Kindle Highlights: Oct. – Dec., 2021

Highlights from Kindle reading over the past few months, stripped of context and (unfortunately in the Instapaper articles) titles and authors. I’ll need to find a better approach eventually.

Instapaper: Wednesday, Sep. 29th (Instapaper)

  • Your Highlight at location 816-820 | Added on Friday, 1 October 2021 22:31:48

Yes, according to this statement, everything is chaos and disorder—the terrible heat inside stars, the walls of fire of galactic nebulae set alight by mutual penetration, the gas balls of suns; after all—say those sober, rational, and thus undoubtedly correct people—no device, no kind of organization, not even the smallest trace of it can appear in oceans of boiling fire; suns are blind volcanoes that spit out planets, while planets, exceptionally and rarely, sometimes create man—everything else is the lifeless fury of degenerate atomic gases, a swarm of apocalyptic fires shaking their prominences.

Instapaper: Wednesday, Sep. 29th (Instapaper)

  • Your Highlight at location 842-850 | Added on Friday, 1 October 2021 22:36:58

You’re wrong. For you think the Earth is a crumb of life within an ocean of nothingness. You think man is solitary, and has the stars, the nebulae, the galaxies as adversaries, as enemies. You think the only knowledge that can be obtained is the kind he has possessed and will continue to possess—man, the only creator of Order, endlessly threatened by a deluge of infinity that radiates distant points of light. But that is not the case. The hierarchy of active endurance is omnipresent. Anyone who so wishes may call it life. On its peaks, at the heights of energy arousal, fiery organisms endure. Just before the limit, at the point of absolute zero, in the land of darkness and of the final, hardening breath, life appears once more, as a weak reflection of that one, as its pale, dying memory—that is us. So look, and learn humility as well as hope, because one day the Sun will become a nova, and will embrace us with the merciful arm of a conflagration, and thus, returning into the eternal whirligig of life, becoming particles of its greatness, we shall achieve more profound knowledge than may fall to the lot of the inhabitants of a glacial zone.

Instapaper: Wednesday, Oct. 6th (Instapaper)

  • Your Highlight at location 987-989 | Added on Wednesday, 6 October 2021 22:08:05

Orwell’s projections come from the era of information broadcasting, and are not applicable to our own. Had Orwell been able to equip Big Brother with all the tools of artificial intelligence, he would still have been writing from an older paradigm, and the result could never have described our situation today, nor suggested where we might be heading.

Instapaper: Wednesday, Oct. 6th (Instapaper)

  • Your Highlight at location 998-1001 | Added on Wednesday, 6 October 2021 22:08:39

A world of informational transparency will necessarily be one of deliriously multiple viewpoints, shot through with misinformation, disinformation, conspiracy theories and a quotidian degree of madness. We may be able to see what’s going on more quickly, but that doesn’t mean we’ll agree about it any more readily.

Instapaper: Wednesday, Oct. 6th (Instapaper)

  • Your Highlight at location 1006-1007 | Added on Wednesday, 6 October 2021 22:09:00

If you wish to know an era, study its most lucid nightmares. In the mirrors of our darkest fears, much will be revealed. But don’t mistake those mirrors for road maps to the future, or even to the present.

Instapaper: Monday, Oct. 11th (Instapaper)

  • Your Highlight at location 300-301 | Added on Thursday, 14 October 2021 22:50:05

“Living systems,” wrote biological theorist Stuart Kauffman, “exist in the solid regime near the edge of chaos, and natural selection achieves and sustains such a poised state.”

Instapaper: Wednesday, Oct. 27th (Instapaper)

  • Your Highlight at location 713-721 | Added on Tuesday, 26 October 2021 21:27:03

The latter was asked “why he believed in Islam when he claimed that religious groups were all equal in their ability to defend their positions.” Abu Sulaiman replied, in part: I am in the situation of a man who has entered the courtyard of a caravansary by day to seek a moment’s shade, at a time when the sky was cloudless. The keeper of the caravansary brought him to an apartment without asking about his condition or health. In this situation he suddenly found that a cloud had blown up and released a downpour. The apartment leaked, so the occupant looked at the other apartments in the inn, and saw that they too were leaking. He saw mud in the courtyard of the building, and considered staying where he was and not moving to another apartment; [for, by remaining,] he could enjoy his ease and avoid getting his legs splattered by the thick mud and slime of the courtyard. [So] he was inclined to wait patiently in his apartment and stay in the situation in which he found himself. (excerpted in Roy Mottahedeh, Loyalty and Leadership in an Early Islamic Society, 30–31 [Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1980])

Instapaper: Monday, Oct. 25th (Instapaper)

  • Your Highlight at location 756-760 | Added on Tuesday, 26 October 2021 22:50:56

In Divine Flashes, ‘Iraqi defines love as the unknowable essence of God, the origin of everything. Nothing in the Universe truly exists, he says, except love – it is the ultimate ‘being’ that underpins all reality: Love flows in everything, so necessarily it is all things … There is nothing in existence except it. And if not for it, that which was manifested into existence would not have manifested. That which has manifested was manifested from love and love flows in it – it is all love.

Opinion | Elon Musk Is Building a Sci-Fi World, and the Rest of Us Are Trapped in It (nytimes.com)

  • Your Highlight at location 81-83 | Added on Thursday, 4 November 2021 19:58:57

How have these men so gravely misread these books? One clue lies in the science fiction they seem, mostly, to ignore: new wave, Afrofuturism, feminist and post-colonial science fiction, the work of writers like Margaret Atwood, Vandana Singh, Octavia Butler and Ted Chiang.

Instapaper: Monday, Jul. 26th (Instapaper)

  • Your Highlight at location 199-201 | Added on Sunday, 7 November 2021 22:23:33

By recognizing, at last, the ubiquity of sharing and chaperoning, by acknowledging the fact that communal traits are quite natural, we get to see ourselves anew. We can return to our role as nurturers, each a helper among helpers in this planetary story of collaborative healing.

Instapaper: Monday, Jul. 26th (Instapaper)

  • Your Highlight at location 237-238 | Added on Sunday, 7 November 2021 22:26:57

The more our media interfaces act as intermediaries between ourselves and our world, the harder it gets to distinguish between what is important and unimportant in a situation.

Instapaper: Monday, Jul. 26th (Instapaper)

  • Your Highlight at location 276-279 | Added on Sunday, 7 November 2021 22:32:11

Art is neither a system for transmitting information nor a mode of self-expression. It does these things no better than any number of activities. Art is the seizure of a vision that exceeds language. It captures a slice of the Real and preserves it in an artifact. The work of art is fractal and open—an inexhaustible well of meaning and image overflowing the limits of the communicable.

Meditations On Moloch (slatestarcodex.com)

  • Your Highlight at location 170-174 | Added on Monday, 8 November 2021 20:47:14

A basic principle unites all of the multipolar traps above. In some competition optimizing for X, the opportunity arises to throw some other value under the bus for improved X. Those who take it prosper. Those who don’t take it die out. Eventually, everyone’s relative status is about the same as before, but everyone’s absolute status is worse than before. The process continues until all other values that can be traded off have been – in other words, until human ingenuity cannot possibly figure out a way to make things any worse.

Meditations On Moloch (slatestarcodex.com)

  • Your Highlight at location 189-191 | Added on Monday, 8 November 2021 20:50:33

Any human with above room temperature IQ can design a utopia. The reason our current system isn’t a utopia is that it wasn’t designed by humans. Just as you can look at an arid terrain and determine what shape a river will one day take by assuming water will obey gravity, so you can look at a civilization and determine what shape its institutions will one day take by assuming people will obey incentives.

Meditations On Moloch (slatestarcodex.com)

  • Your Highlight at location 292-295 | Added on Monday, 8 November 2021 21:05:35

Turning “satisfying customers” and “satisfying citizens” into the outputs of optimization processes was one of civilization’s greatest advances and the reason why capitalist democracies have so outperformed other systems. But if we have bound Moloch as our servant, the bonds are not very strong, and we sometimes find that the tasks he has done for us move to his advantage rather than ours.

Meditations On Moloch (slatestarcodex.com)

  • Your Highlight at location 486-487 | Added on Monday, 8 November 2021 21:33:38

“The wages of sin is Death.” Gotcha! The wages of everything is Death! This is a Communist universe, the amount you work makes no difference to your eventual reward. From each according to his ability, to each Death.

Meditations On Moloch (slatestarcodex.com)

  • Your Highlight at location 606-606 | Added on Monday, 8 November 2021 22:19:55

I am a transhumanist because I do not have enough hubris not to try to kill God.

The Great Unflattening (medium.com)

  • Your Highlight at location 16-18 | Added on Friday, 19 November 2021 22:47:39

We’re asking for boldness, collaboration, courage, creativity and imagination, but we don’t acknowledge that those are not things that can suddenly occur — they take space, cultivation and practice — and communities that can tend to those things.

Instapaper: Monday, Nov. 22nd (Instapaper)

  • Your Highlight at location 598-599 | Added on Saturday, 27 November 2021 09:43:28

Hyperobjects speak to the immense, structural forces all around us, and even inside us, that we cannot see with our eyes but strive to comprehend through data or computer modeling.

Instapaper: Monday, Nov. 22nd (Instapaper)

  • Your Highlight at location 609-609 | Added on Saturday, 27 November 2021 09:44:35

concrete will soon outweigh all living matter on the planet.

Humankind (Morton, Timothy)

  • Your Highlight at location 59-62 | Added on Saturday, 27 November 2021 10:42:48

Man issued from the womb of Mother Earth, but he knew it not, nor recognized her, to whom he owed his life. In his egotism he sought an explanation of himself in the infinite, and out of his efforts there arose the dreary doctrine that he was not related to the Earth, that she was but a temporary resting place for his scornful feet and that she held nothing for him but temptation to degrade himself.

Instapaper: Monday, Nov. 22nd (Instapaper)

  • Your Highlight at location 711-713 | Added on Saturday, 27 November 2021 11:05:41

Depending on your perspective, almost anything can be a hyperobject, can be inside one, or both. That doesn’t make the concept meaningless, though; it means that the deep reality of your everyday world is quietly full to bursting with the uncanny, both familiar and alien in equal measure.

Instapaper: Monday, Nov. 22nd (Instapaper)

  • Your Highlight at location 852-854 | Added on Saturday, 27 November 2021 11:12:34

it should make us wonder why we in the West have treated the chaotic flow of the river we can’t step into twice as mere appearance, beneath which are the real and eternal principles of order that explain that flow. Why our ontological preference for the eternally unchanging over the eternally swirling water and dust?

Instapaper: Monday, Nov. 22nd (Instapaper)

  • Your Highlight at location 861-863 | Added on Saturday, 27 November 2021 11:13:42

Indeed, complete certainty of results from a machine learning model is a cause for scepticism about that model. Machine learning’s outputs, as probabilistic, have some degree of inaccuracy built into them; a true probabilistic statement is one that correctly predicts how often it will be wrong.

Welcoming the stranger as an act of delight | The Sprawl (sprawlcalgary.com)

If you structure your life solely in a fraternal way, it really makes it very difficult for the new to present itself.

Welcoming the stranger as an act of delight | The Sprawl (sprawlcalgary.com)

  • Your Highlight at location 84-85 | Added on Tuesday, 30 November 2021 19:31:46

The danger of likeness is the danger of always being enchanted by the mirror you see, enchanted by yourself.

Welcoming the stranger as an act of delight | The Sprawl (sprawlcalgary.com)

  • Your Highlight at location 106-109 | Added on Tuesday, 30 November 2021 19:35:19

Both of them see human beings as homo miserabilis. That is, they see human beings as needy, and they see the market as satisfying that need or they see the state as satisfying that need. That is to really mean that all human beings in the end, given this way of understanding what it means to be human, are consumers. What goes in their mouth, what they evacuate, speeding up that process is the goal of life. Well, that is just an awful way of thinking of human beings.

Instapaper: Tuesday, Nov. 30th (Instapaper)

  • Your Highlight at location 115-117 | Added on Tuesday, 30 November 2021 19:45:36

worry friendship is the next territory of consumption and commodification, to the point where you can no longer simply wander with a friend, just to see what closeness might occur. When we have been alone in so many ways for so long, I worry that we run the risk of losing the ability to find value in one another organically, in the ways people know best.

Instapaper: Tuesday, Nov. 30th (Instapaper)

  • Your Highlight at location 133-135 | Added on Tuesday, 30 November 2021 19:47:57

the thing, sadly, about production and consumption is that our culture has fashioned it so that we can engage in such acts alone, even when we are in a room full of people. We browse alone. We buy alone. We are so close to living and dying alone.

