When is it Too Soon?

“If we’re holding back because we think someone (or the culture) might not be ready to give us what we want, it’s probably a good instinct. Nobody likes to be hustled.

“But if you’re hoping to contribute, particularly if it makes you feel a little uncomfortable, then go ahead. It’s probably not too soon. Or never too late.

“People almost always want a smile, a kind word or a hand up sooner than we think and for longer than we imagine.”–Seth Godin

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Me and Bill Gibson

I’ve gradually become less of a fan of Gibson, after years of reading one after another of his books. His first few, Neuromancer, Count Zero and Mona Lisa Overdrive with enthusiasm, later ones with somewhat less as I actually got involved in middling-early (pre-WWW) Internet and the world of UNIX and actual technology.

Cheryl, my sister-in-law sold Gibson a house so we started getting autographed hard-copies starting in ’93, and I read them, but gradually lost interest in dystopian SciFi. So, when Kevin Kelly linked to this interview which referred to a new novel Agency I didn’t immediately run out and buy it, but was interested enough to read it (“do I have agency” being a test for “how to stay out of trouble with stuff going on around me” these days). His thought of using a “fuckedness quotient” as a guiding light for creativity might explain how it is that my interest has tapered off,

Still, in the interview, he says, “I think I’ve learned that we need, individually, to find those areas in our lives where we do possess agency, and attempt to use it appropriately. And it seems to me that’s evidenced most attractively in maintaining an operative sense of humor.”

Can’t argue too much with that. Might peek at his new novel and give it a taste – Kindle’s “Free Samples” are a god-send while I can’t get to a library.

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The More Things Change…

Today (or maybe yesterday, or according to Wikipedia, August 14!) seems to be Kevin Kelly’s 68th b’day. Saw this link to 68 things he’s learned. Some good ‘uns.

Paging back through his “Technium” posts, There are a few things I’d like to keep track of.

I wonder how well this will age (from January 9, 2020):
This is true: “To a degree still difficult for outsiders to absorb, China is preparing to shape the twenty-first century, much as the U.S. shaped the twentieth.” From the must read article:

Or this one:
The question “why do the Chinese people like their current government?” is answered here with great intelligence, insight and empathy. I think this article is 100% correct from my personal experience of my extensive time in China. Link

His more recent Technium posts have some good reflections on the Virus situation as it unfolded, but as it’s still unfolding as we creep up on the end of April, why not leave it at that…

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Not Giving a, er, Darn

“This is what is so admirable. No, not me, dumbass—the overcoming adversity stuff, the willingness to be different, an outcast, a pariah, all for the sake of one’s own values. The willingness to stare failure in the face and shove your middle finger back at it. The people who don’t give a fuck about adversity or failure or embarrassing themselves or shitting the bed a few times. The people who just laugh and then do what they believe in anyway.”

“They say, ‘Fuck it,’ not to everything in life, but rather to everything unimportant in life.”

—Mark Manson, The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck

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The Forgotten ‘Third’

There is little doubt that Western infatuation with Eastern spiritual disciplines, ostensibly designed to transcend or extinguish the illusion of the ‘Ego’, has reached an impasse. Instead of offering an alternative way to transforming Western consciousness, these disciplines have been converted into subtle devices for enhancing its insatiable desire for light, power and control. Once again it is as in the old Chinese saying “If the wrong man uses the right means, the right means works in the wrong way.” In effect, it is the Western belief in the right method irrespective of the man who applies it that seems to be responsible for the impasse, because method alone, divorced from the psyche, only breeds the delusion of technical omnipotence.

