Sam Harrelson

A Week Without Twitter (or Facebook)

I made the decision last week to attempt what I previously thought was relatively undoable for my business and/or personal life and pull out of the Twitter stream and Facebook world, and Instagram performance art gallery. Some of that was due to this liturgical season of Lent and some of that was my constant need to try on new “thought technologies” that helps me explore more of this life.

After a week, I can say a few things that have struck me as personal revelations.

First, I am more focused and “get things done” work-wise in a more deliberate and intentional way. It’s not that I was skipping over things a year or a month ago, but the silence that comes from not having a constant TweetDeck tab open in my browser window (or on the large screen that was dedicated just to TweetDeck) has made a marked difference in my workflow as evidenced by my time sheets and my client ticketing system.

Second, I find myself reaching for my phone fewer times during the morning, day, and night. I would constantly be scanning Instagram or Twitter when I had a few spare moments or minutes during the course of a day. Now that I don’t have those time sinks, I find myself scanning Feedly for news or longer form articles or just doodling on paper for 30 seconds.

Third, I’m blogging here more. I feel more “creative” in general to be honest. Being away from the constant stream of short takes on the latest political scandal or presidential tweet or funny meme has made me recognize how much I’ve pushed down my own voice inside of my head (as much as it is an unreliable narrator sometimes!). But I feel like we’re picking back up the conversation after a long 12 years on Twitter and as a heavy user of all things social. I feel more creative and less anxious in general.

Most importantly, I have space to be more mindful about my place here. I already feel a change in my outlook on issues and things I need to give or pay attention to. I’ve found myself turning off notifications on my phone from Slack and Email (heaven forbid!) and even our ticket support system. Could I make do with a flip phone? Who knows. But that mindfulness and a better sense of presence does feel different than it has the last few years.

Coincidence is not causation, so we’ll see how this happens as I keep up with this thought technology of being mindfully and spiritually situated in specific places and times rather than floating through the matrix of performative attention.




Vannevar Bush’s 1945 essay “As We May Think” on information overload, curation, and open-access science.

Wholly new forms of encyclopedias will appear, ready made with a mesh of associative trails running through them, ready to be dropped into the memex and there amplified.

— Read on www.slate.com/blogs/future_tense/2012/10/11/vannevar_bush_s_1945_essay_as_we_may_think_on_information_overload_curation.html




Stitching together reality

The reason why we experience reality as a movie when it’s only a collection of pictures can be at least partially explained by our rhythms of attention. About four times every second, the brain stops taking snapshots of individual points of focus — like your friend on the corner in Times Square — and collects background information about the environment. Without you knowing it, the brain absorbs the sound of the crowd, the feeling of the freezing December air — which it later uses to stitch together a narrative of the complete Times Square Experience.

— Read on www.inverse.com/article/48300-why-is-it-hard-to-focus-research-humans




urgency trumps understanding

There’s some sort of metaphor in the story of these two photos of the Earth from the moon’s surface; one low-resolution and one high-resolution, one broadcast at the moment and the other only decoded by volunteers some forty years after the fact. It’s hard to see and transmit what’s happening right now clearly, no matter what kind of equipment we’re using; urgency trumps understanding.

Source: 👀 Noticing: The Big Picture. 06/22/2018

Noticing is a great newsletter that you should subscribe to put together by Jason Kottke who has run one of my favorite sites/blogs for 20 years.




Roko’s Basilisk: The Most Dangerous Thought?

You have to be really clever to come up with a genuinely dangerous thought. I am disheartened that people can be clever enough to do that and not clever enough to do the obvious thing and KEEP THEIR IDIOT MOUTHS SHUT about it, because it is much more important to sound intelligent when talking to your friends.This post was STUPID.

Source: Roko’s Basilisk: The most terrifying thought experiment of all time.




What is real? Forking universes, equalities, and religion

When scientists search for meaning in quantum physics, they may be straying into a no-man’s-land between philosophy and religion. But they can’t help themselves. They’re only human. “If you were to watch me by day, you would see me sitting at my desk solving Schrödinger’s equation…exactly like my colleagues,” says Sir Anthony Leggett, a Nobel Prize winner and pioneer in superfluidity. “But occasionally at night, when the full moon is bright, I do what in the physics community is the intellectual equivalent of turning into a werewolf: I question whether quantum mechanics is the complete and ultimate truth about the physical universe.”

— Read on www.nytimes.com/2018/05/08/books/review/adam-becker-what-is-real.html




The Fable of the Dragon-Tyrant

CGP Grey has produced a thought-provoking adaptation of Nick Bostrom’s 2005 paper (available here  Journal of Medical Ethics, 2005, Vol. 31, No. 5, pp 273-277). There are themes and ideas presented here that are deeper than they first appear, especially in regards to concepts such as ethics and mortality.




Unnecessary nobility

When Adam dalf and Eve span,

Who was thanne a gentilman?

