Issue № 48

Understanding and compassion

Compassion. The best description (it’s right at the top) and discussion (continues for ~6,000 words) I’ve found is David Gross’s Notes on Compassion.

Empathy, a cycle of skills improvement, developing new attitudes and showing up in service often accompanies the careers of people who get from here to there.

Ambition is insufficient.

~ Seth Godin from,

There’s a reason the word “understanding” is before “compassion” in my mission. We each have limited resources, and we must be intentional (perhaps not _entirely_intentional, but certainly not entirely _un_intentional) with how we act based on compassion. I must first begin to understand myself. Then begin to understand the world, and that includes beginning to understand others.


Only those who do not seek power are qualified to hold it.

~ Plato

Ancients’ philosophy

Clear communication is a sign of understanding. Understanding the idea to be communicated is necessary, but not sufficient, for clear communication. I think in language (I point this out because I wonder if some people don’t think in language) and that leads me to word-smithing. I’m often searching for just the right word or phrase, and then delighted with myself if I find it. Having such labels for larger ideas is a check-point for myself, internally, that I actually have understanding.

Gregory Hays, one of Marcus Aurelius’s best translators, writes in his introduction to Meditations, “If he had to be identified with a particular school, [Stoicism] is surely the one he would have chosen. Yet I suspect that if asked what it was that he studied, his answer would not have been ‘Stoicism’ but simply ‘philosophy.’”

He then notes that in the ancient world, “philosophy” was not perceived the way it is today. It played a much different role. “It was not merely a subject to write or argue about,” Hays writes, “but one that was expected to provide a ‘design for living’—a set of rules to live one’s life by.”

~ Ryan Holiday from,

Just because I have a label for something—Stoicism in this case—doesn’t mean I label myself as that. The obvious reason is that my label has a lot of other context attached (in my mind) and chances are little to none that any of that context is present for another person. Labels are useful as shorthand, but only if we have the shared understanding.

Life is short. There are ends—things I have done which others can observe. There are the means I’ve chosen to those ends. And then there’s justification. I don’t have the time (nor the inclination) to explain everything—and frankly no one wants to hear that much from me (or from anyone.) I just find it interesting when I discover something I do (or say or think) for which I’ve not really thought through the labels… thought through the justification.


One of the most reliable signs that you need a holiday is the conviction that you cannot possibly spare the time to take one.

~ Bryan Magee

All is constant change

It seems obvious that finding a right someone for a healthy relationship is all of subtle, difficult and random; it involves some amount of activity and passivity. Things are made more difficult by my not knowing who I am, and who would be “good” for me.

The best thing for your nervous system is another person. Unfortunately, the worst thing for your nervous system is also another person. An unhealthy relationship can screw up your body budget and, with it, your health and your life. So what makes for a healthy or unhealthy relationship, and how do you maintain one?

~ Lisa Feldman Barrett from,

In the beginning of a relationship, everything is immediate. There’s a seemingly endless stream of, “what shall we do tomorrow?” and “do this because I like it, and stop that because I dislike it.” In surprisingly little time it becomes clear that the two (or more!) people in a relationship are changing. If I’ve found the perfect someone for the me today, who will they be in a decade? …who will I be then? 20, 30, 40 years later? It’s all the complexity of two people, where both people are continuously changing. It strikes me this is much more like surfing than trying to reach the pinnacle of a mountain.


We think we understand the rules when we become adults, but what we really experience is a narrowing of the imagination.

~ David Lynch

This is intimate

At least, it feels intimate to me.

Reading is letting someone else model the world for you. This is an act of intimacy. When the author is morose, you become morose. When he is mirthful, eventually you may share it. And after finishing a very good book one is driven a little mad, forced to return from a world that no one nearby has witnessed.

~ Simon Sarris


A couple weeks ago I returned from a wonderful but all too brief trip. I returned with some new perspectives having had a bunch of great conversations about what it is I’m trying to do (on my blog, in the emails I send, in my projects… heck, with my life at large.) I ended up doing a bunch of work trying to make things clearer (saying things more clearly, better storytelling) and overhauling a lot of back-end functionality. A few things you may find interesting…

Until next time, thanks for reading.



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