Daily Digest 2021-05-24

It was a Monday, which means that after an unexpectedly stressful weekend (more on that at a later date), it’s time to get ready for the week. It’s also two weeks until I get the keys to my new apartment. I am looking forward to moving and am also very over my current living situation, so I’m afraid I’ll be increasingly insufferable until I move.


I learned about the author and professor, Robert D. Richardson (via Austin Kleon) who not only wrote biographies of Thoreau, Emerson, and William James, but also impressed Annie Dillard enough to marry her after “two lunches and three handshakes”. That makes for a whole new set of #relationshipgoals, as the kids say these days. I let myself fall into a bit of an Annie Dillard rabbit hole, following the links from Kleon’s post. I read this very interesting New York Times interview done shortly after her book A Pilgrim’s Progress was published, as well as this interview of Richardson, where he talks (among other things) about the effect she has had on his writing.


Now that I’m fully vaccinated, I’ve been using the Boston Athenaeum as a workspace a couple of times a week. As Cal Newport says in his latest essay in the New Yorker, remote work doesn’t necessarily mean working from home, maybe just close to home. A welcome side effect of that is a little more in-person human interaction, including random conversations with strangers in the elevator. It is still a little bit strange with masks on, but hopefully that will only be a part of our shared reality for a short while longer (at least here in Massachusetts).


Talia Ringer tweeted about how she feels more conscious each year, feeling more present and more aware of her thoughts and surroundings. I’ve been having a similar experience, especially in the last couple of years as I invest more time and energy into meditation and therapy. Part of this is due to a deeper feeling of agency over things that I thought were out of my control, like my emotions, motivations and priorities. Some of it is also due to realizing that there’s more to life than following a pre-determined plan. At the same time, it’s unfortunately very easy for me to not be present, to exist with my brain wrapped in a sort of distracted fog, with my mind lost in the past or present or fictional, fantastic worlds.


Talking of fantastic worlds, I realized that binge watching random TV shows as a way to relieve stress was not doing me any favors. It was starting to feel like an addiction, and made being present even more difficult. But I still enjoy movies and television and don’t want to cut them out of my life entirely. Instead, I want to watch higher quality productions, starting with Season 4 of The Expanse. It’s definitely one of the better science fiction shows of the last few years, filled with interesting concepts and plotlines, good actors, lots of careful worldbuilding and high production quality. I watched the first episode, which was very entertaining, and did a whole lot of setup for the rest of the season. I’m hoping to gradually work my way through it, one episode a day, over the next few weeks.

As an aside, as much as I like how much high quality television there is these days, I am not thrilled at how seasons seem to have very few episodes these days (sometimes in the single digits).

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