John Ball




Working Through Fears

Whether you’re starting your own business or non-profit or trying to make an existing one feasible as a “job,” the fear that you encounter at 4am as you do the week’s invoicing and receipts in your head can be staggering. I know, I’ve definitely been there in the low tides of “working for yourself.”

Our mind tries to trick us into being more cautious and avoiding the risk associated with such endeavors (often for good reasons). But if you can step outside of your own mind and observe the fears associated with “starting up,” you can make powerful realizations about your own abilities and potential.

Good read:

We can limit and hold ourselves back with our beliefs. In my case, I really believed I would be judged for what I was doing. For a while, I operated almost entirely on referrals. While I did excellent work, I didn’t have an active lead generation plan in place because that would mean showing up on social media and letting my friends and family know what I was up to. I convinced myself that people would make fun of me and my business, and I allowed that fear to hold me back to the point that while I was home for Thanksgiving last year, I even considered taking a family friend’s advice to leave Bali and “get a real job.”

Thank goodness I found a way to work through my fears and stick to my guns! There will always be haters, but at the end of the day, the people who matter will support you: between my social media and email list, I now have over 10,000 business owners following my work.

via How This 23-Year-Old Makes Six Figures From Her Online Business – And Helps Others Do The Same




Being Creative

Why does creativity generally tend to decline as we age? One reason may be that as we grow older, we know more. That’s mostly an advantage, of course. But it also may lead us to ignore evidence that contradicts what we already think. We become too set in our ways to change.

What Happens to Creativity As We Age? – New York Times

Creativity is something I often think about as I get older. Even David Bowie did the same on his shrinking album “Low” (my favorite, by the way) at the apex of his ongoing fights with identity, depression, and addiction:

Don’t you wonder sometimes about Sound and Vision? Pale blinds drawn all day, nothing to do, nothing to say… I will sit right down, waiting for the gift of Sound and Vision. And I will sing, waiting for the gift of sound and vision. Drifting into my solitude, over my head.

It’s comforting, in a way, to realize that even Bowie had crippling moments of doubt about his ability to channel his inner voices and creativity, right?

The Times article above hits on something that causes me much consternation throughout the day whether I’m interacting with my children or I’m solving a problem for a client (or trying to hook up a new Chromecast to our home network but having issues like I did at midnight last night). I often wonder, as I encounter problems or things to be solved, if it takes me “longer” to solve problems that would have come with easy solutions just a few years ago. I wonder if I’m being too cautious with client solutions because of what I know and the experience I have.

I wonder if I’ve lost the “sound and vision” of creativity that made me who I was when I was younger.

Have I lost it? Or, is “it” still there buried under experience and accumulated knowledge and necessary caution?

Where is / are the line / lines between being creative and being responsible?

I imagine those are definitely common old-man questions that many people share if they are being completely honest with themselves.

I was often frustrated with John Lennon and Paul McCartney as a teen (even more so with Kurt Cobain who killed himself at the height of what I thought was his period of creativity). I loved the Beatles and knew every lyric and melody and bass lick by heart by the time I went off to College. But why did they stop with Abbey Road, whose B-Side is arguably one of their most creative endeavors. How could they explode from “Love Me Do” into “Strawberry Fields Forever” in just five years and then the White Album and the audacious Magical Mystery Tour and Let It Be and Abbey Road and then break up the band? McCartney and Lennon would go on to solo projects and bands like Wings but they could never outshine what they accomplished in their 20’s in The Beatles.

Are we all doomed to similar fates? Do our complex internal algorithms of choices and perceived responsibilities and knowledge push that creative spark into a corner to be locked up while we go about the business of doing “adult stuff”?

As I watch my almost 10 year old and 7 year old and 21 month old children learn to function and operate as unique individuals in the world, I’m often sensitive to the notion that I’m here as a guide but not a dictator. Parenthood makes you obsess over details like the radius of a hotdog section and the weight limits of a swim float to the point that it’s easy to miss the every day mystery of a child realizing a new concept, especially when they can’t fully communicate with language yet.

Our monkey brains are fantastic specimens that have pushed us to conquer the world and build iPhones. We haven’t solved climate change and cancer and hunger yet, but I imagine we will. What we won’t conquer is our own insecurities, especially as we age. That’s on display in our current President, for instance. It’s something I’ve encountered all of my life when dealing with teachers, professors, pastors, bosses and clients… “Woah woah woah! Slow down there, Sam. We can’t move too fast on this. Just step back and let’s let time be a part of this process.”

There’s comfort and security in owning the time table of a process. But perhaps that’s where creativity dies.

I need to be more creative with my professional work. I need to be more creative with my children. I need to be more creative with my partner. I need to be more creative within my own palace of the mind … you get the point.




