Issue № 66

Moving scenery

I like Carl Sagan’s point about humans being able to work magic. (I’ll pause here while you read the quote.) Writing enables us to transmit ideas across time and space directly into others’ minds; It’s a natural and obvious development once we had language and storytelling. I am so far, endlessly fascinated by that.

My soul is three generations old

~ Jesse Danger from,

Does what someone says, or writes, need to make sense? It would be insane to expect it to always, or necessarily, make sense. What about poetry? And what about mental imagery incited by reading or listening? And what about literal imagery? I find there’s a vast range of media, and mediums, that interest me once given a chance. Sometimes I want to read logical and reasoned text. Sometimes I want to relax by the window of the train as the scenery slides past.


The noblest art is that of making others happy.

~ P.T. Barnum

Intentional action

Elsewhere I’ve talked about the Karpman drama triangle. About learning it’s not even actually fun to be the hero who rushes in. Rushing—doing something quickly sacrificing doing it correctly—is never the right choice.

The most exciting thing about professional project management is that it trades away excitement for systems thinking and intentional action. We make heroes out of people who show up with the last-minute save, but the real work is in not needing the last minute.

~ Seth Godin from,

Of course, we can delete the word “professional” from the above and it points to something we might choose to work on: If I’m late… If I’m rushing… If I’m “too busy”… Where exactly does that come from? Once I started look at my life this way, and started asking such questions, it didn’t take long to realize the problem was within myself. We choose to take on too many things. We choose to stretch for more connections, activities and things. The details differ. But it’s the same for each of us.


The path to all great things passes through silence.

~ Friedrich Nietzsche

Using structure

I’m aware that I have a habit (or perhaps it’s a dysfunction depending on your perspective) of turning everything into a process. Before I even do something a first time I’m imagining the whatever-it-is as a checklist— imagining it as a process. I’ll be generous, and I’ll call that being detail-oriented and being a planner. I’m also processifying (my spell-checker balks) everything from both ends: The first step I imagine is: What does done look like? I’m building the process from the front (“gather materials,” let’s say) and from the back (“deposit check, dance jig”). In the middle I’ve a place holder: Magic happens.

I refine and sub-divide the stuff at the front. I refine and sub-divide the stuff at the back. I’m creating more and easier steps, and I’m trying to pull as much as I can out of that “magic happens” step in the middle. When I look honestly, I see this everywhere in my life. That ill-defined, magical, central step is the feature. The struggle there is real, and it’s not to be avoided. Once I’ve factored out—moved to before, or move to after, the magic, middle part—all the stuff I’m more or less certain of… what remains is tension, in that magic, middle part. When I do it just right, that tension makes the magic happen.


Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art, like the universe itself… It has no survival value; Rather it is one of those things which give value to survival.

~ C.S. Lewis


If you have your primary needs of security and health fulfilled (as billions of us now do) how then do we proceed? It seems I have two options. The option I default to, is to feel I should first do what I must—the work that others have assigned, the work that brings in the dollars, the work I feel that I should do. The second option is, of course, doing what I wish to do. My defaulting to those shoulds directly conflicts with my pursuit of the wish-tos. This creates enormous tension, and alarming swings of focus, energy and mood.

The message is clear: you should do what you do to the best of your ability, and whether you gain recognition for it or not is secondary. This is the ethic of the Japanese shokunin, the true craftsman. These masters are completely dedicated to perfecting their craft, whether it is cookery or calligraphy, woodwork or weaving. Honour comes simply from the work, not from the recognition others give you for your doing it.

~ Julian Baggini from,

What, actually, happens if we flip things? Rather than first doing what we must, we first do what we wish. Don’t misread; I’m not proposing we do what we wish instead of doing what we must. What if we simply flipped the priorities— a reversal of the ordering?

Until next time, thanks for reading.



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