Friday, October 23, 2015

Key Learnings

This morning I found these nine, what they've called " learnings" from Brain Pickings in my email box. Lots of food for thought in these reflections. I have commented at the end of each one listed.

"1. Allow yourself the uncomfortable luxury of changing your mind. Cultivate that capacity for "negative capability." We live in a culture where one of the greatest social disgraces is not having an opinion, so we often form our "opinions" based on superficial impressions or the borrowed ideas of others, without investing the time and thought that cultivating true conviction necessitates. We then go around asserting these donned opinions and clinging to them as anchors to our own reality. It's enormously disorienting to simply say, "I don't know." But it's infinitely more rewarding to understand than to be right – even if that means changing your mind about a topic, an ideology, or, above all, yourself."
  • That last bit about it being "infinitely more rewarding to understand than to be right" certainly is a resounding truth with me. Annoyance, contempt  and a false sense of superiority are manifested when the ego gets in the way of our opinions and clouds any real understanding.

"2. Do nothing for prestige or status or money or approval alone. As Paul Graham observed, "prestige is like a powerful magnet that warps even your beliefs about what you enjoy. It causes you to work not on what you like, but what you’d like to like." Those extrinsic motivators are fine and can feel life-affirming in the moment, but they ultimately don't make it thrilling to get up in the morning and gratifying to go to sleep at night – and, in fact, they can often distract and detract from the things that do offer those deeper rewards."

  • One of the basic human needs is recognition, however being in pursuit and expectation of it never ends well. Having an imbalanced need for prestige or for anything out side ourselves is like trying to fill a bottomless pit, and can become addictive.  Spiritus contra spiritum is what Carl Jung called it. "The attempt to fill a spiritual void with a material reality." 

"3. Be generous. Be generous with your time and your resources and with giving credit and, especially, with your words. It's so much easier to be a critic than a celebrator. Always remember there is a human being on the other end of every exchange and behind every cultural artifact being critiqued. To understand and be understood, those are among life's greatest gifts, and every interaction is an opportunity to exchange them."

  •  Generousity is putting our gratitude into action otherwise it is just a pleasant emotion.
  • According to the Lakota tradition, the natural law of generousity states, that energy we use to communicate, returns to us fourfold.

"4. Build pockets of stillness into your life. Meditate. Go for walks. Ride your bike going nowhere in particular. There is a creative purpose to daydreaming, even to boredom. The best ideas come to us when we stop actively trying to coax the muse into manifesting and let the fragments of experience float around our unconscious mind in order to click into new combinations. Without this essential stage of unconscious processing, the entire flow of the creative process is broken.
Most importantly, sleep. Besides being the greatest creative aphrodisiac, sleep also affects our every waking moment, dictates our social rhythm, and even mediates our negative moods. Be as religious and disciplined about your sleep as you are about your work. We tend to wear our ability to get by on little sleep as some sort of badge of honor that validates our work ethic. But what it really is is a profound failure of self-respect and of priorities. What could possibly be more important than your health and your sanity, from which all else springs?"
  • We live in a culture where most people are sleep deprived and are barely functioning on a chronic sleep deficit. 
  • Driving while deprived of sleep it like driving drunk, it's a very dangerous situation.
  • Digital devices used before bed are said to be contributing to our lack of deep sleep.

"5. When people tell you who they are, Maya Angelou famously advised, believe them. Just as importantly, however, when people try to tell you who you are, don't believe them. You are the only custodian of your own integrity, and the assumptions made by those that misunderstand who you are and what you stand for reveal a great deal about them and absolutely nothing about you."
  •  Human beings are complex, and have many layers to their personalities. I think if we die without knowing or experiencing who we are as individuals, this is a tragedy. Each person brings to this life a sacred capital. This is our value and worth.

"6. Presence is far more intricate and rewarding an art than productivity. Ours is a culture that measures our worth as human beings by our efficiency, our earnings, our ability to perform this or that. The cult of productivity has its place, but worshiping at its altar daily robs us of the very capacity for joy and wonder that makes life worth living – for, as Annie Dillard memorably put it, "how we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives." "
  •  I am fond of remembering that I am a human being, not a human doing. Living fully in the present moment is what brings me peace of mind. Worrying about the past and projecting into the future robs me of my happiness.

        "7. "Expect anything worthwhile to take a long time." This is borrowed from the wise  and           
wonderful Debbie Millman, for it's hard to better capture something so fundamental yet so impatiently overlooked in our culture of immediacy. The myth of the overnight success is just that – a myth – as well as a reminder that our present definition of success needs serious retuning. As I've reflected elsewhere, the flower doesn’t go from bud to blossom in one spritely burst and yet, as a culture, we're disinterested in the tedium of the blossoming. But that’s where all the real magic unfolds in the making of one’s character and destiny.
And here are the two new additions:"
  •  I remember what a wise old recovering New York nun said about recovery and I believe it can be related to living a worth while life. Growth happens little by slowly.

"8. Seek out what magnifies your spirit. Patti Smith, in discussing William Blake and her creative influences, talks about writers and artists who magnified her spirit – it's a beautiful phrase and a beautiful notion. Who are the people, ideas, and books that magnify your spirit? Find them, hold on to them, and visit them often. Use them not only as a remedy once spiritual malaise has already infected your vitality but as a vaccine administered while you are healthy to protect your radiance."
  • Wow I love Patti Smith even more now!

"9. Don't be afraid to be an idealist. There is much to be said for our responsibility as creators and consumers of that constant dynamic interaction we call culture – which side of the fault line between catering and creating are we to stand on? The commercial enterprise is conditioning us to believe that the road to success is paved with catering to existing demands – give the people cat GIFs, the narrative goes, because cat GIFs are what the people want. But E.B. White, one of our last great idealists, was eternally right when he asserted half a century ago that the role of the writer is "to lift people up, not lower them down" – a role each of us is called to with increasing urgency, whatever cog we may be in the machinery of society. Supply creates its own demand. Only by consistently supplying it can we hope to increase the demand for the substantive over the superficial – in our individual lives and in the collective dream called culture."
  •  Idealism as opposed to cynicism is the only way to go. Idealism is where hope lies and there is always hope for even for the hopeless cynic.

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