Instapaper: Tuesday, Nov. 30th (Instapaper)

  • Your Highlight at location 152-153 | Added on Tuesday, 30 November 2021 19:49:54

The beauty of people is that you become beholden to the fragility and waywardness of others, just as they are beholden to you.

The Dawn of Everything (David Graeber;David Wengrow)

  • Your Highlight on page 15 | location 223-224 | Added on Tuesday, 30 November 2021 21:15:37

term ‘inequality’ is a way of framing social problems appropriate to an age of technocratic reformers, who assume from the outset that no real vision of social transformation is even on the table.

The Dawn of Everything (David Graeber;David Wengrow)

  • Your Highlight on page 17 | location 259-260 | Added on Tuesday, 30 November 2021 21:19:30

What if we treat people, from the beginning, as imaginative, intelligent, playful creatures who deserve to be understood as such?

The Dawn of Everything (David Graeber;David Wengrow)

  • Your Highlight on page 32 | location 484-486 | Added on Tuesday, 30 November 2021 21:50:03

‘Security’ takes many forms. There is the security of knowing one has a statistically smaller chance of getting shot with an arrow. And then there’s the security of knowing that there are people in the world who will care deeply if one is.

The Dawn of Everything (David Graeber;David Wengrow)

  • Your Highlight on page 37 | location 559-560 | Added on Tuesday, 30 November 2021 21:58:15

the course of human history may be less set in stone, and more full of playful possibilities, than we tend to assume.

The Dawn of Everything (David Graeber;David Wengrow)

  • Your Highlight on page 44 | location 663-665 | Added on Tuesday, 30 November 2021 22:09:24

the whole story we summarized in the last chapter – our standard historical meta-narrative about the ambivalent progress of human civilization, where freedoms are lost as societies grow bigger and more complex – was invented largely for the purpose of neutralizing the threat of indigenous critique.

The Dawn of Everything (David Graeber;David Wengrow)

  • Your Highlight on page 50 | location 766-767 | Added on Tuesday, 30 November 2021 22:19:29

We will suggest that there is a reason why so many key Enlightenment thinkers insisted that their ideals of individual liberty and political equality were inspired by Native American sources and examples. Because it was true.

The Dawn of Everything (David Graeber;David Wengrow)

  • Your Highlight on page 55 | location 830-832 | Added on Tuesday, 30 November 2021 22:28:39

When it came to questions of personal freedom, the equality of men and women, sexual mores or popular sovereignty – or even, for that matter, theories of depth psychology18 – indigenous American attitudes are likely to be far closer to the reader’s own than seventeenth-century European ones.

The Dawn of Everything (David Graeber;David Wengrow)

  • Your Highlight on page 71 | location 1081-1085 | Added on Tuesday, 30 November 2021 23:19:50

Kandiaronk: I have spent six years reflecting on the state of European society and I still can’t think of a single way they act that’s not inhuman, and I genuinely think this can only be the case, as long as you stick to your distinctions of ‘mine’ and ‘thine’. I affirm that what you call money is the devil of devils; the tyrant of the French, the source of all evils; the bane of souls and slaughterhouse of the living. To imagine one can live in the country of money and preserve one’s soul is like imagining one could preserve one’s life at the bottom of a lake.

The Dawn of Everything (David Graeber;David Wengrow)

  • Your Highlight on page 107 | location 1634-1637 | Added on Wednesday, 1 December 2021 22:07:49

Carefully working through ethnographic accounts of existing egalitarian foraging bands in Africa, South America and Southeast Asia, Boehm identifies a whole panoply of tactics collectively employed to bring would-be braggarts and bullies down to earth – ridicule, shame, shunning (and in the case of inveterate sociopaths, sometimes even outright assassination)19 – none of which have any parallel among other primates.

The Dawn of Everything (David Graeber;David Wengrow)

  • Your Highlight on page 117 | location 1779-1783 | Added on Wednesday, 1 December 2021 22:26:14

In this sense, the Western philosophical tradition has taken a rather unusual direction over the last few centuries. Around the same time as it abandoned dialogue as its typical mode of writing, it also began imagining the isolated, rational, self-conscious individual not as a rare achievement, something typically accomplished – if at all – after literally years of living isolated in a cave or monastic cell, or on top of a pillar in a desert somewhere, but as the normal default state of human beings anywhere.

The Dawn of Everything (David Graeber;David Wengrow)

  • Your Highlight on page 133 | location 2028-2029 | Added on Thursday, 2 December 2021 21:44:23

In this case, people actually adopted different names in summer and winter – literally becoming someone else, depending on the time of year.

The Dawn of Everything (David Graeber;David Wengrow)

  • Your Highlight on page 143 | location 2187-2189 | Added on Thursday, 2 December 2021 21:59:12

What’s really important about such festivals is that they kept the old spark of political self-consciousness alive. They allowed people to imagine that other arrangements are feasible, even for society as a whole, since it was always possible to fantasize about carnival bursting its seams and becoming the new reality.

The Dawn of Everything (David Graeber;David Wengrow)

  • Your Highlight on page 159 | location 2425-2429 | Added on Friday, 3 December 2021 21:39:57

put the matter more technically: what the Hadza, Wendat or ‘egalitarian’ people such as the Nuer seem to have been concerned with were not so much formal freedoms as substantive ones.12 They were less interested in the right to travel than in the possibility of actually doing so (hence, the matter was typically framed as an obligation to provide hospitality to strangers). Mutual aid – what contemporary European observers often referred to as ‘communism’ – was seen as the necessary condition for individual autonomy.

The Dawn of Everything (David Graeber;David Wengrow)

  • Your Highlight on page 167 | location 2551-2554 | Added on Friday, 3 December 2021 21:52:16

foragers (who after all tended to be intimately familiar with all aspects of the growing cycles of food plants) were perfectly aware of how one might go about planting and harvesting grains and vegetables. They just didn’t see any reason why they should. ‘Why should we plant,’ one !Kung informant put it – in a phrase cited ever since in a thousand treatises on the origins of farming – ‘when there are so many mongongo nuts in the world?’

Instapaper: Tuesday, Nov. 30th (Instapaper)

  • Your Highlight at location 689-690 | Added on Saturday, 4 December 2021 09:48:48

Horizontal social movements driven by middle-class white leftists tend to define “democracy” by virtue of procedures and decision-making processes. But the economic democracy movement teaches us to attend carefully to who is (and who is not) in the room.

The Dawn of Everything (David Graeber;David Wengrow)

  • Your Highlight on page 174 | location 2665-2667 | Added on Sunday, 5 December 2021 19:22:58

All we know for sure is that the lack of an agricultural base does not seem to have stopped those who gathered on Poverty Point from creating something that to us would appear very much like little cities which, at least during certain times of year, hosted a rich and influential intellectual life.

Instapaper: Tuesday, Dec. 7th (Instapaper)

  • Your Highlight at location 45-46 | Added on Tuesday, 7 December 2021 21:03:35

We are being robbed of the illusion that we can predict what will happen in the space of a second, a minute, an hour or a day. From one moment to the next, the pandemic seems to turn and point its finger at anyone, even at those who believed they were safely immune.

Instapaper: Tuesday, Dec. 7th (Instapaper)

  • Your Highlight at location 74-77 | Added on Tuesday, 7 December 2021 21:06:21

“There used to be no house,” the Marxist critic Walter Benjamin wrote in his 1936 essay The Storyteller, “hardly a room, in which someone had not once died.” In modern life, on the other hand, he argued, dying had been pushed beyond the perceptual realm of the living, although his diagnosis did not of course include the destitute nations or anticipate the impending war.

The Dawn of Everything (David Graeber;David Wengrow)

  • Your Highlight on page 209 | location 3200-3201 | Added on Tuesday, 7 December 2021 22:49:32

on fishing, and particularly the harvesting of anadromous

The Dawn of Everything (David Graeber;David Wengrow)

  • Your Highlight on page 242 | location 3708-3709 | Added on Thursday, 9 December 2021 22:28:34

the process by which cultures define themselves against one another is always, at root, political, since it involves self-conscious arguments about the proper way to live.

My view of the world (Schrödinger, Erwin, 1887-1961)

  • Your Highlight on page 14 | location 215-217 | Added on Monday, 13 December 2021 21:46:22

Different views are almost always opposed to each other as though they really were different views of the same object. But this kind of account practically forces us to regard one or other of these thinkers, or both of them, as crazy, or at the very least as totally lacking in judgement.

My view of the world (Schrödinger, Erwin, 1887-1961)

  • Your Highlight on page 15 | location 224-226 | Added on Monday, 13 December 2021 21:47:37

The real trouble is this: giving expression to thought by the observable medium of words is like the work of the silkworm. In being made into silk, the material achieves its value. But in the light of day it stiffens; it becomes something alien, no longer malleable. True, we can then more easily and freely recall the same thought, but perhaps we can never experience it again in its original freshness.

My view of the world (Schrödinger, Erwin, 1887-1961)

  • Your Highlight on page 16 | location 233-235 | Added on Monday, 13 December 2021 21:49:01

it is precisely the common features of all experience, such as characterise everything we encounter, which are the primary and most profound occasion for astonishment; indeed, one might almost say that it is the fact that anything is experienced and encountered at all.

My view of the world (Schrödinger, Erwin, 1887-1961)

  • Your Highlight on page 22 | location 334-337 | Added on Wednesday, 15 December 2021 22:47:52

But, as against this, it may perhaps be possible for logical thinking to disclose at least this much: that to grasp the basis of phenomena through logical thought may in all probability be impossible, since logical thought is itself a part of phenomena, and wholly involved in them; and we may ask ourselves whether, in that case, we are obliged to deny ourselves the use of an allegoric picture of the situation, merely on the grounds that its fitness cannot be strictly proved.

My view of the world (Schrödinger, Erwin, 1887-1961)

  • Your Highlight on page 23 | location 353-357 | Added on Wednesday, 15 December 2021 22:50:10

What is it that has called you so suddenly out of nothingness to enjoy for a brief while a spectacle which remains quite indifferent to you? The conditions for your existence are almost as old as the rocks. For thousands of years men have striven and suffered and begotten and women have brought forth in pain. A hundred years ago, perhaps, another man sat on this spot; like you he gazed with awe and yearning in his heart at the dying light on the glaciers. Like you he was begotten of man and born of woman. He felt pain and brief joy as you do. Was he someone else? Was it not you yourself? What is this Self of yours?

My view of the world (Schrödinger, Erwin, 1887-1961)

  • Your Highlight on page 25 | location 369-370 | Added on Wednesday, 15 December 2021 22:51:53

Hence this life of yours which you are living is not merely a piece of the entire existence, but is in a certain sense the whole-,

My view of the world (Schrödinger, Erwin, 1887-1961)

  • Your Highlight on page 25 | location 373-375 | Added on Wednesday, 15 December 2021 22:52:56

Thus you can throw yourself flat on the ground, stretched out upon Mother Earth, with the certain conviction that you are one with her and she with you. You are as firmly established, as invulnerable as she, indeed a thousand times firmer and more invulnerable. As surely as she will engulf you tomorrow, so surely will she bring you forth anew to new striving and suffering.

My view of the world (Schrödinger, Erwin, 1887-1961)

  • Your Highlight on page 25 | location 373-377 | Added on Wednesday, 15 December 2021 22:53:10

Thus you can throw yourself flat on the ground, stretched out upon Mother Earth, with the certain conviction that you are one with her and she with you. You are as firmly established, as invulnerable as she, indeed a thousand times firmer and more invulnerable. As surely as she will engulf you tomorrow, so surely will she bring you forth anew to new striving and suffering. And not merely ‘some day’: now, today, every day she is bringing you forth, not once but thousands upon thousands of times, just as every day she engulfs you a thousand times over. For eternally and always there is only now , one and the same now; the present is the only thing that has no end.

Instapaper: Friday, Dec. 17th (Instapaper)

  • Your Highlight at location 329-331 | Added on Monday, 20 December 2021 21:11:11

This special sense of hearing is something, perhaps, like the averted, peripheral vision that allows one to glimpse the fainter, more distant stars, for esoteric truths can only be glimpsed, never directly verified.

Instapaper: Friday, Dec. 17th (Instapaper)

  • Your Highlight at location 418-422 | Added on Monday, 20 December 2021 21:24:39

The basic ritual, or “protocol”, of sustained attention in universal use among practitioners of the Order of the Third Bird consists of three primary phases, which are called (with small variations) Attending, Negating, and Realizing.2 Rather than the three birds of Morris’ allegory corresponding, as one might expect, to the first, second, and third bird of the aforementioned pseudo-Ausonian parable, it seems they correspond to these three phases, in which practitioners ask in turn, of the Work before them, What Is, What Is Not, and What Shall Be. Attending

The Dawn of Everything (David Graeber;David Wengrow)

  • Your Highlight on page 332 | location 5079-5080 | Added on Monday, 20 December 2021 21:54:38

lives…urbanites live in small social worlds that touch but do not interpenetrate.

