Sunday, July 21, 2024

Yes or No?

My husband and I were driving to the North End to walk our dog when my car suddenly sounded like a police radio burbling and then asked Yes or No? 

What is that? Did you hear that? 

Yes, I did.

This car talks!

No! I shouted at the car and the voice shut off.

We have a talking car!

You wouldn't have believed me had you not been in the car with me. 

True!

We laughed and told our mechanic. We all agreed that this might've been a blue tooth connection trying to

connect. 

I must've hit a button somewhere. I said laughing shaking my head.

For most of human history, most societies sought wisdom from their oldest members.

For most of human history, most societies sought wisdom from their oldest members. We’re in an odd experiment in which we seek it from Google, and think of old age as a problem to be fixed, not a source of wisdom to be cherished. I’m delighted that in this dark year, the elders offer a message of resilience and happiness. John Leland

Thursday, July 18, 2024

Neon Sunset

 No photo description available.

The greatest gift is the passion for reading. It is cheap, it consoles, it distracts, it excites, it gives you knowledge of the world and experience of a wide kind. It is a moral illumination. Elizabeth Hardwick

“Books give not wisdom where none was before. But where some is, there reading makes it more.”

Elizabeth Hardwick

“Reading is a discount ticket to everywhere.”
Elizabeth Hardwick 
 
“When you travel your first discovery is that you do not exist.”
Elizabeth Hardwick, Sleepless Nights  

Wednesday, July 17, 2024

How to Measure Remaining Daylight with your Hand

 Image

To see a World in a Grain of Sand And a Heaven in a Wildflower Hold Infinity in the Palm of your hand And Eternity in an Hour

 William Blake

The only thing worth having is a skill to master.

The life secret Jerry Seinfeld learned from Esquire

The only thing worth having is a skill to master.

By

Trung Phan is the co-founder of Bearly AI and writes the SatPost newsletter. This essay is adapted from the May 24 entry on SatPost.

During a recent interview with the New Yorker to mark his directorial debut with the film “Unfrosted,” Jerry Seinfeld was asked why, given his great financial success, he still works so much. His answer was glorious:

“Because the only thing in life that’s really worth having is good skill,” he said. “Good skill is the greatest possession. The things that money buys are fine. They’re good. I like them. But having a skill [is the most important thing].”

This, he said, he learned long ago from reading an issue of Esquire magazine on “mastery.” “Pursue mastery that will fulfill your life,” Seinfeld continued. “You will feel good. … I work because if you don’t in standup comedy — if you don’t do it a lot — you stink.”

This sent me looking for the issue of Esquire that had made such a difference for him, and I’m pretty sure I found it. In May 1987, two years before “Seinfeld” premiered on NBC, Esquire published an issue titled “Mastery: The Secret of Ultimate Fitness.”

It does indeed offer provocative lessons in how to excel at any undertaking, lessons that stand up today and deserve to be resurfaced from 37-year-old magazine pages.

In recent decades, notable books have addressed this same topic, including Robert Greene’s “Mastery” (2012) and Malcolm Gladwell’s “Outliers” (2008), which popularized the “10,000-hour rule” specifying how much practice it takes to master a skill.

But the Esquire issue is older than those books, and it contains gem insights all its own. (In fact, the magazine issue was so popular that it inspired George Leonard — who edited and compiled that issue — to write a book on the topic.)

Here are the six notable takeaways:

1. Anyone can pursue mastery — if they can first locate the path

In the issue’s main article, “Playing For Keeps: The Art of Mastery in Sports and Life,” Leonard explains: “The modern world can be viewed as a prodigious conspiracy against mastery. We are bombarded with promises of fast, temporary relief, immediate gratification, and instant success, all of which lead in exactly the wrong direction.”

This is, if anything, truer today than it was back then. TV, a growing distraction in the mid-1980s, was nothing compared with the smartphones in our pockets now.

2. Maintain a child’s mind-set

Starting on the path of mastery requires qualities more commonly found in children than in adults: curiosity, being present and lack of ego — specifically, not caring if you fail.

Many adults are unable to learn new skills, Leonard says, because they are “impatient for significant results” and unwilling to make mistakes.

3. Develop muscle memory

The best athletes in a sport usually make it look effortless — think of Roger Federer in tennis or Steph Curry in basketball. It looks effortless because the athlete has put in countless hours of practice. The physical movements become “muscle memory” and the actions are on “autopilot.”

There has been significantly more research on this topic since the mid-1980s, but it’s interesting to read what was understood almost four decades ago. Karl Priban, then a neuroscientist at Stanford University, explains to Leonard that humans possess a subconscious “habitual behavior system,” which involves a “reflex circuit in the spinal cord” connected to various parts of the brain.

“It makes it possible for you to do things — jump over a hurdle or return a scorching tennis serve — without worrying just how you do them,” Leonard says about Priban’s research. In the beginning, you have to learn new ways of moving and sensing, but once you reprogram the habitual system, you no longer have to stop and think about where to place your feet to leap over a hurdle or how to grip your racket.

