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It’s been pretty dreary here in Cambridge for the last few days, but it turns out that grays and browns with a splash of green make for an acceptable color palette.

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Sunday Selection 2018-11-18

Around the Web

The Beauty-Happiness Connection

I’ve been living in Boston (or Cambridge to be more precise) for the past few months and it has been good so far. Boston is a quite attractive place to live, with all the universities and the museums, architecture and open spaces. Though there are certain deficiencies to my life here (I haven’t built a solid social circle yet), as this article says, being within easy rich of various forms of beauty has been quite enjoyable.

The Weightiest Question in the Smallest Number of Words: Retelling the Nietzsche Story

Since sitting down and actually reading Thus Spoke Zarathustra a few years, I have been a fan of Nietzsche (and one day I should really sit down and read all of his work). And over the years I’ve become increasingly fascinated by the intellectual webs that writers and thinkers find themselves embedded in (in no small part due to reading Brain Pickings). So of course I found this interview of Sue Prideaux about her forthcoming biography of Nietzsche very interesting. It’s only about Nietzsche, but situates his work in the context of his life and the people he knew and communicated with.

The Freedom to be Free at Work

Talking of things I have become interested in during the last few years, I have been increasingly concerned about how “work” and “productivity” should be situated in the broader frame of our lives. Of course, this is well-trod ground and in this case we get to see Hannah Arendt’s footsteps in this region as she ties together notions of work, labor, creation, consumption and humanity’s connection to the “metabolism of nature”. Hopefully a thought-provoking read on a Sunday afternoon before starting the workweek anew.

The Bodhisattva of Compassion

Yesterday I learned about Avalokiteshvara, the Bodhisattva of Compassion. This particular bit about, Chenrezig, one of the forms of the bodhisattva stood out to me:

The bodhisattva vowed to clean up samsara once and for all. He put in a heroic effort. He thought he’d done it. But when he turned around again, the mess was back, unapologetically.

Chenrezig was so devastated by his failure to fix things that he shattered into a thousand pieces… What to do when even a bodhisattva of compassion can’t bear it any longer?

The story takes an instructive term. Amitabha, the Buddha of Boundless Light, comes down from his Pure Land and converts Chenrezig’s thousand shattered pieces into a thousand arms (plus eleven heads, so he can look in all directions). I find it hugely instructive that Amitabha gives Chenrezig a thousand tools and says, Hey, keep going.

Chenrezig’s thousand arms are a token expression of the patience and fortitude essential to the bodhisattva vow. As our world prepares to blow itself apart yet again, Chenrezig becomes more than just a symbol; the bodhisattva is an absolute necessity, a guide and refuge.

Sunday Selection 2018-10-14

Around the Web

After 5 years and $3M, here’s everything we learned from building Ghost

I’ve never used the Ghost platform, and though I’m still on WordPress, I’ve become a fan of more programmable publishing platforms lately. But this was still a very interesting read, and it was particularly heartening to see that the people involved had put their money where there mouth is and made the company behind Ghost a non-profit foundation. On the other hand, it was disheartening to read about GitHub’s negative influence on open source, and how hard it continues to be to fund good journalism, especially when we need it the most.

Grit: Bringing Passion Back

Grit has been the subject of much psychology research, TED talks, and I suspect pop-sci books in the last few decades. But much of the work appears to be focused on the self-discipline component of grit, whereas Angela Duckworth’s original definition of grit includes both self-discipline and passion. This articles makes a case for why the passion component is so important and points to recent studies that are looking at it.

In Praise of Mediocrity

I’ve never done well with hobbies. I played violin for a few years, and loved to draw as a kid. I haven’t kept up with either of them, probably in part because I started taking formal classes in both of them, and I quickly felt like I had to do well in the classes, rather than enjoying the activity itself. I’m only starting to unlearn those lessons and trying to come to terms with being only mediocre at some things.

Rams

Rams is a new documentary out about Dieter Rams—creator of some of the most easily recognized consumer product designs of the 20th century. The documentary is brought to you by Gary Hustwit, who you might know from previous documentaries such as Helvetica, Urbanized and Objectified.

Rams is currently showing at special events and will be released digitally in December. Hustwit has also partnered with Field Notes to produce a limited edition 3-pack of notebooks that I think captures the Rams aesthetic quite nicely.

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