The Dawn of Everything (David Graeber;David Wengrow)

  • Your Highlight on page 341 | location 5226-5227 | Added on Tuesday, 21 December 2021 23:30:04

‘we have a bad habit, encouraged by pedants and sophisticates, of considering happiness as something rather stupid.’

The Dawn of Everything (David Graeber;David Wengrow)

  • Your Highlight on page 342 | location 5231-5233 | Added on Tuesday, 21 December 2021 23:30:56

why do we assume that people who have figured out a way for a large population to govern and support itself without temples, palaces and military fortifications – that is, without overt displays of arrogance, self-abasement and cruelty – are somehow less complex than those who have not?

Instapaper: Tuesday, Jun. 1st (Instapaper)

  • Your Highlight at location 736-737 | Added on Thursday, 23 December 2021 23:41:53

“The ultimate, hidden truth of the world is that it is something that we make, and could just as easily make differently.”

20 favourites from Instapaper

Not all of these articles are from 2021. I’m not even sure if the majority of them are. But, looking back on the last year, these are the articles I read that made the biggest impression on me, whether it’s for the quality of the writing, the ideas they inspired, their timeliness or other, unexpected twists and turns. Looking back on my last year of reading, it isn’t as diverse as I’d though. Most of the sources I’m reading are still pretty mainstream, and most of the topics are far from esoteric. Climate and COVID, politics and polarization; a little more on the nature of self or on the end of the world, a few more entries from blogs and substacks, but pretty overwhelmingly Western, white, and male, and pretty overwhelmingly sourced from a handful of major publications. That’s a habit I’d like to break out of in the new year; we’ll see how that goes.

Instapaper TitleLinkKeywords
A sci-fi writer got meta about gender. The internet responded by ruining her life.https://www.vox.com/the-highlight/22543858/isabel-fall-attack-helicoptergender, sci-fi, literature, social media
Babelhttps://www.nplusonemag.com/issue-40/essays/babel-4/language, technology
Beauty Will Save the World | Reality Sandwichhttps://realitysandwich.com/beauty-will-save-the-world/art, philosophy
Dada on Trial | Colby Chamberlainhttp://cabinetmagazine.org/issues/45/chamberlain.phphistory, art, philosophy, politics
Darwin Among the Machines — [To the Editor of the Press, Christchurch, New Zealand, 13 June, 1863.] | NZETChttp://nzetc.victoria.ac.nz/tm/scholarly/tei-ButFir-t1-g1-t1-g1-t4-body.htmltechnology, history
Everyone Is Beautiful and No One Is Horny – Blood Knifehttps://bloodknife.com/everyone-beautiful-no-one-horny/pop culture, psychology
Fungi’s Lessons for Adapting to Life on a Damaged Planethttps://lithub.com/fungis-lessons-for-adapting-to-life-on-a-damaged-planet/nature, climate
Horsehistory study and the automated discovery of new areas of thoughthttps://interconnected.org/home/2021/06/16/horsehistorylanguage, philosophy
I Miss It Allhttps://longreads.com/2021/07/22/i-miss-it-all-devin-kelly/covid, relationships
I Want My Mutually Assured Destructionhttps://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2021/05/my-mtv-cold-war-retrospective/618812/apocalypse
Love the art, hate the artist? How a popular Chicago college class
is reexamining Kanye West, Michael Jackson, Picasso and others in the
era of cancel culture
https://www.chicagotribune.com/entertainment/ct-ent-saic-cancel-culture-class-20210505-p5cttxjf4vcsbgla3stp5zkoxy-story.htmlart, pop culture, cancel culture
Meditations On Molochhttps://slatestarcodex.com/2014/07/30/meditations-on-moloch/culture, philosophy, society
Opinion | The Road to Oceania (Published 2003)https://www.nytimes.com/2003/06/25/opinion/the-road-to-oceania.htmlpolitics, literature, sci-fi
The Cold War Over Hacking McDonald’s Ice Cream Machineshttps://www.wired.com/story/they-hacked-mcdonalds-ice-cream-makers-started-cold-war/business, technology
The destructive conspiracy theory that Victoria unleashed upon the worldhttps://capnews.ca/news/satanic-ritual-abuse-michelle-remembers-lawrence-pazder-victoriaconspiracy theories, urban legends
The Math of the Amazing Sandpile – Issue 107: The Edge – Nautilushttp://nautil.us/issue/107/the-edge/the-math-of-the-amazing-sandpilemath, sceince
The Methods of Moral Panic Journalismhttps://michaelhobbes.substack.com/p/moral-panic-journalismjournalism, urban legends, groupthink, cancel culture
The Truth, by Stanisław Lemhttps://thereader.mitpress.mit.edu/the-truth-by-stanislaw-lem/short fiction, sci-fi, weird fiction
Urban Fish Ponds: Low-tech Sewage Treatment for Towns and Citieshttps://solar.lowtechmagazine.com/2021/03/urban-fish-ponds-low-tech-sewage-treatment-for-towns-and-cities.htmlclimate, urban planning, degrowth
Welcoming the Stranger as an Act of Delighthttps://www.sprawlcalgary.com/welcoming-the-stranger-david-goacommunity, philosophy, politics

Einstein’s Monsters

A few weeks back, I finally read the opening essay in Martin Amis’ Einstein’s Monsters, a book I’ve had on my shelf for years but never quite got around to. Reading about how nuclear anxiety felt during the cold war, it’s hard not to compare it to climate anxiety, different as they are in some respects.

Amis makes a point about the strange effect nuclear weapons have on the experience of time, erasing the future and past, leaving only an anxious present. If that feeling ever went away, I think it’s come back in recent years, although with less of the sense that the world only exists because of the happy accident that there hasn’t been an unhappy accident.

(On that note, the fact we’re alive at all after nearly a century of the bomb seems like a strong argument for the multiverse view where consciousness and experience compress into the threads of reality where life continues. At the very least, it reinforces the incredible fact that I’m only here now because this is a reality where humanity hasn’t yet ended itself, which is an unlikely but necessary plot contrivance.)

The similarities are in the sense of futility and anger, the strange knowledge that all of this can end, the frustration at how politics and institutions can pervert language to discuss “acceptable” losses, their seemingly inhuman acceptance of apocalypse for the sake of a system. The chief difference being scales of time. The nuclear balance required (and still requires) an eternity of days where no one triggered the end. A statistical impossibility, given enough time. An eternity of getting it right to avoid an instant of getting it wrong, followed by an eternity of nothing.

Climate change compresses time in a different way. The effects of action and inaction are remote. You can argue the effects of inaction are immediate because they’re here now, but those aren’t the effects of today’s inaction, they’re the cost of decades passed without concern for today. We’re dealing with the hangover of a night out 30 years ago, and we’ll go out drinking again tonight because staying sober won’t prevent tomorrow’s pain. The relationship between yesterday and today and tomorrow are somehow beyond our grasp.

But the biggest similarity is in how we are seemingly powerless in the face of systems we created, and which we continue to perpetuate. To get at the absurdity of humans using the threat of nuclear weapons as a source of security, Amis uses the metaphor of a children’s party guarded by thousand-foot sentinels covered in poison and razor blades, so obviously monstrous and beyond any scale the children can control–although it’s within the children’s power to ask them to leave. At least for climate change, there is some obvious benefit to sustaining our problematic behaviour, short-sighted as it may be. Instead of the sentinels, it’s more like we’re running a gas generator in the house, and it’s slowly filling the rooms with carbon monoxide. The house is big, so we can believe the fumes won’t get to us in our lifetime. And if we turn it off, we’ll get colder; we won’t have light to read by; our experience will be harder and poorer. So we let it run a little longer, and then longer still.

Stranger Than We Can Imagine

I wanted to make some notes to myself on John Higgs’ Stranger Than We Can Imagine. I’ve gotten pretty used to using my Kindle to highlight the important bits of what I’ve been reading, so having to return a physical book to a library feels like more of a loss these days, and I want to at least capture the arc of its argument for myself.

Going mostly from memory, with chapter titles as prompts:

  1. Relativity: Deleting the omphalos
    The “omphalos” is a pillar or anchor for a culture, something so central that it works as a reference point for everything else. Relativity established that in physics, there is no such thing as an objective frame of reference, location, movement, etc, can all be defined only in reference to arbitrary points. This is a major blow to the idea of an objective, understandable universe, as in a very real way, nothing can be described purely objectively.
  2. Modernism: The shock of the new
    At the same time that physics is erasing the omphalos of objectivity, Modernism in art is tackling something similar. Cubism is erasing the objectivity of the author by compressing multiple perspectives onto a single canvas. Duchamp (or probably Baroness Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven) are provoking fights over whether anything can objectively be called art. Joyce and Eliot are creating literature that embodies multiple perspectives in single works, in multifaceted, unpredictable ways. As with physics, the single, fixed perspective is seen as inadequate to describe/portray reality.
  3. War: Hoist that rag
    The horrors of the first world war shatter the illusion that the leadership of empires know what they’re doing. While democratization was already in process and would still proceed in fits and starts, this is a death knell for the idea of monarchy (a single, hereditary line of leadership) as omphalos, as well as illustrating the danger of nationalism subsuming individual identities.
  4. Individualism: Do what thou wilt
    With so many anchor points already removed, what’s left? Individualism. Like Descartes arriving at the self as the only objective truth, figures like Ayn Rand and Alistair Crowley preach the gospel of individualism. In that world view, culture has no fixed truth, just the interests of every person as a world unto themselves.
  5. The Id: Under the paving stones, the beach
    But even the foundation of individualism is flawed, as psychoanalysis shows that we don’t even know ourselves. We are dominated by impulses that are necessarily invisible to us, and that don’t obey the laws of civilization. Surrealists tried to tap into this for artistic purposes, despots manipulated society’s id into acts of genocide; without the omphalos of older times to act as ego, the id runs unchecked.
  6. Uncertainty: We search for new omphalos, but in vain. In math, it’s proven that no system of logic can be complete, provable, and internally consistent. In physics, there are limits to what we can know built into the structure of reality. There is randomness inherent in the universe. Complete, objective knowledge is fundamentally impossible.
  7. Science Fiction: A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away
    I think the argument here was that sci-fi is a reflection of a society’s aspirations, and the sci-fi of the 20th century was obsessed with individualism, and especially Campbelll’s monomyth: a special, chosen figure on a hero’s journey. The cultural dominance of Star Wsrs shows the resonance of this idea. On the other hand, by the early 20th century, different visions of storytelling, more reflective of multiple perspectives, are rising, and maybe a sign that individualism’s rule is waning.
  8. Nihilism: I stick my neck out for nobody
    The quote is from Casablanca, seen as a metaphor for America in WWII, going from self-interested isolationism to the realization that there are things worth fighting for. The chapter is more on existentialism than nihilism, but in any case, a reaction to the idea that everything is meaningless. Not by denying it, but by embracing the freedom to make our own meanings, to revel in the absurdity of it all.
  9. Space: We came in peace for all mankind
    A conflicted portrait of the space race, and the figures involved, like von Braun and his willingness to commit atrocities if it meant advancing a rocket program, or the Crowley-aligned fanaticism of Jack Parsons, not to mention the government’s portrayal of the space race as a humanitarian cause despite its obvious military motivations. But: the view from space also helped erase some individualist ideas by showing the connectedness and frailty of our planet. “In the twentieth century mankind went to the moon and in doing so they discovered the earth.”
  10. Sex: Nineteen sixty-three (which was rather late for me)
    This is the point where I really started to lose the thread of the book as a single narrative of the 20th century and not just a list of interesting things that happened. It talks about birth control, sexuality in literature, feminism, the acceptance of sex as a part of life, the objectification that was still rampant in a lot of so-called progressive movements… too many themes for me to reduce to a single through-line.
  11. Teenagers: Wop-bom-a-loo-mop-a-lomp-bom-bom
    Mostly on rock ‘n’ roll and the hedonism it inspired, the Keith Richards quote “we had to do what we wanted to do”. An interesting insight on how “the day the music died” cleared the way for a new generation to move the music forward without the baggage of elder statesmen. The main idea seems to be on how the teenage stage involves an embrae of individualism to an extent that can seem unhealthy, but is necessary to become a functioning adult, part of an argument that the 20th century may represent just such a teenage period for humanity.
  12. Chaos: A butterfly flaps its wings in Tokyo
    Chaos theory is discovered, showing that small discrepancies lead to massive changes. Fractals are discovered, showing that infinite complexity can exist within simple formulas. Strange attractors mean that systems gravitate towards certain stable states, but what can make them flip is unpredictable. The question emerges: if all that is true, then why does order dominate? Why does the environment seem to self-regulate? The Gaia hypothesis emerges, seeing the world a s a single entity, not conscious, but able through its many complex systems to sustain itself. A view of the earth that’s also reflected in the complex, conflicting beliefs of modern paganism, and that runs counter to the omphalos of Christianity.
  13. Growth: Today’s investor does not profit from yesterday’s growth
    A whole lot going on in this chapter. The ideal of unfettered economic growth and its consequences for the environment. Corporations as exempt from the cycle of life and death that is supposed to keep a check on unfettered growth, something more like a cancer. The belief that, for the sake of economic growth, everything must be owned, including rainwater in Bolivia. Neoliberalism and its ties to excessive individualism of the Randian sort. “Ideology beat science. Individualism beat environmentalism.”
  14. Postmodernism: I happen to have Mr. McLuhan right here
    The ultimate relativity of everything, after all omphalos have been destroyed. But the chapter also has a pretty cynical view of postmodernism, citing the Sokal hoax as essentially an excuse for everyone to admit that, even if it has a core of truth, most of post-modernism is gibberish. The worry is that in throwing out postmodernism, we lose the insights that led to it; it’s an attempt to grapple with the relativity of everything that was demonstrated in science, art, and culture.
  15. Network: A planet of individuals
    If the 20th century was our teenage period, or a period of deconstruction from our previous (false) omphalos, with an overadjustment into id and individualism, what comes next? The power of the network. Everything is still fragmented and individual, but the network provides context. There’s a poorly defined but promising sort of collectivity involved. “The network is a beheaded deity. It is a communion. There is no need for an omphalos any more. Hold tight.”