39

white_light_corona

I wrote this back in 2008 as I was turning 30:

However, turning 30 still scares the hell out of me because I don’t want to loose my idealism which is tied so close to my own identity.

via 29 – Sam Harrelson

Today I turn 39. I feel like I’ve changed so much in the last 9 years. I feel like the world itself has changed so much in the last 9 years. But, I look back on my writings and notebooks from this period and realize that the core of me is still there. It’s developing but it feels and seems familiar.

Our conceptions of time and age and landmarks in our own personal histories remind me of the signposts of life that Merianna frequently talks and preaches about. We all like to erect little monuments of memory so that whenever we pass by the same spot, we’ll recollect either the joy or pain or astonishment or fear that marked that particular point in our journey.

We mark years by orbits of our planets around our solar system’s star. Yesterday, I was able to experience the totality of a solar eclipse in the backyard with my wife, our young son and two daughters. I couldn’t have predicted that in 2008. The 30’s have been a mix of the greatest of pains and the greatest of joys. Birth, death, divorce, marriage, moves, career change(s), personal realizations… all those experiences are signposts that I often revisit through reflections as in a mirror, dimly.

Whatever happens in the next 10 years before I turn 50 will also come as a surprise to me when I look back on the paths that were trodden and those not trodden. But future Sam who is reading this in 2027 and turning 49 with eyes that vainly crave the light, of the empty and useless years of the rest with me intertwined in the new signposts that I currently can’t see just yet, keep the question and the Answer close by. Let’s contribute a verse.

Out of the blackstar comes new creativity and new expressions of light and new ways of looking at the world. A perfect black to put distance between ourselves and our assumptions and then a perfect white to answer the question of whether we still belong in a previous existence.




Last Night on Earth

I’m an only child. I realized rather early in life that being an only child and one of the few kids in our rather small family would have an impact on a number of aspects of my life from playing sports to how I held my shoulders at school.

I was consciously aware of myself rather early in life. I’m not sure if others go through this period of inner awareness and I wonder how that development affects us as we grow into adulthood. I have a vivid memory (for what that’s worth) of spending what felt like days and days on a working hierarchy of my mind. I laid out what I thought were all the potential body systems and thought processes I could have. Everything from “standing up” to “writing in cursive” to “reading a book.” The purpose was (I think) to be able to understand the how as well as the why of me. I wish I still had that notebook from when I was 9 or 10. As a senior in high school I used the topic of “Ego” for my year long thesis project. I explored the Id and Superego with Freud and Jung and Catherine of Siena and Hesse and Lennon and Margery Kempe. I was reading Doyle’s Sherlock stories at the time and the concept of a brain attic immediately appealed to me as I explored these new thought technologies. That was especially true as a shy and socially awkward only child growing up in a culture where I didn’t feel like I “fit in” (what teenager ever does?). I didn’t realize it at the time, but that project and those explorations have profound effects today on my views of spirituality, politics, sex, relationships, and identity.

I left that exploration behind and put the project in a neat jar in the corner of my brain attic. Sometimes, I’m tempted to go open the pithos but I worry that it will only unleash more turmoil and I’ll close the lid before elpis has a chance to escape. Other times, I meander past it and know that I should just break it and send to the trash fire where other items taking up space go.

I look at my 9 year old now, and marvel at how much she is rapidly changing but also wish I could tell her even more blatantly that it’s ok to explore the inner self. It’s an amazing journey. I hope she doesn’t put her pithos in the corner to collect neuron dust but keeps up the struggle and joy of inner discovery.

Last night, the person I freely call “my brother” messaged me a video at 2 AM from a bar where one of our favorite songs was being covered. I didn’t see the message until this morning, but the thought and intentionality that led to him sending me that at that moment in time and space made me smile. He could have shared that via Facebook or Instagram and tagged me or included me in an @ message in a sort of public shout-out meant to display our affinity for that song or each other. But the private nature of the message was intimate and special and meaningful.

Another one of my great friends that I also call a brother is fond of letter writing still. It’s hipster and chic and trendy to reflect back on lost practices like letter writing, but that doesn’t negate the impact. He’s had major life changes recently. I’ve been meaning to write him a letter with some of the thoughts and items from my brain attic that might give him some additional insights. We’ve exchanged messages and phone calls, but I’ve not taken the time to follow through with intimate sharing via the medium that I know would impact us both the most. Is that because I’m afraid of that pithos in the corner?

This week’s Roderick on the Line podcast covers this notion of sharing and online personas and what we communicate to the public about our own brain-processed visions of the world when we use Instagram or Facebook or Twitter. It’s worth your time to listen.

Connecting with other humans via social media on a broadcast level is comforting to this only child. I don’t have to really let you know who I am or what I’m necessarily seeing or thinking because I can control the message and the filter. I can bend my reality and share it with all of you in a way that helps negate intimacy. You get to see what I self-diagnose as my interesting self, but you aren’t privy to the artifacts and boxes and souvenirs in my brain attic. And that pithos.