4. Mastery is plateaus and brief spurts of progress

Leonard describes his own experience learning to play tennis. He wants instant results, but his instructor wants him to be patient. Leonard is told to avoid even playing against an opponent for six months. Instead, he should spend his training time perfecting his grip on the racket. The instructor is trying to impart two main lessons:

“Learning something new involves relatively brief spurts of progress, each of which is followed by a slight decline to a plateau somewhat higher than what preceded it.”

and

“You must be willing to spend most of your time on a plateau to keep practicing even when you seem to be getting nowhere.”

Learning to tolerate plateaus is essential, because they are “where the deepest, most lasting learning takes place,” Leonard says. In time, he learns that every plateau leads eventually to a satisfying new spurt of progress.

Those who fail to appreciate this truth wind up as non-masters, of which there are three kinds. The first is the “dabbler,” the zealous beginner who “announces proudly to everyone he knows that he is going to take up tennis, golf, martial arts, bodybuilding, running, swimming, whatever. He loves the shiny new equipment [and] the spiffy training suits.” He has a spurt of progress, demonstrates his skill to family and friends, and can’t wait for the next lesson. But when the inevitable plateau arrives, he loses enthusiasm, starts missing lessons, and rationalizes that the sport was really never for him. He starts into something else, and the cycle continues.

The second type is the “obsessive,” who wants to get every skill down right off the bat. “He stays after class talking to the instructor. He asks what books and tapes he can buy to help him make progress faster. He leans toward the listener when he talks.” And he makes robust progress at first. But when he reaches the plateau, he can’t stand it. He tries harder, pushing himself until he quits, often with an injury.

The third kind of non-master is the “hacker,” the person who, after reaching the plateau, is willing to stay there. “If it is golf, he gets locked into an eccentric but adequate swing and is satisfied with it. If it is tennis, he develops a solid forehand and figures he can make do with his backhand. If it’s martial arts, he likes the power but not the endless discipline. … He’s a good guy to have around but he’s not on the journey of mastery.”

5. Mastery is a lifelong endeavor

As you get older, it is totally fine to “dabble” and “hack” (especially to avoid injury), but there should be at least one pursuit that you take seriously. As everything changes — work, family, social networks, locations — a lifelong pursuit grounds you in something constant.

“If you stay on it long enough, you’ll discover that the path is a vivid place, with its ups and downs, its challenges, comforts, its surprises, its disappointments, and unconditional joys,” Leonard writes. “You’ll take your share of bumps and bruises while travelling it — bruises of the body and of the ego. … It will give you plenty of exercise, a well-toned body, a feeling of self-confidence and an added charge of energy for your career and your good work. Eventually, it might well make you a winner in your chosen sport, if that’s what you’re looking for, and then people will refer to you as a master. But that’s not really the point: What is mastery? At the heart of it, mastery is staying on the path.”

6. Practitioners of mastery share four traits

The Esquire issue concludes with four commonalities among people who pursue mastery:

  • Enthusiasm: “It works both ways,” says Leonard. “Having a great deal of experience at something worthwhile makes you enjoy working at it. Enjoying what you work at results in your wanting to get more experience.”
  • Generosity: Noting that the word “generous” comes from the same root as “genius,” Leonard says. “Some of those known as geniuses might be selfish, vulgar, cruel, and generally obnoxious in other aspects of their life (witness the lives of some of our musical geniuses), but insofar as their own particular calling is concerned, they have a remarkable ability to give everything and hold nothing back.”
  • Zonshin: This is a Japanese word meaning “unbroken concentration.” Leonard cites an example from the world of golf: “It was said of the legendary Ben Hogan that other golf pros learned a lot about the game just by studying the way he moved down the fairway between shots.”
  • Playfulness: People in pursuit of mastery, Leonard says, “are willing to take chances and to play the fool.”

Whatever you think of Seinfeld’s comedy, his pursuit of the art offers a master class in mastery. By the time he read that issue of Esquire, he already understood the value of practice. To prepare for his first appearance on Johnny Carson’s “Tonight Show,” in 1981, he rehearsed his six-minute set about 100 times.

The next two decades — including his eponymous TV show — was one higher plateau after another. Since retiring from TV, Seinfeld’s work has been more mixed.

But because comedy has been, for him, a lifelong pursuit, the highs and lows wash away. He controls what he can control and trusts that putting in the work every day will yield results. And at age 70, he is still performing and trying to perfect the craft.

Doris Lessing Whatever you’re meant to do, do it now. The conditions are always impossible.

We are all of us made by war, twisted and warped by war, but we seem to forget it.

Whatever you’re meant to do, do it now. The conditions are always impossible.

There is no doubt fiction makes a better job of the truth. (Under My Skin, 1994)

Novels give you the matrix of emotions, give you the flavour of a time in a way formal history cannot.

There is only one way to read, which is to browse in libraries and bookshops, picking up books that attract you, reading only those, dropping them when they bore you, skipping the parts that drag — and never, never reading anything because you feel you ought, or because it is part of a trend or a movement.

Remember that the book which bores you when you are twenty or thirty will open doors for you when you are forty or fifty-and vise versa. Don’t read a book out of its right time for you.

