Issue № 36

Chatter and peace

Of late there’s been a marked reduction in the ‘ol mental chatter. I don’t know from where the chatter originates. Sometimes I notice there is chatter; sometimes I notice there is not. When there is chatter, I find it’s usually impossible to stop it in the moment, or even with hours of concerted effort.

If you’re ever able to step back from your own mental chatter, and listen to it with some critical distance, perhaps after a long meditation, or in one of those tired but insightful moments near the end of the day, you might find it indeed exhibits many of the characteristics of an extremely boring and self-absorbed person. It’s not that you yourself are this way — surely you don’t say everything that comes to mind. But the mind does.

~ David Cain from,

The only thing that works for me, to keep the chatter at bay, is to bite off far less than I think I can chew. Then spit half of it out the moment I realize I didn’t actually want it in the first place. My chatter is [I think?] always about something (or some things) specific. The only way to stop the chatter is to realize the thing is not worth doing, or to just do it. With finite time and energy there’s a limit to the “just do it” solution. In recent months I’ve been spending huge amounts of time talking myself into realizing many things are not worth doing. This too is a Sisyphean task, but I think it’s been working— at least if I judge by my perception of recent chatter.

Real life

Real life is found only in the present. If people tell you that you should live your life preparing for the future, do not believe them. We live in this life, and we know this life only, and therefore all our efforts should be directed toward the improvement of this life. Not your life in general but every hour of this life should be lived in the best way you know how.

~ Leo Tolstoy

Out of sight

There are particular features of programming which suck me in. Edge cases and error handling and making it as functional as possible… I can become engrossed for hours. Not one thought beyond the task at hand. Not one sound heard. Not one visual noticed beyond the edges of the screen. If it’s imperfect, it’s not done. It’s not useful until it’s done. The real world is fuzzy, programming and computers are not, and thus all the remainders stay in my head. None of that is good.

Programming, like architecture, is both art and science. Code must run, as buildings must stand, without crumbling. Alexander wrote about things which make us feel more whole in their presence, like the peach growing against the wall. In San Jose, he referred to that quality as “living structure.”

~ Claire L. Evans from,

But sometimes I can build something for my own use which elegantly solves a problem. (Imagine here an Ionic column, for example.) But most of the time, software is just the machinations “behind” the screen. Alexander was (in my opinion) asking us to aim a little high.

To see beauty

Youth is happy because it has the capacity to see beauty. Anyone who keeps the ability to see beauty never grows old.

~ Franz Kafka

Still, choose today

Back at the start of January I mentioned, “Indeed. If it is to my advantage tomorrow, it is much more so today.” My touch phrase, “choose today” for 2023 continues to be a poignant reminder. I’ve now written it at the bottom of every journal entry this year, it often comes to mind in moments when I most need it, and it always reminds me of this:

Stick to what’s in front of you—idea, action, utterance. This is what you deserve. You could be good today. But instead you choose tomorrow.

~ Marcus Aurelius


“If it is to my advantage tomorrow, it is much more so today.” is a direct quote of Epictetus. Aurelius was born shortly after Epictetus’s death. But Aurelius makes a point of thanking one of his teachers, Rusticus saying in part, “[…] And for introducing me to Epictetus’s lectures–and loaning me his own copy.”

Which leads me to the first thing “choose today” reminds me of each day: Knowledge, and in particular wisdom, are gained through others by seeking out those who have something you wish to learn. These people which I’m mentioning lived thousands of years ago. Others (in other traditions from other regions of the world in other centuries) have separately discovered these same ideas, which makes it clear to me that these ideas are worth considering.

The second thing “choose today” reminds me of is to be forward-looking. Certainly I want to observe and consider my past (and the past of others!) but I should be looking towards the future. If something feels urgent, then where exactly is that sense of urgency coming from, and is the urgency real? If something feels important— same questions. If something feels insert_whatever_here— same questions. And then, what can I choose today?

And then

You have to be myopic and completely focused and unbalanced in every way. Once you’ve achieved success, you’re free to do whatever you like.

~ Kevin O’Leary

Provoking the powerful

One reason I write here, is because I think it’s healthy for me to work with the garage door up. My choice of the guideline that herein I write about myself and things I find lying about reminds me to stick with sharing my subjective experience. Long ago I began suppressing my urge to share my opinions, and gosh, that turns out to be liberating.

This is the birth of “epistemic humility” in Western philosophy: the acknowledgment that one’s blind spots and shortcomings are an invitation for ongoing intellectual investigation and growth.

~ J. W. Traphagan and John J. Kaag from,

The confetti gun of opinions seems always to be spewing. For a while I was concerned that my expanding humility would create a sort of power vacuum into which even more opinions of others would drift and settle. But, nope. Removing my contribution has made no difference in the fluttering mess. None the less, it’s simply nice not to feel urgency to contribute to the mess.

Until next time, thanks for reading.



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