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.

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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.

FN_Rams

I’ve been reading The Way of Life by Lao Tzu, translated by Witter Bynner. A paragraph from the introduction struck me as relevant to our current times.

Maurer is right than democracy cannot be a successful general practice unless it is first a true individual conviction. Many of us in the West think ourselves believers in democracy if we can point to one of its fading flowers even while the root of it in our own lives is gone with worms. No one in history has shown better than Laotzu how to keep the root of democracy clean. Not only democracy but all of life, he points out grows at one’s own doorstep.

I sincerely hope that all of us can find ways to clean the root of democracy in our own lives.

Sunday Selection 2018-08-12

Spotify CEO Daniel Ek on Apple, Facebook, Netflix and the future

This is probably the most balanced interview I’ve ever read from a software company executive. Daniel Ek’s perspective on technology and his company’s place in the world shows much more humility and a more nuanced understanding than we’ve come to expect from technology companies. It’s a refreshing read and offers a lot to learn, for anyone interested in understanding how to manage people, lead companies and leverage technology for effective social change.

Why Writing Matters in the Age of Despair

One of my goals for post-PhD life is to write more, on both technical and non-technical topics. So far I’ve been managing to keep a more or less regular habit of writing privately, but been publishing very infrequently, but am hoping to change that. As the author notes: the limits of our stories are the limits of our lives. Our words should open up the world, not close it off. Our words should include all, not trap them in cages. I see every story, every word as a struggle of memory against forgetting.

Nick Offerman’s New Definition of Manliness

I’ve been a big fan of Nick Offerman ever since watching Parks & Recreation. This article seems to sum up his view on life and manliness, which in turn is summed up by his line about whiskey: my advice is to craft your life in such a way that your whiskey drinking can be for enjoyment, which means that it’s delicious and in moderation, rather than for escapism, or to obliterate your consciousness.