Given that it was published in 2016, I wonder if Higgs’ optimism about the network still holds. Enthusiasm for the utopian internet was already waning by that point, but it’s almost nonexistent in 2021.

Still, I like the main thrust of the book, the 20th century as a period of decentering, and finding out what happens when what we thought was core to our society is no longer generally accepted. The teenage century seems like a pretty accurate description, and while a lot of traits established in teenagerhood do tend to live on in the adult, they’re hopefully moderated and channeled in productive ways. It’s a way to look at that century more optimistically, even if there’s a strong risk we won’t outgrow it before it’s too late.

Kindle Highlights: Aug. and Sept. 2021

Presented without context; snippets that seemed worth highlighting over the past two months. Kindle doesn’t detect individual authors or texts from Instapaper’s auto-exported digests, so unfortunately a lot of these are essentially unattributed.

  • Your Highlight at location 251-253 | Added on Monday, 2 August 2021 21:47:40

The enduring obsession with social relevance reflects our collective obsession with escaping the non-being of those that lived and died before us, for only the famous dead retain a modicum of relevance in our minds, and only public esteem can break the spell of total anonymity that haunts us all.

The Invention of Nature (Andrea Wulf)

  • Your Highlight on page 197 | location 3011-3018 | Added on Wednesday, 4 August 2021 22:21:15

Wordsworth wrote in The Excursion (1814): For was it meant That we should pore, and dwindle as we pore, For ever dimly pore on things minute, On solitary objects, still beheld In disconnection dead and spiritless, And still dividing and dividing still Break down all grandeur …

Instapaper: Friday, Aug. 6th (Instapaper)

  • Your Highlight at location 125-126 | Added on Saturday, 7 August 2021 21:49:43

(My personal algorithm for new ideas appears to include: think about nonsense for longer than most others are prepared to tolerate.)

Instapaper: Friday, Aug. 6th (Instapaper)

  • Your Highlight at location 166-166 | Added on Saturday, 7 August 2021 21:50:03

new word becomes a new lens for understanding the world.

Instapaper: Friday, Aug. 6th (Instapaper)

  • Your Highlight at location 183-183 | Added on Saturday, 7 August 2021 21:50:42

New words are addresses to previously unused embeddings in concept space.

The Story of More (Hope Jahren)

  • Your Highlight on page 88 | location 1349-1350 | Added on Wednesday, 11 August 2021 22:55:05

Biofuels are considered “renewable” because every year that we renew the world’s agriculture, we get the option of taking a portion of the harvest, mutilating it, and then setting it on fire.

The Story of More (Hope Jahren)

  • Your Highlight on page 92 | location 1408-1416 | Added on Wednesday, 11 August 2021 22:56:07

My friend Brian quit smoking a few years ago, which was quite a feat because he had been addicted for decades. At age sixteen, he smoked after school with his friends, and a pack of cigarettes would last him about a week. While at community college, he got a part-time job and so upped his habit to about two packs a week. After graduating, he got a full-time job on a construction site, and soon thereafter he was smoking a pack a day. When I want to minimize the significance of cigarettes in Brian’s life, I emphasize that the percentage of his salary that he devoted to the purchase of cigarettes decreased dramatically during the twenty years that passed. When I want to maximize the significance of cigarettes in Brian’s life, I emphasize that the total number of cigarettes he smoked each week increased by a factor of seven over that same time period. Both of these statements are factually correct, but when they are presented in isolation, they tend to give different impressions of Brian’s habit. To fully understand the role that cigarettes played in Brian’s life over those formative years, it is best to understand both trends.

The Invention of Nature (Andrea Wulf)

  • Your Highlight on page 219 | location 3349-3351 | Added on Saturday, 14 August 2021 13:12:37

With few political rights and a general suppression of liberal ideas, Prussia’s middle classes had turned inwards and into the private sphere. Music, literature and art were dominated by expressions of feelings rather than revolutionary sentiment.

Instapaper: Tuesday, Aug. 10th (Instapaper)

  • Your Highlight at location 1184-1185 | Added on Saturday, 14 August 2021 20:09:41

there is another coexisting world, one in which thoughtful, intricate and uplifting things are being created at an unprecedented pace. Indeed, there is a surplus of extraordinary objects that illustrate and celebrate the full range of human ingenuity.

Instapaper: Tuesday, Aug. 10th (Instapaper)

  • Your Highlight at location 1216-1218 | Added on Saturday, 14 August 2021 20:13:23

have a choice: either to judge the world as embittered critics who find little beauty in new things or to feel a tingle of elation at the seemingly infinite cultural improvisations that humans keep spinning out like silk. The latter seems far more appealing to me.

[SOC FIS] postcapitalist desire (Zamzar)

  • Your Highlight on page 4 | location 55-57 | Added on Sunday, 15 August 2021 18:23:03

Drugs like acid or ecstasy might loosen up the mind to a certain degree, but they neglect the other, more lucidly existential parts of human subjectivity (our capacity to reason, our political agency), leaving them to rot and atrophy. In this sense, the problem with drugs, Fisher argues, is that they “are like an escape kit without an instruction manual”.9

[SOC FIS] postcapitalist desire (Zamzar)

  • Your Highlight on page 10 | location 148-151 | Added on Sunday, 15 August 2021 22:12:27

This was to suggest that, whilst Mensch’s cynicism was superficial, the implications of her critique remained deeply troubling. To what extent is our desire for postcapitalism always-already captured and neutralised by capitalism itself? How are we supposed to combat the “intensification of desire for consumer goods, funded by credit”?21 Should we even try?

[SOC FIS] postcapitalist desire (Zamzar)

  • Your Highlight on page 15 | location 223-227 | Added on Sunday, 15 August 2021 22:21:33

The consciousness in question is not a consciousness of an already-existing state of affairs. Rather, consciousness-raising is productive. It creates a new subject — a we that is both the agent of struggle and what is struggled for. At the same time, consciousness-raising intervenes in the ‘object’, the world itself, which is now no longer apprehended as some static opacity, the nature of which is already decided, but as something that can be transformed.

[SOC FIS] postcapitalist desire (Zamzar)

  • Your Highlight on page 17 | location 257-259 | Added on Sunday, 15 August 2021 22:24:38

Whereas Fisher may have rejected the Nineties announcement that “we are all middle class now”, our television screens continue to announce this reality silently and without fanfare nonetheless. The message, though implicit, is familiar: there is no alternative

[SOC FIS] postcapitalist desire (Zamzar)

  • Your Highlight on page 23 | location 352-352 | Added on Tuesday, 17 August 2021 19:44:15

“frenzied stasis”.

[SOC FIS] postcapitalist desire (Zamzar)

  • Your Highlight on page 46 | location 700-704 | Added on Tuesday, 17 August 2021 21:44:11

The concept of postcapitalism is something developed out of capitalism. It develops from capitalism and moves beyond capitalism. Therefore, we’re not required to imagine a sheer alterity, a pure outside. That’s one of the emphases of postcapitalism. We can begin with, work with, the pleasures of capitalism, as well as its oppressions. So, we’re not necessarily trapped in this Louise Mensch world where if we have iPhones, we can’t want postcapitalism. Although I don’t think we’d want iPhones in postcapitalism…

[SOC FIS] postcapitalist desire (Zamzar)

  • Your Highlight on page 50 | location 753-755 | Added on Tuesday, 17 August 2021 21:48:54

While it affords the pleasures of recognition, of capture, of intellectually subduing that one last thing, it offers no relief or exit to a place beyond. If we want to cultivate new habits of thinking for a postcapitalist politics, it seems there is work to be done to loosen the structure of feeling that cannot live with uncertainty or move beyond hopelessness.15

[SOC FIS] postcapitalist desire (Zamzar)

  • Your Highlight on page 51 | location 781-784 | Added on Tuesday, 17 August 2021 23:06:23

the idea there is, then: that power itself is pathological. To hold power is to inherently be oppressive, therefore it’s better to be wounded; it’s better to be the wounded, the abject, because you’re not actually holding power, which is oppressive. This becomes the name for a kind of impossible desire in lots of ways. Who are these appeals aimed at? What is a political project which doesn’t aim at capturing power or building power in some way?

Instapaper: Wednesday, Aug. 18th (Instapaper)

  • Your Highlight at location 136-138 | Added on Wednesday, 18 August 2021 22:54:58

The era of rapid climate change has begun. Both a rapid escalation of consequences, and a rapid escalation of solutions. Time has run out for anything but radical change.

Instapaper: Wednesday, Aug. 18th (Instapaper)

  • Your Highlight at location 310-312 | Added on Thursday, 19 August 2021 20:50:27

(1999), and Michio Kaku’s Physics of the Future (2011). But whether business-banal or cyber-gnostic, the classic pop-futurist canon presupposes an audience who wants to disrupt industries while preserving the status quo.

Instapaper: Wednesday, Aug. 18th (Instapaper)

  • Your Highlight at location 346-347 | Added on Thursday, 19 August 2021 20:54:43

unlock their potential—the collaborative gameplay itself. Unlike a linear book, interactive card decks and collective storytelling projects may best embody the strange, mutable, participatory ways the actual future unfolds.

Instapaper: Wednesday, Aug. 18th (Instapaper)

  • Your Highlight at location 346-347 | Added on Thursday, 19 August 2021 20:54:49

Unlike a linear book, interactive card decks and collective storytelling projects may best embody the strange, mutable, participatory ways the actual future unfolds.

[SOC FIS] postcapitalist desire (Zamzar)

  • Your Highlight on page 85 | location 1296-1298 | Added on Thursday, 19 August 2021 22:52:00

most imaginable societies, some level of repression is required in order for people to produce anything. But then surplus repression is the additional social repression on top of that, beyond necessity. Beyond quasi-biological necessity, there is also cultural and social pressure.

[SOC FIS] postcapitalist desire (Zamzar)

  • Your Highlight on page 85 | location 1296-1298 | Added on Thursday, 19 August 2021 22:52:07

most imaginable societies, some level of repression is required in order for people to produce anything. But then surplus repression is the additional social repression on top of that, beyond necessity. Beyond quasi-biological necessity, there is also cultural and social pressure.

Instapaper: Friday, Aug. 20th (Instapaper)

  • Your Highlight at location 368-369 | Added on Sunday, 22 August 2021 22:01:04

Any society in which people meddle in other people’s business is not a good society, and a state in which the government ‘knows more about you than you know about yourself,’ is a state that must be overthrown.

Instapaper: Wednesday, Aug. 25th (Instapaper)

  • Your Highlight at location 110-112 | Added on Wednesday, 25 August 2021 23:02:46

He notes that for all the advantages of a poker face, humans are uniquely bad at it – no other species blushes, no other primate has whites in its eyes to allow others to see where it’s looking. It’s like we became more transparent so that we could be more trusted.

Instapaper: Wednesday, Aug. 25th (Instapaper)

  • Your Highlight at location 129-130 | Added on Wednesday, 25 August 2021 23:04:57

hundred years ago G.K. Chesterton observed that we picture cavemen as stupid thugs dragging their clubs, but the one thing we actually know about them, was that they were artists.

