27 June 2018

All we have in life is our time. As Annie Dillard reminds us, “how we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.”

In life, you will become known for doing what you do. That sounds obvious, but it’s profound. If you want to be known as someone who does a particular thing, then you must start doing that thing immediately. Don’t wait. There is no other way. It probably won’t make you money at first, but do it anyway. Work nights. Work weekends. Sleep less. Whatever you have to do. If you’re lucky enough to know what brings you bliss, then do that thing at once. If you do it well, and for long enough, the world will find ways to repay you.

This fall, in a toilet stall in Burlington, Vermont, I saw this scrawled on the wall:

“Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive. The world needs more people who have come alive.”

If you’re doing something you love, you won’t care what the world thinks, because you’ll love the process anyway. This is one of those truths that we know, but which we can’t seem to stop forgetting.

In America, success is a word we hear a lot. What does it mean? Is it money, power, fame, love? I like how Bob Dylan defines it: “A man is a success if he gets up in the morning and gets to bed at night, and in between he does what he wants to do.”

We have these brief lives, and our only real choice is how we will fill them. Your attention is precious. Don’t squander it. Don’t throw it away. Don’t let companies and products steal it from you. Don’t let advertisers trick you into lusting after things you don’t need. Don’t let the media convince you to covet the lives of celebrities. Own your attention — it’s all you really have.

In the tradeoff between timeliness and timelessness, choose the latter. The zeitgeist rewards timeliness, but your soul rewards timelessness. Work on things that will last.

Jonathan Harris

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27 June 2018

I think one of the things that really separates us from the high primates is that we’re tool builders. I read a study that measured the efficiency of locomotion for various species on the planet. The condor used the least energy to move a kilometer. And, humans came in with a rather unimpressive showing, about a third of the way down the list. It was not too proud a showing for the crown of creation. So, that didn’t look so good. But, then somebody at Scientific American had the insight to test the efficiency of locomotion for a man on a bicycle. And, a man on a bicycle, a human on a bicycle, blew the condor away, completely off the top of the charts. And that’s what a computer is to me. What a computer is to me is it’s the most remarkable tool that we’ve ever come up with, and it’s the equivalent of a bicycle for our minds.

Steve Jobs

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27 June 2018

I don’t think that to work is to live. Work is alright in proportion: but one wants to have a certain richness and satisfaction in oneself, which is more than anything produced. One wants to be.

DH Lawrence

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27 June 2018

What I am saying does not mean that there will henceforth be no form in art. It only means that there will be new form and that this form will be of such a type that it admit the chaos and does not try to say that the chaos is really something else. . . . [T]o find a form that accommodates the mess, that is the task of the artist now.

Beckett on admitting “the mess” and “the chaos”

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27 June 2018

Practice any art, music, singing, dancing, acting, drawing, painting, sculpting, poetry, fiction, essays, reportage, no matter how well or badly, not to get money and fame, but to experience becoming, to find out what’s inside you, to make your soul grow.

Seriously! I mean starting right now, do art and do it for the rest of your lives. Draw a funny or nice picture of Ms. Lockwood, and give it to her. Dance home after school, and sing in the shower and on and on. Make a face in your mashed potatoes. Pretend you’re Count Dracula.

Here’s an assignment for tonight, and I hope Ms. Lockwood will flunk you if you don’t do it: Write a six line poem, about anything, but rhymed. No fair tennis without a net. Make it as good as you possibly can. But don’t tell anybody what you’re doing. Don’t show it or recite it to anybody, not even your girlfriend or parents or whatever, or Ms. Lockwood. OK?

Tear it up into teeny-weeny pieces, and discard them into widely separated trash recepticals. You will find that you have already been gloriously rewarded for your poem. You have experienced becoming, learned a lot more about what’s inside you, and you have made your soul grow.

Kurt Vonnegut in a letter to school children in 2006

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27 June 2018

We need to get out of the persuasion business and start getting into the magic business, or the catalysis business, or the magnetizing business, or whatever you want to call it. Using reason isn’t wrong. But with objects this huge, this massively distributed, this counterintuitive, this transdimensional, it’s not enough simply to use art as candy coating on top of facts. We can’t just be in the PR business. Percy Shelley put it beautifully when he wrote, “We lack the creative faculty to imagine that which we know.” That was back in 1820, and it’s only gotten worse. Consider the heavy hydrocarbons that subtend the soil of the Lago Agrio oil field in Ecuador, a black fudge hyperobject that oozes into drinking water, with unknown and under-studied mutagenic and carcinogenic effects. We do not need to keep on parsing the data like Chevron, the defendants in the lawsuit on behalf of the people affected by the contaminated soil. Such parsing of data would be using the very same tactic as the gigantic corporation, the strategy of producing endless maps and graphs.

Morton via edsu

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27 June 2018

Landscape in fiction is never just background, or you’re wasting your opportunities. Let the landscape do as much of the work of informing the reader of your intentions as possible. Entangle your ideas & meanings with the setting. Fold them into one another.

M John Harrison

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27 June 2018

“In the real world, nothing happens at the right place at the right time. It is the job of journalists and historians to correct that.”

Mark Twain

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