issuing orders, a real general never finds himself at “the beginning of some event”; instead, he is perpetually situated in the middle of a series of events, each a link in an endless chain of causation.

“Can it be that I allowed Napolean to get as far as Moscow?” Tolstoy’s General Kutuzov wonders.

“When was it decided? Was it yesterday, when I sent Platov the order to retreat, or was it the evening before, when I dozed off and told Bennigsen to give the orders? Or still earlier?”

For Tolstoy, the tendency of big decisions to make themselves was one of the great mysteries of existence. It suggested that the stories we tell about our lives are inadequate to their real complexity.

We first ask ourselves what we value, then seek to maximize that value.

We choose how we change.

The problem is that you don’t actually want to listen to classical music. You want to want to. Aspiring, Callard thinks, is a common human activity.

If we couldn’t aspire to changes that we struggle to describe, we’d be trapped within the ideas that we already.

To aspire, Callard writes, is to judge one’s present-day self by the standards of a future self who doesn’t yet exist.

Expanding our limits by learning a language

The full transcript is here.

“how can you help a normal adult learn a new language quickly, easily and effectively?

Now this is a really, really important question in today’s world.

We have massive challenges with environment. We have massive challenges with social dislocation, with wars, all sorts of things going on and if we can’t communication we’re really going to have difficulty solving these problems. So we need to be able to speak each other’s languages, this is really really important.

The question is how you do that.

Well it’s actually really easy.

You look around for people who can already do it, you look for situations where it’s already working, and then you identify the principles and apply them.

It’s called modelling and I’ve been looking at language learning and modelling language learning for about fifteen to twenty years now.

And my conclusion, my observation from this is

is that any adult can learn a second language to fluency

inside six months.

Now when I say this, most people think I’m crazy, that this is not possible.

So let me remind everybody of the history of human progress, it’s all about expanding our limits.”

Optimism is a political act.

Those who benefit from the status quo are perfectly happy for us to think nothing is going to get any better. In fact, these days, cynicism is obedience.

Alex Steffen, The Bright Green City

Women and Qualifications

Elizabeth Gilbert’s perspective:

“Too many women still seem to believe that they are not allowed to put themselves forward at all, until both they and their work are perfect and beyond criticism.

Meanwhile, putting forth work that is far from perfect rarely stops men from participating in the global cultural conversation.

I like that feature in men — their absurd overconfidence, the way they will casually decide, ‘Well, I’m 41 percent qualified for this task, so give me the job!’

Yes, sometimes the results are ridiculous and disastrous, but sometimes, strangely enough, it works — a man who seems not ready for the task, not good enough for the task, somehow grows immediately into his potential through the wild leap of faith itself.” 

In other words, rise to the role you wish to perform.

“Better to have a short life that is full of what you like doing than a long life spent in a miserable way,”

Alan Watts (a philosopher) says.