Instapaper: Wednesday, Aug. 25th (Instapaper)

  • Your Highlight at location 142-143 | Added on Wednesday, 25 August 2021 23:07:01

Far from being blood thirsty killers with a thin veneer of civilisation, humans have a deep aversion to killing in even the most desperate of situations.

Instapaper: Wednesday, Aug. 25th (Instapaper)

  • Your Highlight at location 191-194 | Added on Wednesday, 25 August 2021 23:12:22

what about violent situations like Kitty’s? They were unstudiable until Marie Lindegaard had the bright idea of using CCTV footage of real incidents to evaluate bystander behaviour in violent situations. In these high stakes situations bystanders intervene 9 times out of 10, with the rate of intervention rising if there are more bystanders.

Instapaper: Wednesday, Aug. 25th (Instapaper)

  • Your Highlight at location 244-245 | Added on Wednesday, 25 August 2021 23:18:49

Probably people banded together because civilisations are strong, and safety is appealing.

Instapaper: Wednesday, Aug. 25th (Instapaper)

  • Your Highlight at location 957-959 | Added on Thursday, 26 August 2021 08:08:35

Nature is always the same, and its virtue and power of acting are everywhere one and the same, i.e., the laws and rules of nature, according to which all things happen, and change from one form to another, are always and everywhere the same. So the way of understanding the nature of anything, of whatever kind, must also be the same, viz. through the universal laws and rules of nature.

Instapaper: Wednesday, Aug. 25th (Instapaper)

  • Your Highlight at location 998-999 | Added on Thursday, 26 August 2021 08:12:22

“We are driven about in many ways by external causes, and … like waves on the sea, driven by contrary winds, we toss about, not knowing our outcome and fate”

Instapaper: Wednesday, Aug. 25th (Instapaper)

  • Your Highlight at location 1025-1029 | Added on Thursday, 26 August 2021 08:19:06

We see that all bodies and their states follow necessarily from the essence of matter and the universal laws of physics; and we see that all ideas, including all the properties of minds, follow necessarily from the essence of thought and its universal laws. This insight can only weaken the power that the passions have over us. We are no longer hopeful or fearful of what shall come to pass, and no longer anxious or despondent over our possessions. We regard all things with equanimity, and we are not inordinately and irrationally affected in different ways by past, present or future events. The result is self-control and a calmness of mind.

[SOC FIS] postcapitalist desire (Zamzar)

  • Your Highlight on page 93 | location 1419-1420 | Added on Friday, 27 August 2021 23:24:53

Some of you will have seen it. The Machines of Loving Grace thing, where he mocks the commune thing quite heavily. 23 It’s probably justified as well…

[SOC FIS] postcapitalist desire (Zamzar)

  • Your Note on page 93 | location 1420 | Added on Friday, 27 August 2021 23:25:15

Synchronicity…

[SOC FIS] postcapitalist desire (Zamzar)

  • Your Highlight on page 104 | location 1581-1584 | Added on Saturday, 28 August 2021 08:19:57

can’t understand any bit of a system without understanding the whole system, and the whole system is not a thing — it’s a set of relations. This is why immediacy is such a problem. Immediacy is inherently ideological, and ideologically mystifying. Because the totality is not given in immediacy!

[SOC FIS] postcapitalist desire (Zamzar)

  • Your Highlight on page 104 | location 1581-1584 | Added on Saturday, 28 August 2021 08:20:14

You can’t understand any bit of a system without understanding the whole system, and the whole system is not a thing — it’s a set of relations. This is why immediacy is such a problem. Immediacy is inherently ideological, and ideologically mystifying. Because the totality is not given in immediacy!

[SOC FIS] postcapitalist desire (Zamzar)

  • Your Highlight on page 104 | location 1593-1595 | Added on Saturday, 28 August 2021 08:32:04

Part of the problem of the old idea of objective truth, you could say, was its idea that consciousness has no effect on the truth. That might well be true of the state of a black hole or something like that, but it can’t possibly be true of social relations. I’m in those social relations!

[SOC FIS] postcapitalist desire (Zamzar)

  • Your Highlight on page 105 | location 1606-1608 | Added on Saturday, 28 August 2021 08:36:53

It’s a direct inversion of Thatcher! “There’s no such thing as society. There are only individuals and their families”. It’s the other way round! There’s no such thing as the individual. But the individual is immediately given. And that’s part of the problem of immediacy.

[SOC FIS] postcapitalist desire (Zamzar)

  • Your Highlight on page 111 | location 1696-1698 | Added on Saturday, 28 August 2021 08:48:35

That’s what I mean [when I say] capital is the driver! Capital is purposiveness without purpose. Endless driving… There’s no final purpose to it. There’s no end point to it, in itself, which I think brings us very close to the core theme of this module, in a way. Because you could say that makes it flat with the structure of desire in itself.

[SOC FIS] postcapitalist desire (Zamzar)

  • Your Highlight on page 118 | location 1802-1804 | Added on Saturday, 28 August 2021 08:59:07

also seems to be, in the world today, like some sort of fairy-tale where there’s some magical golden machine in a room over there that can make anything you want. It’s just there, but you don’t have the time to go there. You can have this machine that is the most wondrous thing imaginable but, if you don’t have the time to use it, it might as well not be there. And that’s where we are at.

[SOC FIS] postcapitalist desire (Zamzar)

  • Your Highlight on page 128 | location 1950-1953 | Added on Saturday, 28 August 2021 09:17:07

“Reification is, then, the necessary, immediate reality of every person living in capitalist society. It can be overcome only by constant and constantly renewed efforts to disrupt the reified structure of existence by concretely relating to the concretely manifested contradictions of the total development, by becoming conscious of the immanent meanings of these contradictions for

[SOC FIS] postcapitalist desire (Zamzar)

  • Your Highlight on page 128 | location 1950-1953 | Added on Saturday, 28 August 2021 09:17:15

“Reification is, then, the necessary, immediate reality of every person living in capitalist society. It can be overcome only by constant and constantly renewed efforts to disrupt the reified structure of existence by concretely relating to the concretely manifested contradictions of the total development, by becoming conscious of the immanent meanings of these contradictions for the total development”.

The Story of More (Hope Jahren)

  • Your Highlight on page 140 | location 2138-2141 | Added on Saturday, 28 August 2021 17:08:55

Our healing is not in the storm or in the whirlwind, it is not in monarchies, or aristocracies, or democracies, but will be revealed by the still small voice that speaks to the conscience and the heart, prompting us to a wider and wiser humanity. —James Russell Lowell (1884)

The Story of More (Hope Jahren)

  • Your Highlight on page 72 | location 1093-1097 | Added on Saturday, 28 August 2021 17:24:41

This extreme imbalance in energy consumption inspires a simple sort of algebra: if all the fuel and electricity in use today were redistributed equally to each of the seven-plus billion people on planet Earth, each person’s energy use could be equal to the average consumed by people living in Switzerland during the 1960s. I’ve seen pictures of Switzerland that were taken in the sixties, and you know what? It doesn’t look so bad. People standing around in train stations wearing thick wool coats or sitting at small tables drinking from tiny coffee cups.

The Story of More (Hope Jahren)

  • Your Highlight on page 72 | location 1100-1101 | Added on Saturday, 28 August 2021 17:26:34

there is no magical technology coming to save us from ourselves. Curbing consumption will be the ultimate trial of the twenty-first century. Using less and sharing more is the biggest challenge our generation will ever face.

The Story of More (Hope Jahren)

  • Your Highlight on page 136 | location 2079-2082 | Added on Saturday, 28 August 2021 17:37:47

According to that same report, analyses from more than 150 different countries determined six factors that form the social foundations of the cross-cultural concept of happiness: social support, freedom to make life choices, generosity, absence of corruption in government, healthy life expectancy, and per capita income. It goes without saying that most of these factors can be maintained, or even improved, while reducing fossil fuel use.

The Story of More (Hope Jahren)

  • Your Highlight on page 137 | location 2087-2091 | Added on Saturday, 28 August 2021 17:38:40

It’s no use pretending that conserving resources isn’t at direct odds with the industries that helped to write our Story of More and that increasing consumption over the last fifty years wasn’t tightly coupled to the pursuit of more profit, more income, more wealth. It’s time to look around and ask ourselves if this coupling is truly the only way to build a civilization, because the assumption that it is may represent the greatest threat of all. Each one of us must privately ask ourselves when and where we can consume less instead of more, for it is unlikely

The Story of More (Hope Jahren)

  • Your Highlight on page 137 | location 2087-2091 | Added on Saturday, 28 August 2021 17:38:49

It’s no use pretending that conserving resources isn’t at direct odds with the industries that helped to write our Story of More and that increasing consumption over the last fifty years wasn’t tightly coupled to the pursuit of more profit, more income, more wealth. It’s time to look around and ask ourselves if this coupling is truly the only way to build a civilization, because the assumption that it is may represent the greatest threat of all. Each one of us must privately ask ourselves when and where we can consume less instead of more, for it is unlikely that business and industry will ever ask on our behalf.

Instapaper: Sunday, Aug. 29th (Instapaper)

  • Your Highlight at location 46-48 | Added on Sunday, 29 August 2021 19:20:27

‘The digital order deobjectifies the world by rendering it information,’ he writes. ‘It’s not objects but information that rules the living world. We no longer inhabit heaven and earth, but the Cloud and Google Earth. The world is becoming progressively untouchable, foggy and ghostly.’

Instapaper: Sunday, Aug. 29th (Instapaper)

  • Your Highlight at location 69-71 | Added on Sunday, 29 August 2021 19:23:31

didn’t need to wait for a pandemic to describe how we are voluntarily tied to our laptops, how we exploit ourselves in the neoliberal home-office mode, how this makes us feel creative, smart and connected while we cover up our feelings of precarity with swipes and likes; he did that more than a decade

Instapaper: Sunday, Aug. 29th (Instapaper)

  • Your Highlight at location 69-71 | Added on Sunday, 29 August 2021 19:23:36

Han didn’t need to wait for a pandemic to describe how we are voluntarily tied to our laptops, how we exploit ourselves in the neoliberal home-office mode, how this makes us feel creative, smart and connected while we cover up our feelings of precarity with swipes and likes; he did that more than a decade ago.

[SOC FIS] postcapitalist desire (Zamzar)

  • Your Highlight on page 138 | location 2103-2106 | Added on Tuesday, 31 August 2021 21:15:53

And one of the things he picks up on and one of the things I wanted to look at in this module is the development of resentment as the driving force of reaction in the period since the Seventies. Because resentment, in a way, is a form of anti-solidarity, is a form of anti-consciousness.4 Because resentment is, to me, I’m not getting something that somebody else should get, not that we should all get more, which you could say is the basis of class consciousness.

Instapaper: Thursday, Sep. 2nd (Instapaper)

  • Your Highlight at location 45-46 | Added on Thursday, 2 September 2021 22:31:58

That’s what the media has become: someone Googling for you.

Instapaper: Thursday, Sep. 2nd (Instapaper)

  • Your Highlight at location 109-111 | Added on Thursday, 2 September 2021 22:36:37

The Great Supply Chain Disruption is a central element of the extraordinary uncertainty that continues to frame economic prospects worldwide. If the shortages persist well into next year, that could advance rising prices on a range of commodities.

Instapaper: Thursday, Sep. 2nd (Instapaper)

  • Your Highlight at location 127-128 | Added on Thursday, 2 September 2021 22:38:01

The world has gained a painful lesson in how interconnected economies are across vast distances, with delay and shortages in any one place rippling out nearly everywhere.

Instapaper: Thursday, Sep. 2nd (Instapaper)

  • Your Note at location 128 | Added on Thursday, 2 September 2021 22:39:57

Making invisible processes visible. That alan watts quote about only being aware of your body when something is wrong

Instapaper: Thursday, Sep. 2nd (Instapaper)

  • Your Highlight at location 373-374 | Added on Thursday, 2 September 2021 22:47:58

“Time is the substance I am made of. Time is a river which sweeps me along, but I am the river; it is a tiger which destroys me, but I am the tiger; it is a fire which consumes me, but I am the fire.”

Instapaper: Tuesday, Sep. 7th (Instapaper)

  • Your Highlight at location 73-77 | Added on Tuesday, 7 September 2021 22:47:58

Two – We have a cultural tendency to think in terms of clearly defined conclusions such as “the end,” “game over,” or “happily ever after.” This way of making sense of events is a poor fit for ongoing crises like climate change. There is a tendency to search for and think in terms of a definitive looming stopping point, as it helps give a clear sense of “how much time we have left;” however, arguments over how many pages we have left tend to distract us from recognizing the role we play in determining what words get written on those pages.

