Issue № 67

This may figure in

Aeon has been one of the better things I’ve recently found scattered upon the Internet. It’s not new; It’s new to me. One of my super-powers isn’t actually a super-power. It’s a piece of software that I wrote. Take a look at Aeon and imagine if, somehow, every day you were offered a couple of these essays to consider. Most of them I pass. But some of them…

For those with more serious loss, the decline of one sense often strengthens others. Watch anyone who has had hearing problems for a while and it’s obvious that they are listening differently. They listen with the whole of themselves, bodies turned towards the speaker, drinking in cues. They don’t hear so much as inhale, taking in everything from the expression in the other person’s eyes to the story told by their hands. At a sign language class or a deaf pub night, people — British people, even — will be listening and communicating with everything they have: gesture, expression, if necessary grabbing the other person and physically manhandling them into understanding.

~ Bella Bathurst from,

I have always had poor hearing. If you’re a certain age, you’ll remember lining up to go into your school library, where someone gave you headphones and told you to raise your hand when you heard each tone. I didn’t have to raise my hand much, so, yay? /sarcasm Over the years I realized that I was compensating in other ways. Lip-reading being the most obvious. It wasn’t as good as Ye Ol’ Ears, but it worked. Somewhat. Eventually I got hearing aids and that’s another anecdote for another day.

Those who know me best, laugh derisively when I say, “People tell me I’m an amazing listener.” No really. A lot of people tell me that. And after reading that essay, I’m left wondering if having really poor hearing for most of my life, might be the secret to my listening.


The only question that really matters, the only question whose correct answer can exert a civilizing influence on the future specialist, is the question asked by Buddha and Jesus, by Lao-Tsu and Socrates, by Job and Aeschylus, and Chaucer and Shakespeare and Dostoevsky, by every philosopher, every mystic, every great artist: Who am I and what, if anything, can I do about it?

~ Aldous Huxley


I remain only slightly less clueless than as on my birth day. No clue then. After about a trillion seconds of learning, I’ve still not much to go on. Some things have worked— but I’m not sure exactly why. Some things haven’t worked— also not sure why. The only clues I have are very abstract, fortune-cookie sized, clues like: “Work hard. Stay Humble.” (And a few I’ve cribbed from Lao Tsu and Marcus Aurelius come to think of it.)

The following recipe assumes you’re very ambitious.

The first step is to decide what to work on. The work you choose needs to have three qualities: it has to be something you have a natural aptitude for, that you have a deep interest in, and that offers scope to do great work.

~ Paul Graham from,

I’ve often wished there’d been a How to Be Human manual. I’m not sure how one would learn the contents very early on. (How does one learn the first chapters pre-language?) Each year, as one levels up, the next chapter of the manual would become available. Arguably, the entire book reduces to: “Relax. Breath.” But, somewhere around chapter 7 I’d very much liked to have found what Graham wrote. (Even though I’d probably have ignored it until about level 22.)


A well-composed song strikes the mind and softens the feelings, and produces a greater effect than a moral work, which convinces our reason, but does not warm our feelings, nor effect the slightest alteration in our habits.

~ Napoleon

Making space

Suppose I wanted to give something up, but I’m completely baffled by how to decide which thing. I’m not talking about needing to give something up. I mean: This is all nice, and I’d like to have less. It turns out I spend a lot of time thinking about what to give up, and how to give it up. And who would I be once that thing that I do ceased. And why am I still making the mistake of identifying who I am as what I do? (I run, but I am not a runner.) Most of the answers I’ve found to, “what to give up and how?” come from visualization exercises. I know in fact that I will eventually give it all up. Suddenly, it’s no longer about “if”, but more simply “when”. If next decade is fine, why not next year? …why not right now?

To change a habit – whether you’re starting a new habit or quitting an old one – you have to let go of something really important to you. This is why most people struggle with habit change – it’s not easy to let go of your sacred cows.

~ Leo Babauta from,

As always Babauta’s thoughts and perspective inspire me to pause, breath, relax. We do need space, because without space when are we comfortable simply being? I now often find I do have such space. Although my urge remains to fill the spaces up with doing, not-breathing, grasping— Therefore I continue, slowly. breathing. relaxing. visualizing. being.


All the technique in the world doesn’t compensate for the inability to notice.

~ Elliott Erwitt

This is nice

If I’m never able to acknowledge that the current moment is nice, then what’s the point? Never noticing it’s nice leads to the aching feeling that—as the thread-bare adage goes—time is slipping through my fingers like sand through an hourglass.

Time management is a cognitively strenuous task, leaving us feeling harried. As the opportunity cost of time increases, our concern about “wasting” our precious hours grows more acute. On balance, we are better off, but the blessing of high-value time can overwhelm some individuals, just as can the ready availability of high-calorie food.

~ Alex Tabarrok from,

Fortunately I have taken steps to ensure that I regularly notice, and think, “this is nice.” I’m not always successful; I can still be spotted being a grumpster, or a petulant three-year-old. But that’s the point: Life is a range of experiences, and once I realized my scale of judgement were always tipped to one side, when that’s clearly not the reality of my existence, I set about adjusting the scale.

Until next time, thanks for reading.



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