Thoughts and Meta-Thoughts

Time is a strange tunnel, a hazy, imperfect continuity, telescoping violently, with no warning or logic. Events that transpired not twelve hours earlier feel like they happened days ago, while those from years ago can feel like just last week.

Apparently, it’s been just over four years since my last post here – the time went by freaky fast! (I regret to inform you Jimmy John’s is no longer a sponsor, so for that, I may be sued.) I still remember conceiving of this site in late 2012, and it looks like I could barely keep it together for more than a year. Now I realize the main reason for such a weak track record is how much pressure I created for myself. Without realizing it, I had established arbitrary constraints that each post be either a refined (and relatively long) essay or an excessive link roundup of everything interesting I had come across in the past week (which was…a lot). While I still think both types of posts are valuable, they are both also a huge time-drain to create.

Amusingly, I’ve already addressed this failure directly, detailing the exact reasons essays, in particular, are unsustainable for me to write and post with any regularity. Despite this realization, I didn’t progress in any new way that made posting here fun or sustainable.

Lowering the threshold for the requirements of what constitutes a “valid” post is part of a philosophical problem I’m trying to tackle, which relates to the finality and attempted perfection of a released creation (song, artwork, essay, etc.) Being a perfectionist (who perpetually creates deeply imperfect and flawed things) has resulted in analysis paralysis for most things I make, which translates into an enormous volume of creations that no one other than myself has seen. So the relaunch of Thoughts Involuntary is a concerted effort, along with new methods of creating and releasing my music (and art in general), to allow spontaneity and imperfection to pervade my projects, to value shipping over the refinement of something ad nauseam.

So I’d like to recommit to that vision of creating posts that are more concise, more spontaneous, and just a bit less refined. Ideally, they’ll be insightful as well, but no guarantees!

Being on Twitter (pre-280 characters) more regularly helped show me the value of concision, and while I doubt the new, shorter posts here will at all resemble any of my vaguely ok Twitter jokes or anything from the Showerthoughts subreddit (I can be pretty humorless when I write non-fiction), I’d like to align this project with their general economy.

It’s also worth adding that while I still plan to write about very specific topics (I’ll slowly be documenting and adding them here with reckless abandon), many of my newest threads of thought and writing concern the very act of thinking itself, the patterns I’ve noticed arise. I’d argue that this may be the most important thinking and writing endeavor: exploring and documenting the ways your mind functions, its tendencies and idiosyncrasies. Doing so can allow you to hack it, both to increase its efficiency and productivity, but also enable you to establish mechanisms to be a happier, more fulfilled person.

Ok this post is already too long and boring to be useful to anyone other than myself, so if my purpose was to emulate every other blog in the history of the world, I’ve started off on the right foot!

Let’s get to it.

Nota Bene: Robert A. Heinlein

RobertAHeinlein

Nota Bene is a new feature collecting noteworthy quotes from some of my favorite artists, scientists, writers, creators, and thinkers.

Always listen to experts. They’ll tell you what can’t be done, and why. Then do it.

Robert A. Heinlein, science fiction writer

More wisdom and witticism from Heinlein here.

Thoughts on Thoughts Involuntary

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A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.
-Laozi

The mind works in endlessly fascinating ways. It took a moment of clarity during meditation for me to realize the solution to a problem with this blog that’s been plaguing me for some time.

The problem is this: I have many, many thoughts about many, many topics. I enjoy expounding on my ideas at length, and even attempt to do research to strengthen their validity. As a result, each post I write ends up being fairly long. This is not inherently a bad thing, but it is if I intend for this blog to actually be a regular, functioning space for posting my thoughts, and not some sort of permanent, finalized project.

Thoughts Involuntary is an intermediary project on the road to a book. I shouldn’t expect each post to be fully developed and researched to the point of being an essay. These essay posts I’ve been doing have been taking me hours to put together. That’s not realistically sustainable given my other commitments (music being the primary one).