Instapaper: Tuesday, Sep. 7th (Instapaper)

  • Your Highlight at location 236-237 | Added on Sunday, 12 September 2021 21:13:28

The challenge of doomers is not a loss of faith in science, but a loss of faith in a society’s ability to respond to that science.

Instapaper: Tuesday, Sep. 7th (Instapaper)

  • Your Highlight at location 260-261 | Added on Sunday, 12 September 2021 21:15:27

“I do not believe that things will turn out well, but the idea that they might is of decisive importance.” – Max Horkheimer

Trick Mirror (Jia Tolentino)

  • Your Bookmark on page 173 | location 2645 | Added on Sunday, 26 September 2021 22:21:51

==========
Instapaper: Wednesday, Sep. 29th (Instapaper)

  • Your Highlight at location 40-42 | Added on Thursday, 30 September 2021 22:05:59

researching Elisée Reclus, the French anarchist geographer. “Man is nature taking consciousness of itself”, Reclus believed; the liberation of humanity and the earth went hand in hand.

Instapaper: Wednesday, Sep. 29th (Instapaper)

  • Your Highlight at location 90-93 | Added on Thursday, 30 September 2021 22:16:29

He has written l’Histoire scélérate, Scoundrel History. It shuts people’s mouths and severs their connection to the dreams, sweat, and aspirations of those who struggled before us. Scoundrel History insists on the difference between now and then, the arbitrariness of the new, the fatalism of birth, of rocks, vegetation, and rivers. In the name of science he lashes those who embraced a world more vast than his vanity.

Instapaper: Wednesday, Sep. 29th (Instapaper)

  • Your Highlight at location 196-196 | Added on Thursday, 30 September 2021 22:27:56

“To understand the future, we study the past”, she said. “We know the past best by the future it dreams.”

“I’m not what I appear to be”

Here’s how New Scientist’s article on the COP26 summit opens:

The man charged with leading a successful climate change summit in five weeks’ time insists he is no environmentalist – but is now convinced of the urgency of tackling global warming.

“I’m a normal person, right, I’m not someone who’s some great climate warrior coming into this,” says Alok Sharma, the president of the COP26 meeting, who took up the job in February 2020. “But it has given me a real appreciation and understanding of why it is so vital that we get this right.”

And here’s how the same article quotes Boris Johnson, trying to give his views on the climate crisis a friendlier spin:

“I am not one of those environmentalists who takes a moral pleasure in excoriating humanity for its excess”

I’m sure both of them are telling the truth, that neither considers themselves to be an environmentalist, despite agreeing that climate collapse is a serious, existential crisis that demands action at the highest levels. And making that clear in their public statements is a way of appealing to those who are still skeptical, or too politically partisan to accept that message from people who are sufficiently unlike them to easily write off their views.

But like the people who run for office while insisting they aren’t politicians, there’s something obviously incongruent in someone advocating for the seriousness of climate change while loudly denying that they are an environmentalist. In the same breath, they’re agreeing with the environmental movement’s assessment of reality, while holding onto the idea that the people who arrived at that assessment are kooks, extremists, abnormal people who are best kept at a distance. “They may be right,” this line of thinking goes, “but they’re still nags, scolds, interested only in propping up their own egos by making you feel bad.”

There’s a lot of judgment in those statements, especially in Johnson’s imagined moral sadist, getting off on their sense of superiority. An armchair analysis would lead me to guess previous environmental criticism made him feel guilty, and his response was to assume the intent was to hurt him, personally–because we have a human tendency to assume things are personal, and to assume the worst of those who hurt us. Even if that’s off the mark, the statement itself still shows an imagined category of person, the environmentalist who has chosen the cause because they enjoy making other people feel bad, and Johnson’s need to refute that self-created label.

Ultimately that’s what I think those statements and all the ones like it are about: a need to escape the labels we put on others. In order to understand the world, we need to categorize it, and our understanding of other people is no exception. It is impossible for us to understand the full complexity of even a single other individual, let alone the hundreds or thousands of people we interact with on a regular basis. If we needed to face the entirety of another person every time we dealt with them, we would simply freeze, so instead we create categories: environmentalists are like this, politicians are like that, feminists are like this, and so on. There may be part of us that recognizes these types are constructions and that no one in each group will exactly fit our stereotype, but we still assume it’s true in aggregate: no environmentalist is exactly like x, but collectively they probably come pretty close.

To whatever extent we need to generalize with others, though, we absolutely abhor being the subject of generalizations. So when we find that we’re saying something or taking some action that would peg us as a member of a particular group, we’ll take pains to explain we aren’t actually one of them, despite the superficial similarities. That Platonic ideal we hold of all the categories we create is too simple and too other to capture the complexity that is our own self, and so we instinctively bristle at the thought of being labelled. We are too vast and complex and contradictory to fall under any label, especially ones we’ve already used to write off the views of others, since those labels tend to be the most overly simplistic anyway.

The impulse to refuse the categories we’ve created should act as a reminder that those categories are inherently incomplete. Not false, necessarily, but simplified and abstracted for the purpose of helping us navigate the world. We can’t actually hold the complexity of others in our own heads, but we can recognize that labels sit just as uncomfortably on them as they do on us. If you’re running for office but refuse to call yourself a politician because the term doesn’t reflect your own view of your motivations and experience, recognize that your opponent likely feels the same. If you are trying to agree with a group while pushing against being identified as one of them, try to understand why it’s so important for you to avoid the label, and what assumptions that implies.

If you’re too special to be confined to a category, so is everyone you’ve categorized.

Change is possible because it is necessary

Two quotes from Tyson Yunkaporta’s Sand Talk that have been running through my mind today.
The second one is an especially heavy one, a reminder that not seeing the harm caused by our lifestyle doesn’t mean there is none. In the same way that most of us don’t blink at the thought of eating meat but blanch at the thought of even the most humane farming practices, let alone the reality of how most animals are actually treated, we’ve exported and outsourced the extractive practices, abhorrent working conditions, wars, dictatorships, and other forms of violence that are required for even the more moderate and thoughtful western lifestyle.

The first one is trickier. Has every civilization failed? Some certainly have, and others have lasted by transforming into something unrecognizable from how they started, which could be seen as success or failure depending on your perspective. And some are still going, waxing and waning and adapting and clinging to power. So you could nitpick the claim. But “Change is possible because it is necessary” — that’s a good one. That’s something to hold onto.

All generalizations are false

I definitely first came across that phrase as a sort of joke, one of those self-contained paradoxes that used to entertain me endlessly as a kid exploring the strangeness of language and logic. But it’s been one of the thoughts I’ve been spending the most time with over the past couple years, today’s prompt being the third episode of Sharron Kraus’ Preternatural Investigations podcast. It’s a paradox, but it’s also true (sort of), and I think important in ways that I haven’t fully grasped yet.

A better formation of it would be “all generalizations are fictions,” although that makes the paradox a little less direct. Essentially, though, the idea is that all categories are useful fictions that humans (and likely other sentient creatures) have created to more efficiently navigate the world.

“Fish” is a go-to example, in that there is no way to create a category that uses our current phylogenetic mapping to include everything we commonly think of as fish and exclude everything that we don’t think of as fish. That’s not to say “fish” isn’t a useful category in daily life; it just isn’t an objectively definable category based on the currently-agreed-upon system for understanding how to group species. But then, even “species” is a blurry category, with debate as to its precise definition, so particular groupings of species are also bound to be troublesome.

I’m not just talking about gaps between common-usage terms and scientific categories, though. The point is, the world itself does not generalize. Each entity in the universe is only itself. (It might be fairer to say there’s no such thing as entities, only the universe, given that even boundaries between objects get fairly fuzzy at subatomic levels, but that may be going to far for this post). The point being, something as straightforward as “rock” isn’t a category that exists in the universe, there are only distinct collections of atoms that have properties similar enough to one another that it’s useful for us to lump them together as the conceptual group “rock.” There is no physical law to distinguish between rivers and streams and lakes and oceans, nor between planets and comets and stars. There are individual objects, and we find it easier to talk about them based on the similarities we see between some of them, and the differences we see compared to others.

This is a fairly obvious semantic point. Maybe it’s obvious to the point of being uninteresting. But I think there are at least two reasons that it is important. One is that it can serve to remind us of the uniqueness of everything. Generalizations are a way for us to avoid having to process each individual thing we perceive in its own particular fullness. If we had to consider every leaf, every blade of grass, every bird call or human voice as a completely discrete phenomenon, we would be paralyzed. But that doesn’t change the fact that all of them are, in fact, unique. Each of them is as intricate, as special, as beautiful as the first one you saw, or heard, before your mental mapping of their sense memory was simplified into something your brain could process more easily.

J.F. Martel has written and spoken about how one of the roles of art is to force us to see the uniqueness of whatever is being depicted, and how moments of awe and beauty come from us seeing things as they actually are, as opposed to how we assume them to be. Recognizing that categories are only useful shorthands can act as a reminder to look for that uniqueness, at least from time to time, and to focus on your present experience as the precious thing that it is, instead of something to be tolerated until some imagined future event where you’ll finally get to experience something truly special. In a way, the only thing between the mundane and the marvelous is a perceptual filter that strips away the specificity of the moment.

The second reason I think this is important is that it makes it easier to challenge your own assumptions. If you can internalize that “fish” is a fictional category and “Tuesday” is just a word to make it easier to communicate about future points in time and not a thing that exists in the physical universe, then you can also recognize that much broader conceptual terms (including the whole of politics and economics) are also just useful shorthands. They are attempts to describe complex recurring patterns of cause and effect, and are worth paying attention to for as long as they are actually useful, meaning as long as the things they describe have some sort of predictive or descriptive power, or create positive outcomes. And, importantly, they can be dropped when that’s no longer the case.

It’s a testament to the power of the human mind and its ability to recognize patterns and describe relationships that we are so inclined to think of those patterns and relationships as inherent to the universe. But it also leads us to cling to ideas well past their expiry date, and to fail to question the reason certain beliefs and practices arose in the first place. If we can manage to internalize the idea that all generalizations are fictional to at least some extent, and that all descriptions are generalizations (in that they have to translate something unique into language that can be understood in terms of its similarity to certain concepts and experiences), it makes it easier to try out new models of understanding, because the old ones become a little less precious.


One more reason it’s important, maybe: it’s a way of reminding myself how powerful the force of collective imagination can be. This is basically the inverse of the second reason, which is more about weakening the reality claim of things that can seem all too real. Instead, it’s recognizing the ability of shared imagination to alter the world in absolutely incredible ways. If we can wake up every morning and enact things as elaborate as capitalism and nation states (and it’s well commented on how those are products of collective action and collective belief), then it’s hard to imagine the limits of what realities we could manifest, what dreams and hyperstitions we could bring about.

It’d be an interesting challenge to think about what worlds we could have tomorrow, using existing technology and infrastructure, just by changing how we use the things we have. I don’t know that it would be enough to reach the goals of the latest IPCC report, but… most utopias rely either on technological breakthroughs or a reversion to pre-industrial ways of living that completely abandon the comforts of civilization. I’d be very curious to try to imagine a third way, where the big changes that need to happen are more memetic than physical, where it’s our desires and aspirations that shift rather than using new technology to sustain the current dream. I have no idea what it would look like, but there’s at least a germ of an idea there.

Permanent records of impermanent states

I’ve done a lot of writing over the years, but very little blogging. The thing that makes blog posts interesting (to me) is when they’re closer to the original definition of essays—attempts at understanding, rather than fully formed opinions. I like reading people collecting their thoughts, trying on perspectives, and tracing connections that haven’t fully revealed themselves.

I like reading those, at least. But writing them in even a semi-public forum is a lot more frightening. Despite being built around hyperlinks, which should be one of the best tools imaginable for creating context, the internet has somehow evolved in a way where every piece of content on it exists as an island. Every post, every tweet, every statement is seen as complete in itself, existing outside of time and outside of uncertainty—or at least has the potential to be seen that way by anyone who finds one of the ideas in it troubling. It makes it harder to be wrong, and being willing to be wrong is at the heart of any process that moves towards understanding.

This post is essentially a disclaimer, then. It’s me giving myself permission to try out this format of writing, because I can point to this post later on to say that I didn’t necessarily believe everything I wrote even when I wrote it, and I’m certainly not expecting myself to continue believing any of it for long stretches of time. Blog posts are permanent records of impermanent states. Just like a photograph can’t be expected to contain the whole truth of who a person was, is, and will be, a single piece of writing can’t either. Because there isn’t a singular, whole truth of a person. We are processes, physically and mentally adapting to the world around us, building models to understand and navigate it, discarding the parts that don’t work (if we’re lucky), refining the ones that do, and on rare occasions getting a glimpse of just how completely wrong we are.

