being

“Men have become tools to their tools.”

Henry David Thoreau, Walden

There is most certainly a “why” to this statement, and a “how”, and details making up “what” this manifests, but we often don’t hear the “so what” proposed.

Looking to the 1800’s and thinking abstractly for a moment, a typewriter’s chief end must have been to be typed upon. A solitary purpose and solution it achieved through the creation of knowledge work. It trumped any chief end man had in mind for himself as the eight-hour workday soon became our new purpose.

In this, and a landslide of ways before and after, we became subject to the whims of our technology- this is undisputed. Our solution, on the other hand, leaves much to dispute.

Thoreau took it upon himself to leave a life of work in knowledge and eschew all entrappments of the old (but then, new) modern man. “I went to the woods to live deliberately…” His solution is not meant to be applicable to the whole of society but possibly to those who are profoundly in need of escape or release from their cynicism about our culture.

A grand solution, usually backed by organized religion, is the radical transformation of culture around a new (but in actuality, old) set of ideals. I’ll stray from grandeur temporarily to propose a simple component of this idea.

Every religious path in some way prescribes a first step – “returning to one’s roots”. Take this first step in its simplest form. Our deepest roots are in our humanity. We are human beings. The word being has been intentional from the start to remind us we are not human doings.

When we are being, we cannot become tools because our being is counter to any use. We be just to be (not to do).

I believe this is a starting place. Begin to reframe your paradigm about your humanity in small ways. And take a day off from being a tool.


What did you notice today? ///

convenience

What’s the difference between a timer and an alarm? With one set for one hour and the other for 8am (assuming it’s 7am), the same results occurs.

From a code perspective, an alarm is simple. 2-4 lines to prescribe a desired wakeup time and identify what external time measure to use. The output is singular- when the clock strikes 8. A timer requires a similar setup but results in many outputs when each second counts from when the timer is set.

We could say that an alarm is more conservative. Efficient. The timer is wasteful and clunky for such a lengthy task. Why then use the timer at all?

If we desire efficiency, setting an alarm for 4 minutes from 1:30-1:34 for a batch of cookies would be the obvious choice.

This is too simple. What if you have to pickup groceries in 75 minutes and the time is 3:57? The difficulty in the arithmetic leads to the embracing of inefficiency to set a timer. Or– it’s just more convenient.

But convenience is just a short-term issue. Long-term what we’re looking at from a software perspective is constant screen updates, constant background computation, and the load of being able to time each minute up to 48 hours from setting your timer.

This is a genuine reason the LightPhone opted for an alarm and not a timer. It’s a hassle to generate 1,000 times as much coding fodder, and it detracts enough from other systems and operations to make a difference…

…but we, as the user, don’t often see this bug.


Fatal conveniences. Darin Olien hosts a podcast where he reveals ways we have bought into convenience-culture. Darin, like a true non-conformist speaks directly to the “things we may be doing because the world we live in makes us think we have to.”

His segment focusses on nutrition and wellness. My blurb was about software.

Convenience is all around us, and it’s not necessarily a bad thing. When we save time, our money, attention, and energy are all saved.

The problem is when inequitable or inadvertent effects follow.

When we drink from plastic water bottles that exacerbate climate change and cause sky-high pollution of downstream fishing waters needed for a region’s survival.

When we take pills to cure a headache and choose a symptom and its salve as the default over a lifestyle of freedom from both.

These are the effects, personal and global, of the conveniences we fail to question. And like our software bug, they are insignificant and far-reaching all at once.


What did you notice today? ///

///

“Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”

#saveferris


How often do we notice the unusual before it passes us by?

Pass by: this phrase implies that we lose something in the passing (How else can we interpret a colloquialism linked so closely to another about death?). What remains after a week of work, rest, and relationships? Should anything else remain?


Unusual: As a kid, I practiced spying lizards on fences and knowing when someone pulled into the driveway. At restaraunts, I made it a game to know another table’s conversation and mood. I always watched eyes movement and body language as adults exchanged pleasantries or talked business.

I grew into this “surveillance of being” in part, due to an innate curiosity with which we all are born. (We should infectiously rekindle this curiosity for those who have grown too jaded to explore parts of the natural and philosophical kingdom we intermingle with every day).

A larger part of this vigilance was due to a wrestling with adulthood I began to feel even before ten. Somehow I felt the dying of curiosity and emergence of responsibility before it ever had it’s grip on me. I knew something of the world having weight before I realized the reality that we are the bowl in which that weight is poured. This is what led to hyper-awareness.

My scattered attention, then, was not a clinically diagnosable brain pattern, but an almost existential grasping for signs of when to be ready for that weight.


What did you notice today?

A deep mindfulness of the world leads to insights that are often overlooked by others. We all are aware, to a certain extent. Some take in too much, like my younger (and sometimes present) self, and some take in too little, opting for ignorance we see portrayed in dystopias like The Giver and Fahrenheit 451 that hit all too close to home.

Chances are, you noticed something today and that alone is interesting. My solution (and prescription) is writing.

“Writing is the supreme way of blotting out your ignorance on a subject… It’s a confessional; it will reveal everything about you while you imagine you are revealing someone else.”

Writing publicly is a way to say to yourself and the world, “I noticed something today… that’s it.” It hones your ideas, encourages others to think, and activates the creative side of our mind and being

Pay attention some- I will be…


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space

One of the reasons writers and deep thinkers for centuries have thought of space is because it is the largest canvas we have to paint up on. The vastness of the world above coupled with the endless unknowns we face when peering into the stellar, black lagoon stirs up worry in many and possibility in more.

Similar to a whiteboard, glossy and full of diagramable regions, space gives a framework that has been mantled and dismantled numerous times.

From Frank Herbert and George Lucas to Cixin Lin and Pierce Brown, this framework has been twisted and pulled to give us stories and tales of the far, far away and nearest feeling places.

Given the grandeur of the medium of space, these stories are not mere cosmic adventures. We clutch at anachronistic paperbacks that teach us to dream again, hope for beauty in the desolate places, and deeply ponder our place in the universe. There’s something more within them than meets the eye…

Science fiction is not an escape,
but a window to a better world displayed through beauty or forewarning.

wash your hands?

Hand washing is a primal act of trust. We desire sanitation, so we wash our hands. But why don’t we do jumping jacks or rub our hands together to “frictionize” the germs away?

From a young age, our parents taught us the value in hand-washing. Later on, we personally learned the science and had the practice reaffirmed by authoritative bodies. This act is trust because we cannot complete the tests to view the truth for ourselves.

If this doesn’t appear an act of trust, then it’s merely blind trust. Unspoken faith in an unforeseen act.

Any daily act of grooming, activity, or productivity is based on trust of something. Trust in the process that produces an outcome.

Reason is involved as well. When policy or culture fail to reason, our intellect does its job to root out fallacy. When women and minorities are excluded from business and governmental roles, a pendulum is released and culture begins to shift.

This is the basis for social contracts- trust counterbalanced by reason.

But what happens to a society whose reason is impaired? Aldous Huxley asked and answered this question in Brave New World speculating that psychological conditioning through repetition would transform the world in an identical image.

His dystopian society hadn’t just stopped thinking and started laughing, “they did not know what they were laughing about and why they had stopped thinking.”

So if a culture becomes ensnared by a technology that can manipulate, not just our behavior, but our thoughts, social contract theory is out the window.

Trust becomes worse than blind- it’s ignorant. And ignorant is not what we can be when it comes to cornerstone behaviors we practice in culture.

We need to proceed with our eyes wide open, so that we may use technology rather than be used by it.

Neil Postman, Amusing Ourselves to Death

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