Thus, from now on I’m going to be doing much smaller posts, with intermittent longer posts on the things I think really deserve it, or to which I’ve had ample time to devote. The benefits are severalfold:

  1. this blog won’t sit idle for weeks or months on end until I have the time and energy to devote to an essay-length post
  2. it will train me to accept incomplete, half-formed thoughts (which in my perfectionist mind, are all too similar to mistakes)
  3. it will get me in the habit of posting regularly, which allows me to master the blog as an instrument, and
  4. it will further enhance my own thinking

Reading one’s own thoughts creates a feedback loop that only strengthens the process of thinking. Talking to yourself helps you think more efficiently and successfully, and writing things down does the same. It allows you to process things in a more lasting way. In elevating my thoughts to the level of a blog post, and not simply the ephemeral multi-tweet rant, then I can easily tag my thoughts, reference them, and return to them when I’m ready to further develop them.

Additionally, if even some of my thoughts (even if only partially formed and clumsily articulated) can influence others in positive ways, then that makes this project all the more worthwhile. Waiting weeks and weeks to post a five-paragraph essay on a single topic only minimizes the opportunities for this kind of effect.

Posting more often can lead to a dangerous habit of quantity over quality. Trust me when I say I’ve lived by that maxim before. But that’s not my goal. I don’t care about the number of times I post – for me, quality will always trump quantity. However it’s been a long, internal struggle for me to understand that a few well-written sentences can do more than an essay or book ever could. This will further reinforce that philosophy. My hope is that Thoughts Involuntary posts will become just a bit more like haiku: nimble and well-crafted.

This post has itself, ironically, become longer than I intended for it to be, but the energy and amount of time has been a fraction of what my past posts have been, and what’s more, it’s been more enjoyable – it feels more spontaneous and effortless, and less like a labored school assignment.

I believe the purpose of this blog is truly a positive one – to help chart, uncover, and demystify the workings of my own mind in hopes of uncovering truths about all of us. It’s a strange situation we find ourselves in: to learn that the mind and body that seem to be so uniquely us, in some lasting way, and under our control, in some volitional way, are neither. It’s profoundly unsettling, and while after some thought and research I was able to accept it as truth, it has been really quite difficult to comprehend the countless moral, social, and existential implications.

So in my effort to think through these things, allow me to start the journey anew.

On 12/21/12, the World Will Continue to NOT End

A vision of the end of the World?

The world will not end in 2012. Our planet has been getting along just fine for more than 4 billion years, and credible scientists worldwide know of no threat associated with 2012.
– NASA, in an FAQ about 12/21/12

I love apocalyptic scenarios as much as the next person. Actually, probably more so. I’m an ardent fan of disaster-oriented sci-fi, as well as Lovecraftian cosmic horror. In my own conceptual poetry I’ve certainly alluded to versions of the end times before, and even made a video installation that dealt with it.

There must be something alluring to us about the idea of being overpowered by some vast, infinite, unknown natural or supernatural force. I certainly intend to research it more deeply, from the perspective of evolutionary psychology.

But let’s be real. There’s one week left until 12/21/12, and it’s clearer than ever that when it arrives, the world will continue to not come to an end.

Even more or less sensible people (i.e. the majority of the Earth’s human population) not drawn in by the apocalyptic nonsense are still often confused about the facts. I was recently invited to a New Year’s Eve party with the subtitle “Everyone Laugh At the Mayans.” Presumably this comes from the misguided notion that the Mayans actually believed that the world would come to an end on 12/21/12. This is not the case. That’s just the Gregorian date for the end of one cycle in the Mesoamerican Long Count calendar. Their calendar then resets, just as our does every 365 days, and the next Long Count cycle ends in about 400 years on March 26, 2407. Each such cycle, called a baktun, lasts 144,000 days.

So, in other words, not even the Mayans thought the world would end next week. In fact earlier this year, a Boston University professor uncovered the oldest Mayan calendar ever, which further confirms this.

Aside from clearing up some misconceptions about this Mayan myth, I thought it would be a good idea to post a link to a NASA round-up of answers from scientists explaining exactly why the world will NOT end on December 21, 2012. Their answers sum up very clearly and concisely why there’s no reason to be worried about any looming natural or supernatural apocalypse.

As for the unfortunate but inevitable natural disasters that have befallen human civilizations for many thousands of years, completely irrespective of any arbitrary man-made calendars, who knows what city will be next?

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