I recognize that I’ve missed the peak of blogging by quite a few years at this point, but the other formats I’ve been dabbling in, like social media, Substack, freelance writing, all of them feel too public on the one hand—they’re aimed at audiences—and too insular on the other—each post goes out there and then disappears. When I look at people who’ve been running blogs for years or decades, it’s fascinating to me how they can look up what they were thinking one, five, 10, even 20 years earlier. Journaling opens up some of that possibility, but it’s physical, which makes it much more difficult to dig up old entries, and it doesn’t lend itself to tagging, linking, or quotation in the same way. Something is telling me that I want to try this format out, and so I aim to give it a try.

No mission statement, no public promotion, not yet at least. Just an attempt to compile and collate, find interesting connections that could maybe become more coherent writings. Initial thoughts, early attempts, in the hopes of strengthening those mental muscles that’ve atrophied over the years and to try to put a little more thought into how I engage with and respond to the world.

E-Reader highlights for the first half of 2021

Every dang thing I’ve highlighted in my e-reader for the first half of 2021.

An export of e-reader highlights, presented without context, and because of a quirk of how Instapaper exports stories, it also includes a lot of unattributed quotes that will be difficult to parse in the future. My apologies to the authors who’ve had their attributions inadvertently stripped from the record.

The export also includes notes divorced from their original context, which, again, won’t be particularly useful for anyone, including me. Still, it’s a neat one-step-removed record of the ideas that must’ve struck a chord in the moment, at least, and it’s kind of fascinating to be able to look back on exactly when an idea was first inserted into my worldview.


Instapaper: Tuesday, Jan. 5th (Instapaper)

  • Your Highlight at location 129-131 | Added on Tuesday, 5 January 2021 15:44:21

This problem is doubly acute today because man must, as a simple survival strategy, become aware of what is happening to him, despite the attendant pain of such comprehension. The fact that he has not done so in this age of electronics is what has made this also the age of anxiety, which in turn has been transformed into its Doppelgänger – the therapeutically reactive age of anomie and apathy.


Instapaper: Tuesday, Jan. 5th (Instapaper)

  • Your Highlight at location 157-158 | Added on Tuesday, 5 January 2021 15:48:12

We reverse the old educational dictum of learning by proceeding from the familiar to the unfamiliar by going from the unfamiliar to the familiar, which is nothing more or less than the numbing mechanism that takes place whenever new media drastically extend our senses.


Instapaper: Tuesday, Jan. 5th (Instapaper)

  • Your Highlight at location 225-227 | Added on Tuesday, 5 January 2021 19:52:14

As knowledge is extended in alphabetic form, it is localized and fragmented into specialties, creating division of function, of social classes, of nations and of knowledge – and in the process, the rich interplay of all the senses that characterized the tribal society is sacrificed.


Instapaper: Tuesday, Jan. 5th (Instapaper)

  • Your Highlight at location 307-309 | Added on Tuesday, 5 January 2021 21:04:29

The secret of TV’s tactile power is that the video image is one of low intensity or definition and thus, unlike either photograph or film, offers no detailed information about specific objects but instead involves the active participation of the viewer.


Instapaper: Tuesday, Jan. 5th (Instapaper)

  • Your Note at location 309 | Added on Tuesday, 5 January 2021 21:05:20

This still feels like stretch , and definitely doesnt hold for modern tv


Instapaper: Tuesday, Jan. 5th (Instapaper)

  • Your Highlight at location 250-250 | Added on Tuesday, 5 January 2021 21:05:55

How long did the old tribal culture endure?


Instapaper: Tuesday, Jan. 5th (Instapaper)

  • Your Note at location 250 | Added on Tuesday, 5 January 2021 21:07:30

I wonder if mcluhan has any research at all to back this stuff up


Instapaper: Tuesday, Jan. 5th (Instapaper)

  • Your Highlight at location 368-369 | Added on Tuesday, 5 January 2021 21:13:31

The people wouldn’t have cared if John Kennedy lied to them on TV, but they couldn’t stomach L.B.J. even when he told the truth. The credibility gap was really a communications


Instapaper: Tuesday, Jan. 5th (Instapaper)

  • Your Highlight at location 368-369 | Added on Tuesday, 5 January 2021 21:13:37

The people wouldn’t have cared if John Kennedy lied to them on TV, but they couldn’t stomach L.B.J. even when he told the truth. The credibility gap was really a communications gap.


Instapaper: Tuesday, Jan. 5th (Instapaper)

  • Your Highlight at location 469-470 | Added on Tuesday, 5 January 2021 21:44:38

Tribal societies, unlike detribalized, fragmented cultures with their stress on individualist values, are extremely austere morally, and do not hesitate to destroy or banish those who offend the tribal values.


Instapaper: Tuesday, Jan. 5th (Instapaper)

  • Your Note at location 470 | Added on Tuesday, 5 January 2021 21:45:32

Cancel culture and tribal morality?


Instapaper: Tuesday, Jan. 5th (Instapaper)

  • Your Highlight at location 653-654 | Added on Tuesday, 5 January 2021 22:06:36

Tribal man is tightly sealed in an integral collective awareness that transcends conventional boundaries of time and space.


Instapaper: Tuesday, Jan. 5th (Instapaper)

  • Your Note at location 654 | Added on Tuesday, 5 January 2021 22:07:02

again, based on what?


Instapaper: Tuesday, Jan. 5th (Instapaper)

  • Your Highlight at location 663-664 | Added on Tuesday, 5 January 2021 22:08:16

This is the real use of the computer, not to expedite marketing or solve technical problems but to speed the process of discovery and orchestrate terrestrial – and eventually galactic – environments and energies.


Instapaper: Tuesday, Jan. 5th (Instapaper)

  • Your Highlight at location 1193-1194 | Added on Thursday, 7 January 2021 09:22:18

political revolutions followed in the steps of the artistic one, mostly unfaithfully.


Instapaper: Tuesday, Jan. 5th (Instapaper)

  • Your Highlight at location 868-870 | Added on Thursday, 7 January 2021 23:03:32

You are extracting visual information in order, ultimately, to get to a meaning.” Once I do start to think about this process—a process I can’t remember not being able to do—it starts to seem extremely alien: Thoughts, ideas, instructions, information are being transferred from one human brain into mine, via my optic nerve.


Instapaper: Thursday, Jan. 7th (Instapaper)

  • Your Highlight at location 83-85 | Added on Thursday, 7 January 2021 23:18:53

Conversation about what’s been happening over the past several months has often bought into the false binary that either we have a successful coup, in which they steal the election, or we have a failed coup, but there is something insidious in-between: the delegitimization of the democratic process and the incoming administration.


Instapaper: Thursday, Jan. 7th (Instapaper)

  • Your Highlight at location 83-86 | Added on Thursday, 7 January 2021 23:19:16

Conversation about what’s been happening over the past several months has often bought into the false binary that either we have a successful coup, in which they steal the election, or we have a failed coup, but there is something insidious in-between: the delegitimization of the democratic process and the incoming administration. In this in-between state, Trump supporters continue to regard their leader and themselves as above the law and entitled to enforce it however they see fit, on the basis of whatever facts they most enjoy having.


Sand Talk (Tyson Yunkaporta)

  • Your Highlight on page 21 | location 307-308 | Added on Wednesday, 20 January 2021 21:27:47

In this way of knowing, there is no difference between you, a stone, a tree, or a traffic light. All contain knowledge, story, pattern.


Sand Talk (Tyson Yunkaporta)

  • Your Highlight on page 21 | location 318-323 | Added on Wednesday, 20 January 2021 21:29:23

Emu’s problem can be seen in the mathematical greater-than/less-than interpretation of the symbol. Emu is a troublemaker who brings into being the most destructive idea in existence: I am greater than you; you are less than me. This is the source of all human misery. Aboriginal society was designed over thousands of years to deal with this problem. Some people are just idiots—and everybody has a bit of idiot in them from time to time, coming from some deep place inside that whispers, “You are special. You are greater than other people and things. You are more important than everything and everyone. All things and all people exist to serve you.” This behavior needs massive checks and balances to contain the damage it can do.


Sand Talk (Tyson Yunkaporta)

  • Your Highlight on page 24 | location 360-362 | Added on Wednesday, 20 January 2021 21:34:32

rules of engagement are that you can only cut your opponent on the arms, shoulders, or back (extremely difficult to do) and—here’s the kicker—at the end of the fight the winner must get cut up the same as the loser, so that nobody can walk away with a grudge.


Sand Talk (Tyson Yunkaporta)

  • Your Highlight on page 29 | location 442-444 | Added on Wednesday, 20 January 2021 21:42:39

For the purposes of the thought experiments on sustainability in this book, an Indigenous person is a member of a community retaining memories of life lived sustainably on a land base, as part of that land base. Indigenous Knowledge is any application of those memories as living knowledge to improve present and future circumstances.


Sand Talk (Tyson Yunkaporta)

  • Your Highlight on page 48 | location 730-731 | Added on Thursday, 21 January 2021 23:31:11

the problem is that it is not how cultures adapt and evolve over time. Like all things that last, it must be a group effort aligned with the patterns of creation discerned from living within a specific landscape.


Sand Talk (Tyson Yunkaporta)

  • Your Highlight on page 49 | location 749-750 | Added on Thursday, 21 January 2021 23:33:30

For those seeking sustainability practices from Indigenous cultures, it is important to focus on both ancient and contemporary knowledge of a demotic origin, rather than individual inventions or amendments.


Sand Talk (Tyson Yunkaporta)

  • Your Highlight on page 57 | location 859-862 | Added on Friday, 22 January 2021 23:53:57

How do these symbiotic dances develop, when the cause-and-effect relations are so interdependent and complex that there is no way to reverse engineer the process by which the system came to be? This is precisely the kind of process we need to understand and engage with to create sustainable responses to the catastrophes we are facing.


Sand Talk (Tyson Yunkaporta)

  • Your Highlight on page 63 | location 957-958 | Added on Sunday, 24 January 2021 19:37:09

These patterns cannot be programmed but must emerge within the system organically—a process that is called “random” in Western worldviews but is in fact following the patterns of creation.


Sand Talk (Tyson Yunkaporta)

  • Your Highlight on page 64 | location 981-983 | Added on Sunday, 24 January 2021 19:40:33

The whole is intelligent, and each part carries the inherent intelligence of the entire system. Knowledge is therefore a living thing that is patterned within every person and being and object and phenomenon within creation.


Sand Talk (Tyson Yunkaporta)

  • Your Highlight on page 84 | location 1288-1289 | Added on Tuesday, 26 January 2021 22:33:30

our prehistoric lives were so violent, hard, and savage, how could we have evolved to have such soft skin, limited strength, and delicate parts?


Sand Talk (Tyson Yunkaporta)

  • Your Highlight on page 84 | location 1288-1289 | Added on Tuesday, 26 January 2021 22:33:35

If our prehistoric lives were so violent, hard, and savage, how could we have evolved to have such soft skin, limited strength, and delicate parts?


Sand Talk (Tyson Yunkaporta)

  • Your Highlight on page 106 | location 1617-1619 | Added on Wednesday, 27 January 2021 23:07:00

Bearing this in mind, the reclaiming of Indigenous ritual and cultural activities as exercises in concentration, rather than just performances or soft-skill craftwork, may be just what is needed to grow or repair the minds required to create complex solutions for sustainability issues.


Sand Talk (Tyson Yunkaporta)

  • Your Highlight on page 110 | location 1686-1687 | Added on Wednesday, 27 January 2021 23:14:07

Every civilization has failed, and this global one is failing grandly, obviously. Our enemy has no answers. This makes me a bit hopeful. Change is possible because it is necessary.”


Sand Talk (Tyson Yunkaporta)

  • Your Highlight on page 134 | location 2044-2044 | Added on Thursday, 28 January 2021 08:32:16

symbol you can see the shapes of five other symbols for story-mind, kinship-mind,


Sand Talk (Tyson Yunkaporta)

  • Your Highlight on page 134 | location 2044-2044 | Added on Thursday, 28 January 2021 08:32:24

story-mind, kinship-mind, dreaming-mind, ancestor-mind, and pattern-mind.


