Issue № 5

Radical happiness

Particularly radical was Franklin’s idea about who could pursue happiness in this way. In Europe at the time, mainly aristocratic men with means would have been able to pursue lifelong learning in a formal sense. Franklin rejected this. He believed that “this pursuit was not the province of the upper classes,” Burns told me, “but rather for everyone, from the wealthy to the masses.” Burns hastened to add that this idea was nowhere near expansive enough in Franklin’s time—Franklin himself had slaves in his household, and equal rights for women were still far off—but this philosophy set the unique American aspiration in motion.

~ Arthur C. Brooks from,

There’s certainly a lot one can say about Franklin ranging from great to terrible. He feels close enough in time that he should be at least partly relatable and understandable, like a quirky uncle who has some sketchy ideas but is generally a good egg. But he isn’t; He isn’t that close in time and the reality of his life is all over the map. It’s difficult, but important, to try to give proper credit for radical, positive ideas despite other blemishes, mistakes, or egregious errors. Brooks does a tidy job of focusing on Franklin’s advancement of the batshit–crazy notion that everyone could do the absolutely selfish thing of pursuing their own happiness, and that would actually make the communal society better. Alas, it’s humanity’s loss that such radical ideas didn’t surface sooner.

Completely just

You cannot be completely just. One time you do too little, the other time you do too much. There is only one way not to sin against justice; Always to change things, to improve things, to make them better.

~ Leo Tolstoy

And being on the hook is hard

So people are getting what they asked for. Autonomy. Responsibility instead of authority. The chance to speak up and be heard. Most of all, the opportunity to be on the hook.

Not surprisingly, some people, particularly if they’ve been indoctrinated into the industrial mindset, don’t like this.

They can’t ask, “just tell me what to do.” The search for an A, the hope to be picked by someone in charge, the desire for perfect–it’s gone. So is the deniability that comes with following instructions.

~ Seth Godin from,

I don’t know if what Godin points out is a common problem. I’m wondering if those who can’t make the shift mentioned by Godin are simply surrendering too soon. Modern life is complicated—the most clever thing the devil ever did was convince people the Internet was easy! The more time you spend knee-deep in technology the sooner you learn that you have to be able to throw your arms up and tap-out. That’s useful in some situations (all of life that touches technology) but would look exactly like idunnoitis in a business setting.

The dark forces within

Our whole being is nothing but a fight against the dark forces within ourselves. To live is to war with trolls in heart and soul. To write is to sit in judgement on oneself.

~ Henrik Ibsen

On empathy

This was a particularly interesting (and difficult) post to research and write. There is a wealth of literature about empathy, and I found a lot of it surprising. I feel kind of like the kid who opened up the back of dad’s watch to see how it works and now is sitting amidst a cubic yard of springs and gears wondering how to put it all back together.

~ David Gross from,

At 19,000 words and 77 minutes of reading, this is a small book. If you click through, you’ll quickly discover that it is also one of 50–or–so, similarly–sized “posts” by Gross on Fortunately, he didn’t let his “wondering how to put it all back together” stop him from taking it all apart. Entirely apart, dissected from every direction, and including diagrams.

Even if this topic, author, and specific linked-article aren’t of interest, I encourage you to click over to Lesswrong. It is a magnificent web site, beautifully simple to behold, and easy to read for hours on end. It is one of the very few websites on the Internet that I don’t instinctively glip to my browser’s show-reader-view. Lesswrong is jammed full of useful features for a reader. Lesswrong is quite literally what Wikipedia should be in terms of user experience and appearance.

Our perspectives

The world simply exists as it is—things or events are not good or bad, right or wrong, ugly or beautiful. It is we, with our particular perspectives, who add color to or subtract it from things and people. We focus on either the beautiful Gothic architecture or the annoying tourists.

~ Robert Greene

Watching the light go on

This was Seth Godin’s second appearance on Brian Koppelman’s show The Moment_and captures a slightly less polished version of some of his usual messaging. It’s easier to see his path to really polished books like _This is Marketing and The Practice.

I think we talked last time about watching the light go on for people. That is my mission. That is what I’ve been doing since I was 18 years old, that when I’m doing my best work, what I’m doing is engaging with someone and helping them see the world differently and let them do work that they care about. And sometimes you can do that with a book. And the magic of books used to be that millions of people would go to a store waiting for a light to be turned on. So it’s scaled. And it was a combination of solitary endeavor, but a community one as well. I do it in person with people I care about. But that doesn’t scale. So the question is, is there a way in this post book world to be able to create environments where people change.

~ Seth Godin ~3:17 in the July 7, 2015 episode of The Moment with Brian Koppelman

Depending on where you normally listen, this episode might be hard to find. It’s more than 300 episodes back (7 years) in Koppelman’s The Moment podcast. I couldn’t find it on the main web site for the show. (I originally found it because I have a way of manually, human-reading RSS feeds, beginning from the first entry in a “drip” system.)

The link below is to a service from Overcast (the podcast player app) which will let you play it in your favorite web browser.

Until next time, thanks for reading.



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