What has in fact ensued from the artificial transplantation of Eastern values into Western soil is a kind of “spiritual materialism” — using “spiritual activities” in order to bolster and enrich one’s ego. We may call this phenomenon the hydra syndrome: like the mythical Hydra whose cut-off head is always replaced by two others, the adept’s ‘innermost self’, the perennially selfsame and boring ego, aching for transcendence, appears to reemerge, strengthened and solidified, as a direct result of the methodical attempt to cut it down to size. Another word for this sort of uncontrollable growth is hubris, misleadingly translated “pride.” Hubris is from the Greek hubridzo which means “to run riot.” Applied here it denotes that frantic search for new spiritual experiences issuing in “the mania of an ego’s vertigo, endlessly spinning about its own center.” In a larger setting hubris is the flaw of a grotesquely excessive masculinity and rationality.

From Roberts Avens, Imagination is Reality, p. 4-5

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What if you thought of it
as the Jews consider the Sabbath—
the most sacred of times?
Cease from travel.
Cease from buying and selling.
Give up, just for now,
on trying to make the world
different than it is.
Sing. Pray. Touch only those
to whom you commit your life.
Center down.

And when your body has become still,
reach out with your heart.
Know that we are connected
in ways that are terrifying and beautiful.
(You could hardly deny it now.)
Know that our lives
are in one another’s hands.
(Surely, that has come clear.)
Do not reach out your hands.
Reach out your heart.
Reach out your words.
Reach out all the tendrils
of compassion that move, invisibly,
where we cannot touch.

Promise this world your love–
for better or for worse,
in sickness and in health,
so long as we all shall live.

–Lynn Ungar

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The Cost of Sin

“Good taste, if nothing else, requires the sinner not to make godly claims. This is, arguably, the worst feature of sexual and all other exploitation. It is cruelty, of a vicious kind, for when the victim is abandoned he or she will be alienated not only from the figure of authority, but also from the God for whom he presumed to speak. Terrible harm is done to a soul who was trusting.

“Terrible things happen: we must be “comfortable” with that. We cannot know to what depths of depravity another human is capable of sinking — it is always lower than we surmised. Yet we can know, with assurance, exactly what we have ourselves done, or intended; and we ought to know that forgiveness can come only from the Witness of all our crimes. For He is also the ultimate Victim.”–David Warren

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Bizarre and Inexplicable

“There is a theory that if ever anyone discovers what the Universe is for and why it is here, it will instantly disappear and be replaced with something even more bizarre and inexplicable.
There is another theory that this has already happened.”–Douglas Adams, The Restaurant at the End of the Universe

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Heaven and Hell

“A belligerent samurai, an old Japanese tale goes, once challenged a Zen master to explain the concept of heaven and hell. The monk replied with scorn, ‘You’re nothing but a lout — I can’t waste my time with the likes of you!’

His very honor attacked, the samurai flew into a rage and, pulling his sword from its scabbard, yelled ‘I could kill you for your impertinence.’

‘That,’ the monk calmly replied, ‘is hell.’

Startled at seeing the truth in what the master pointed out about the fury that had him in its grip, the samurai calmed down, sheathed his sword, and bowed, thanking the monk for the insight.

‘And that,’ said the monk, ‘is heaven.’

–Daniel Goleman, Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ

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Time Travel

This morning’s email of bargain e-books included one by Robert Silverberg–Hawksbill Station. The story line seems to be (it was written in the late ’60s) in the 21st century, USA has become a tyranny and dangerous political prisoners are transported to what will become the North American east coast in the late Cambrian era, where they can do no harm. With no hope of return and no women (they are transported to a different time) most of the prisoners gradually sink into catatonia or suicide. The most dangerous (i.e., the Alpha) of them retains his mental facilities as he ages and loses his physical powers. The action revolves around the Alpha’s flashbacks of Silverberg’s notions of how the late ’60s political unrest will evolve into open rebellion and vicious suppression, and the arrival of a new prisoner, who arouses suspicions somehow.

As familiar as Silverberg’s name is, I don’t remember reading anything by him, and after reading some reviews I’m not tempted to buy that book–even for $1.99. I did drop $0.99 for an anthology of his short stories published in the pulps, however. Continue reading

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