Every once in a while I read a blog post or an article and it tickles something in the back of my brain. I have a gut instinct that there’s something important in what I’m reading and I think I know what it is, but if I go chasing that feeling it disappears.
So, I let whatever it was that I pulled from the post disappear into that dark space in the back of my mind and I move on. But I do bookmark those posts in the hope that I’ll later be able to share them.
I figured today was a good day for that. For the most part, I’m just going to provide the links. But I may add a sentence or two to try to explain what each post may have prompted in my mind.
First up, Ursula K. LeGuin on La Guantanemara
I just read this one this morning, so that little feeling hasn’t had time to process. But I didn’t feel drawn to this post because of what she has to say about Guantanamo. It was more these bits:
“But standing together? Against what? There is no enemy.”
“I know a lot of people can only stand together if they have an enemy to stand against — if they are at war .”
“My question is: What do we stand together for?”
There’s something there that I think was part of what drove me to write that first novel. But I’m not quite clear on what it is. Something about the enemy that you don’t see, about the evil that hides in the shadows. It’s not what she’s getting at in her post, but that’s where my mind went when I read this.
The next post is one I’ve held onto for so long I’m now trying to remember what in it specifically prompted me to bookmark it. This one is from Abi Sutherland on the Making Light blog: I said to the man, “Are you trying to tempt me?”
I think it was this idea:
“…accumulation is a hard goal to replace. The joys of travel pall after a while: the quest for novelty itself grows old.”
“…the real world contains unfed hunger and unmet need. There is always competition for resources, and real penalties for failure. There are visible losers in the race for everything necessary and useful to human life, from clean air up.”
“Growth is the promise of future plenty, and thus a mental escape hatch from zero-sum thinking.”
I think I was pulled to this article because over the past few years I had transitioned from a consumption mindset to, well, less of a consumption mindset. (That shit is hard to kick…) I spent the past couple of years feeling like I just wanted to lose some of the “stuff” weighing me down and anchoring me in one place. (Turns out you can rent furnished places to live so no need for a couch or a bed or a TV or a whatever. And if you don’t care about impressing people you don’t need to own that much clothing after all.)
But on the flipside of that, what happens when you don’t have the money to pay for that furnished place? If you own a home you can hunker down and wait for them to come and forcibly make you move. Might take years. If you rent, you probably have a month. Or clothes. If you have too much now you can stop buying and still have something to wear probably for years to come. If you have one or two outfits (I so have more than that, even now) those aren’t going to last all that long…
I also think this tied back to the novel for me as well since I was writing about a world where there aren’t “status displays”–that would be my term for fashions or any other ways in which people express their individuality and difference from others. What do people devote their energy to when they’ve filled their basic needs and there’s no need for status displays? If you have a roof over your head and food on your table, then what?
Changing directions on you now, because that’s what my mind does to me all the time: here’s another blog post, this one by Peter Watts on Geoengineering and the Evils of Conservation.
Again, not quite sure what it was about this one that kicked something off in the back of my brain. I think this one’s going to take me a good five years to process. But it may have something to do with this:
“If you make the perfect into the enemy of the potentially-adequate you’ll never stop running simulations, because there is no perfect. Meanwhile, outside the window, Nature’s rolling her own D20. One day she’s going to kick over that anthill you’ve been too chickenshit to poke at all this time, and then where you gonna be?”
“Remember that correlation is not causation, keep alternative hypotheses firmly in mind, scrawl Nature Is Not A Petri Dish onto a piece of duct tape and stick it over the Far Side cartoons yellowing on the wall. Be Adaptive in your “Management”. But use the goddamned data you’ve got. Don’t piss and moan because someone without all your degrees, someone more interested in bucks than biology, went out and took the first step when you were too fucking timid. Do it better.”
“We’ve already kicked the whole world off-balance. We’re running out of time to figure out which way it’s falling.”
Maybe this post reminds me that I have this ticking time bomb feeling in the back of my mind. And I wonder if other generations felt this way, too. Has it always been a part of the human condition to think that shit is about to fall apart? I don’t think so…
Also, that whole idea that correlation is not causation. Say it again, brother.
(I am frequently tempted to make a blog post about all these articles I read where someone did some study and decided that because A and B occur together that A means B. And I read those articles and I can think of about five alternate explanations for it other than A means B. But that doesn’t make a sexy headline, so we just pollute the collective consciousness with these connections that aren’t really correct…then again, who the hell am I to think I know better?)
(As another aside, that’s why I won’t read another Malcolm Gladwell book after reading The Outliers. I understand the argument he was making – that a lot of times there are factors of the environment or times that are driving people’s success and that they aren’t somehow superhuman or more driven or more intelligent. Except…take his hockey example. So he proved that most highly successful hockey players were born in three months of the year and he showed why that is. Great. With you so far. But that doesn’t mean there weren’t outliers. It just means that the true outliers were the ones who were great even though they weren’t born in those three months…what was so different about them?)
OK. This post is getting really long at this point…so one last blog post: Seth Godin on Getting picked (need to vs. want to)
(My apologies if I was supposed to use that trackback link instead…I don’t know how this whole Internet thing really works…)
“Sure, it’s fun to be picked, anointed, given social approval for what you do….The thing is, it’s really difficult to get picked, and those doing the picking don’t have nearly the power they used to.”
“If you’re frustrated that you’re not getting picked, one plan is to up your game, to hustle harder, to figure out how to hone a pitch and push, push, push. But in the era of picking yourself, it seems to me that you’re better off finding a path that doesn’t require you get picked in order to succeed.”
I read this and I think about self-publishing vs. traditional. I think John Scalzi putting Old Man’s War up on his blog. I think Hugh Howey self-publishing WOOL.
But I also think about the working world. And I think about all the people I’ve known over the years who whine and complain about how they aren’t getting promoted or recognized for what they do and how I could clearly see why they weren’t getting promoted or recognized. Because what they were doing wasn’t worth promoting or recognizing.
And how those people could have tried to find a different path and it wouldn’t have mattered because they didn’t have “what it took” and couldn’t see that, so wouldn’t adjust to succeed.
And I think about how in most of my life I’ve just made my own path, but how I can’t really do that when I don’t know enough about the landscape or where I want to be. (It’s pretty easy to do within the confines of school or a corporate environment. Much harder within a creative environment. Or at least to me it is.)
And I think about this quote (that I’m pretty sure is from Ender in Exile by OSC, but that’s based upon a shoddy web search I just did. All I had written down for it was that it’s on page 216 of whatever book I found it in):
“There are rules to everything, even if nobody made them up, even if nobody calls it a game. And if you want things to work out well, it’s best to know the rules and only break them if you’re playing a different game and following those rules.”
And I tell myself that I have to learn the rules of the game everyone else is playing before I can play my own game…
But there’s that niggling little voice in the back of my mind saying – “Are you sure? When have you actually done that?” (Followed quickly by another voice that just laughs and points its finger at me and would say, “Oh please. You are as much of a conformist as anyone else…” if it weren’t laughing too hard to get the words out.)