Issue № 38

Changing the world

Sometimes I sit and reflect on what it’s all been for. When I am able to briefly clutch a bit of perspective, it’s clear that it’s not all “for” anything specific. Life’s a journey, is none the less true for its being cliché.

The naive activist wants to change the world. But that isn’t necessary: the world is changing anyway.

~ Ed Lake from,

Lately I seem to be stumbling over a large number of “I should probably know who that is” essays. This one about Swartz is one such essay and it filled in some blanks.

But that little bit which I’ve quoted leapt out at me. The world—all of it, from microbes to society, from rock to Gaia—is so absolutely not static. Any urge I’ve ever had to change anything was actually not an urge for a specific change, rather it was an urge for control.

Disconnected facts

Cognitive psychology has shown that the mind best understands facts when they are woven into a conceptual fabric, such as a narrative, mental map, or intuitive theory. Disconnected facts in the mind are like unlinked pages on the web: They might as well not exist.

~ Steven Pinker


At one point I made a serious attempt at gratitude journaling. I learned that the many moments of delight I encounter on any given day don’t stick in my memory. In those moments I am aware of the experience (I really do think “if this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is” often) but it drifts into the forgotten realms. I don’t randomly have thoughts like, “hey Craig, remember that delightful thing from that other moment?” I have to intentionally pause to make a space for those thoughts to appear.

Humans by nature have a strong desire to control and predict. We want to know what happens at the end of the story, and we focus on those things we can measure and easily influence.

~ Cierra Martin from,

Can one remove a desire? This desire which I definitely have, has not abated through familiarity (something which I believe can cause a desire to fade.) I think the only way is to connect the many experiences which did not go through my control-it desire, and led to happiness. “See brain, we got to delight and there was not even an attempt at control there.” Pausing in moments of delight, as it were, to ask, “well… how did I get here?


A good upbringing means not that you won’t spill sauce on the tablecloth, but that you won’t notice it when someone else does.

~ Anton Chekhov

Moving the goal posts

Do you think it is easy writing all these thoughts for this blog/email? It’s a strange experience for me. The writing is really easy—I’m just tapping some little keys and moving a few ones-and-zeros—and my brain has never not been full of thoughts and questions. The writing is really hard—for over a decade I’ve been crafting digital output in various forms for this site, using various systems and routines but it’s an endless task.

So what [is it]? What determines success? Hard work or good fortune? Effort or randomness? I think we all understand both factors play a role, but I’d like to give you a better answer than “It depends.”

~ James Clear from,

The odd thing is that whether I think the writing and all the web site work is hard or easy depends on what I think I am trying to accomplish. To be widely read? …to generate income? …to help others? …to write a certain amount, or for “the most years”? —yikes, this is extremely difficult and arduous work. If my goal is a bunch of stuff over which I have no control, ouch.

On the other hand, when I manage to write because I enjoy fiddling with technology, because I’m curious and love to see/hear others be curious, because thinking and writing and thinking more lead me to clarity and insight… well suddenly it seems so easy.

Lazy summer afternoons

If I want to recall peace, serenity, pleasure, I think of myself on those lazy summer afternoons, with my chair tipped back against the wall, the book on my lap, and the pages softly turning. There may have been, at certain times in my life, higher pitches of ecstasy, vast moments of relief and triumph, but for quiet, peaceful happiness, there has never been anything to compare with it.

~ Isaac Asimov


I’ve too-recently discovered the value of perambulation. Although, I can walk great distances when I’m going somewhere specific, I find a simple stroll is so much better for my mental flossing.

I once walked the distance covered by the Hobbits, from the Shire to Mt. Doom in Mordor. It was an engaging challenge (and the Hobbits did it much more quickly that I managed—which gave me new found respect for those little people) but it eventually became just a thing I was ticking off. Each time I walked one of a very small few routes that I’d measured, I simply added to the tally. Somehow, having a destination made the walks (those whereupon it occurred to me that I was getting closer to Mordor) not feel like perambulation.

That “life affirming” element lives in the rigor of the act. The days are rigorous if nothing else.

~ Craig Mod from,

Maybe my problem is simply my work ethic. I have a crushing work ethic and it’s taken me a great deal of effort to let go of feeling guilty when I’m not working. If I’m on a journey—a walk or a project—if there’s a destination, then my work ethic rears its ugly head and tries to suck the perambulation out of it.

Until next time, thanks for reading.



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