With a library you are free, not confined by temporary political climates. It is the most democratic of institutions because no one — but no one at all — can tell you what to read and when and how.

Doris Lessing quotes

I believe love opens people up. David Hare

I actually think love changes everything. I think it’s the only thing worth having. David Hare

I have a very, very good relationship with 10 percent of the audience. The only purpose of art is intimacy. That’s the only point. David Hare

Children always turn to the light. David Hare

To me, curiosity is 50 times as valuable as opinion. David Hare

Weak minds sink under prosperity as well as adversity; but strong and deep ones have two high tides. David Hare

Thought is the wind and knowledge the sail.

 David Hare

What politicians want and what creative writers want will always be profoundly different, because I’m afraid all politicians, of whatever hue, want propaganda, and writers want the truth, and they’re not compatible. David Hare

I love you, for God’s sake. I still love you. I loved you more than anyone on earth. But I’ll never trust you, after what happened. It’s what Alice said. You’ll never grow up. There is no peace in you. David Hare, Skylight

Find that balance, it stretches you, it stretches you as far as you’ll go.

“You give them an environment where they feel they can grow. But also make bloody sure you challenge them. You make sure they realise learning is hard. Because if you don’t, if you only make it a safe haven, if it’s all clap-happy, and ‘everything the kids do is great’, then what are you creating? Emotional toffees, who’ve actually learnt nothing, but who then have to go back and face the real world … Find that balance, it stretches you, it stretches you as far as you’ll go.”

David Hare, Skylight

The act of writing is the act of discovering what you believe. David Hare

Style is the art of getting yourself out of the way, not putting yourself in it. David Hare

When the voice and the vision on the inside is more profound and more clear and loud than all opinions on the outside, you’ve begun to master your life. Dr. John Demartini

Tuesday, July 16, 2024

Suicide without Dying

Forty-six years ago I ran away to save my life. My mother was on the war path, wanting to eviscerate me under the guise of medical necessity. This was her MORPHING of reality. Nonetheless it cemented my role as SCAPEGOAT. 

Who is the fairest of them all? the Queen shouted into her mirror. 

Go after the smartest most talented and therefore most threatening child. Call her stubborn! EVISCERATE HER!!! TIE HER TO ME!! Bring me her intestines, hunter!

So whenever I would try again to reach out to the family they would hand me my script. I would kick it out of their hands and retreat. Decades flew by. Now my parents are dead. I try again. I am startled by the time warp. What I find is NO TIME has passed for my siblings and THEY STILL HAND ME THE SCRIPT. I kick it out of their hands. I have to walk away AGAIN. I swear I am not going to try again. Goodbye. Farewell.

per·so·na non gra·ta /pərˌsōnə ˌnän ˈɡrädə/ noun noun: persona non grata; plural noun: personae non gratae an unacceptable or unwelcome person. "he was persona non grata with the regime"

Vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity and change. Brené Brown

Authenticity is a collection of choices that we have to make every day. It's about the choice to show up and be real. The choice to be honest. The choice to let our true selves be seen.

 Brené  Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection

"You're No Good" is a song written by Clint Ballard Jr.

 "You're No Good" is a song written by Clint Ballard Jr., performed here by Linda Ronstadt in 1974, whose version was a number 1 hit in the United States. 

Here

What sort of person craves oversized emotions sung in foreign languages?

The Imaginary Operagoer: A Comment Memoir


by Dana Gioia

https://hudsonreview.com/2024/02/the-imaginary-operagoer-a-memoir

I was an only child for seven years, and my parents treated me as a young adult, especially after my brother Ted was born. I was a nocturnal child. My mother worked nights. She got home at 2 a.m. and slept till noon. I went to bed late and read until midnight. No one ever asked me to turn off the light. It was an illicit freedom no other child I knew enjoyed. When I remember the happiness of my childhood, much consists of the books I read at night. I can still recall the particular pleasures of The Time Machine, Gulliver’s Travels, The Martian Chronicles, or At the Earth’s Core.

Monday, July 15, 2024

If you think you’re enlightened go spend a week with your family.

 Ram Dass

Ram Dass

“Each of us finds his unique vehicle for sharing with others his bit of wisdom.”

“Suffering is part of our training program for becoming wise.”

“Let’s trade in all our judging for appreciating. Let’s lay down our righteousness and just be together.”

“The next message you need is always right where you are.”

Pain is the mind. It’s the thoughts of the mind. Then I get rid of the thoughts, and I get in my witness, which is down in my spiritual heart. The witness that witnesses being. Then those particular thoughts that are painful – love them. I love them to death!

 Ram Dass

Your problem is you are too busy holding on to your unworthiness. Ram Dass

My mom was beautiful; she was supposed to be the original Jane in the original Tarzan movie. They asked her to put her foot in the water and there was an alligator in there, and she wouldn't put her foot in the water. Dr. John

I been trying to clean up my act with my children for a long time. And I pretty much got them all talking to me now. And they accept me as a humanoid again. Dr. John

Stress is the inability to adapt to a changing environment. Dr. John