Sand Talk (Tyson Yunkaporta)

  • Your Highlight on page 152 | location 2331-2331 | Added on Thursday, 28 January 2021 20:38:08

you live a life without violence, you are living an illusion:


Sand Talk (Tyson Yunkaporta)

  • Your Highlight on page 152 | location 2331-2336 | Added on Thursday, 28 January 2021 20:38:16

If you live a life without violence, you are living an illusion: outsourcing your conflict to unseen powers and detonating it in areas beyond your living space. Most of the southern hemisphere is receiving that outsourced violence to supply what you need for the clean, technological, peaceful spaces of your existence. The poor zoned into the ghettos of your city are taking those blows for you, as are the economically marginalized who fill your prisons. The invisible privilege of your technocratic, one-sided peacefulness is an act of violence. Your peace-medallion bling is sparkling with blood diamonds. You carry pillaged metals in your phone from devastated African lands and communities. Your notions of peaceful settlement and development are delusions peppered with bullet holes and spears.


Instapaper: Friday, Jan. 29th (Instapaper)

  • Your Highlight at location 836-837 | Added on Sunday, 31 January 2021 22:04:34

What Morton promises us is that things need not be done as they always have been, for things have not always been done this way at all.


Sand Talk (Tyson Yunkaporta)

  • Your Highlight on page 182 | location 2789-2790 | Added on Monday, 1 February 2021 23:13:05

Your culture is not what your hands touch or make—it’s what moves your hands.


Instapaper: Monday, Feb. 1st (Instapaper)

  • Your Highlight at location 217-220 | Added on Tuesday, 2 February 2021 23:45:11

This led to lively communication between scientists and laypeople, as well as to efforts to keep the sciences as jargon-free as possible. Medical experts eschewed Latinisms in favour of terms their patients used to describe their own experiences of illness; meteorologists formulated wind scales and cloud taxonomies on the basis of the lingoes of sailors and farmers; and geologists came up with terms for seismology that corresponded to the felt reports of earthquake survivors.


Instapaper: Monday, Feb. 1st (Instapaper)

  • Your Highlight at location 306-307 | Added on Wednesday, 3 February 2021 21:27:57

‘Museums of the future,’ he wrote, ‘ought not to be as I would like to have them, but as the visitors and users would want them if they knew what makes a museum.’


Instapaper: Monday, Feb. 1st (Instapaper)

  • Your Highlight at location 345-346 | Added on Wednesday, 3 February 2021 21:32:15

‘Natural science is the art of shaping a democratic reality and being guided by it – thus being reshaped by it,’ he said.


Instapaper: Wednesday, Feb. 3rd (Instapaper)

  • Your Highlight at location 314-318 | Added on Wednesday, 3 February 2021 22:16:51

The advent of the online world, he thought, was changing the physical one. In the past, going online had felt like visiting somewhere else. Now being online was the default: it was our Here, while those awkward “no service” zones of disconnectivity had become our There. Checking his Vancouver bank balance from an A.T.M. in Los Angeles struck him suddenly as spooky. It didn’t matter where you were in the landscape; you were in the same place in the datascape. It was as though cyberspace were turning inside out, or “everting”—consuming the world that had once surrounded it.


Instapaper: Wednesday, Feb. 3rd (Instapaper)

  • Your Highlight at location 323-325 | Added on Wednesday, 3 February 2021 22:17:43

It seemed to Gibson that this constant reprogramming, which had become a major driver of economic life, was imbuing the present with a feeling—something like fatigue, or jet lag, or loss.


Instapaper: Wednesday, Feb. 3rd (Instapaper)

  • Your Highlight at location 332-335 | Added on Wednesday, 3 February 2021 22:18:50

For us, of course, things can change so abruptly, so violently, so profoundly, that futures like our grandparents’ have insufficient “now” to stand on. We have no futures because our present is too volatile. . . . We have only risk management. The spinning of the given moment’s scenarios. Pattern recognition.


Doubt (Jennifer Michael Hecht)

  • Your Highlight on page 424 | location 6487-6488 | Added on Wednesday, 10 February 2021 23:12:08

Diderot also said humanity would not be freeuntil the last king is strangled in the entrails of the last priest.^^


This Is the Voice (John Colapinto)

  • Your Highlight on page 63 | location 955-957 | Added on Tuesday, 16 February 2021 21:07:36

Conversation, in other words, is not isolated voices making separate points in an alternating series of monologues; it is a creative collaboration, orchestrated not according to linguistic, but prosodic, rules. It is a form of singing, a duet in which two brains choreograph, through variations in pitch, pace, and rhythm, the exchange of ideas.


This Is the Voice (John Colapinto)

  • Your Highlight on page 66 | location 1011-1014 | Added on Tuesday, 16 February 2021 21:13:15

Those phrases are distinguished by dramatic changes in pitch and rhythm across the utterance, by the melodic changes we use to help people follow what we’re saying. Not only do we lower our pitch after “unicorn,” to sonically tuck one phrase (“that is in the garden”) into the other, we also slightly increase the speed of articulation for the embedded chunk, so we don’t put undue demands


This Is the Voice (John Colapinto)

  • Your Note on page 67 | location 1014 | Added on Tuesday, 16 February 2021 21:14:40

Its like chomsky et al.are basing their theories on written language rather than speech…


This Is the Voice (John Colapinto)

  • Your Bookmark on page 108 | location 1642 | Added on Wednesday, 17 February 2021 18:38:47

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This Is the Voice (John Colapinto)

  • Your Highlight on page 232 | location 3553-3555 | Added on Wednesday, 17 February 2021 18:47:09

I also like it because it means that our hunger for, and love of, the human voice can never become obsolete, or outmoded: it is simply too much a part of us, a part of our neural circuitry, a primary means by which we make sense of

This Is the Voice (John Colapinto)

  • Your Bookmark on page 172 | location 2623 | Added on Wednesday, 17 February 2021 21:52:32

==========
This Is the Voice (John Colapinto)

  • Your Highlight on page 112 | location 1706-1708 | Added on Wednesday, 17 February 2021 21:58:39

These uncanny correspondences between birdsong and human speech led Darwin to a highly original insight. Whereas all earlier theorists imagined words coming first, Darwin said that the melody and rhythm of speech, its birdsong-like pitch sequences across sentences—its emotional prosody—preceded words in some now extinct singing ape-human.


This Is the Voice (John Colapinto)

  • Your Highlight on page 114 | location 1746-1750 | Added on Wednesday, 17 February 2021 22:02:20

Through meticulous dissection of their speech—the sounds, vocabularies, and grammars—Sapir confirmed that no language is “simpler,” “more primitive,” or “less evolved” than any other. All partake of the same extraordinary, and mysterious, process of converting abstract thought into elaborately patterned acoustic signals with the voice. As Sapir put it: “the lowliest South African Bushman speaks in the forms of a rich symbolic system that is in essence perfectly comparable to the speech of the cultivated Frenchman.”14


This Is the Voice (John Colapinto)

  • Your Highlight on page 232 | location 3547-3551 | Added on Saturday, 20 February 2021 15:08:19

he pointed out that our language comprehension and production evolved in connection with our hearing, around 150,000 years ago. Writing is only 5,000 to 7,000 years old—“partially going pig-gyback on the same circuits,” he wrote. “So it’s possible LISTENING to speech (including such things as cadence, rhythm, and intonation) is more spontaneously comprehensible and linked to emotional brain centers—hence more evocative and natural.”33


This Is the Voice (John Colapinto)

  • Your Highlight on page 240 | location 3670-3675 | Added on Saturday, 20 February 2021 15:18:04

The power which has always started the greatest religious and political avalanches in history rolling has from time immemorial been the | 229 | 5P_Colapinto_ThisIsVoice_HHC.indd 229 11/10/20 7:48 AM | THIS IS THE VOICE | magic power of the spoken word, and that alone. The broad masses of the people can be moved only by the power of speech. All great movements are popular movements, volcanic eruptions of human passions and emotional sentiments, stirred either by the cruel Goddess of Distress or the firebrand of the word hurled among the masses.40


This Is the Voice (John Colapinto)

  • Your Highlight on page 267 | location 4081-4084 | Added on Saturday, 20 February 2021 15:59:49

The most striking discoveries about the therapeutic effects of song involve choral singing. Even at an amateur level, the act of blending your voice with others in song causes the brain to secrete the chemical oxytocin, a hormone that creates the warm sensations of bonding, unity, and security that make us feel all cuddly toward our children and others we love—or infuses us with spiritual awe.17


This Is the Voice (John Colapinto)

  • Your Highlight on page 268 | location 4099-4099 | Added on Saturday, 20 February 2021 16:01:06

Singing leaves us unusually naked and exposed.


This Is the Voice (John Colapinto)

  • Your Highlight on page 268 | location 4108-4111 | Added on Saturday, 20 February 2021 16:01:49

By accentuating the rhythmic and melodic channel of the voice over that of the earthbound plod of articulate speech—by riding the exhaled breath through a sequence of pitches and beats that imposes on the air a pattern of vibration that we recognize as beautiful, healing, unifying, and emotionally nourishing—we not only cut to the quick of our humanity, but we reveal private dimensions of the self in ways that the cagey rhetoric of language can obscure.


This Is the Voice (John Colapinto)

  • Your Highlight on page 269 | location 4125-4155 | Added on Saturday, 20 February 2021 16:07:13

Even before Fleming could speak, her mother was prompting her to “parrot back” sequences of notes sung to her—a feat the infant Fleming could perform with remarkable precision. In school, she landed the leading parts in musicals (at twelve, she played Eliza Doolittle in My Fair Lady), but as with any art form, shaping raw talent into a long and successful professional career is another story altogether, and Fleming writes, fascinatingly, of the technical mastery behind what she calls the soprano’s “cultivated scream.” It took her years to learn the physical and mental techniques that go into producing the impossibly loud and high notes she can make. Newborns do it instinctively—positioning the tongue and lips and larynx in the optimal arrangement for boosting certain overtones in the voice spectrum, to achieve house-shaking volume without excessive strain on the lungs or vocal cords. In opera, the amplification of vowel overtones is called the “singer’s formant,” and Fleming learned to do it through creative visualization. She “imagines” that she is projecting her voice into highly specific targets in her body—“aiming sound mentally,” as she puts it. For the highest notes, she targets the “mask”—the nose, cheekbones, and sinuses. Only then can she engage the involuntary muscles in the diaphragm, larynx, | 258 | 5P_Colapinto_ThisIsVoice_HHC.indd 258 11/10/20 7:48 AM | SWAN SONG | tongue, and face that allow her to project her voice “to the back of the hall without strain.”22 How she shapes that sound into something we deem “beautiful,” so that each note hangs for a moment in the air, as present as an abstract Brancusi sculpture—shaped and shimmering in space, textured, polished, and conforming to all the criteria of proportion and harmony that Plato said embody perfection in the arts—well, that’s another question entirely. Science has been trying to penetrate that mystery and Fleming is unusual, as one of the world’s most successful singers, in having lent herself to the effort. In 2017, she volunteered as a guinea pig for experiments into the neuroscience of singing conducted by the Kennedy Center and the National Institutes of Health. She spent two hours lying inside the narrow tube of an fMRI scanner, repeatedly singing one of the most emotionally resonant songs in her repertoire: “The Water Is Wide,” a plangent Scottish folk ballad. All the expected areas of her brain “lit up” with activity: her Broca’s and Wernicke’s areas (as she produced the lyrics), her motor cortex (as it sent instructions to the larynx and articulators), her limbic structures (as they processed the song’s emotions), and areas on the right side of the brain (that compute melody and rhythm). In short, the same structures activated in speech. Apparently, even the most high-tech wizardry is as yet powerless to explain why singing is so powerful as singing. The most illuminating reflections on the power of singing that I have come across are from people who have spent their lives helping others achieve the fullest emotional expression with their voice. Laurie Antonioli is a singer, recording artist, singing coach, and chairperson of the Vocal Program at the California Jazz Conservatory. She believes the voices that move us the most have achieved a ruthless honesty of expression: they have been quenched of the mannerisms, affectations, trendy ornaments, and derivative stylistic tics that may make for massive pop | 259 | 5P_Colapinto_ThisIsVoice_HHC.indd 259 11/10/20 7:48 AM | THIS IS THE VOICE | hits, but whose emotional penetration is less than skin deep: true auditory cheesecake (or “ear candy” in music biz parlance).


This Is the Voice (John Colapinto)

  • Your Highlight on page 269 | location 4125-4126 | Added on Saturday, 20 February 2021 16:07:32

Even before Fleming could speak, her mother was prompting her to “parrot back” sequences of notes sung to her—a feat the infant Fleming could perform with remarkable precision.


This Is the Voice (John Colapinto)

  • Your Note on page 270 | location 4126 | Added on Saturday, 20 February 2021 16:08:21

Is this common? Given how speech evolved, could melody come first?


This Is the Voice (John Colapinto)

  • Your Highlight on page 273 | location 4178-4180 | Added on Saturday, 20 February 2021 16:12:30

This is fine as far as it goes, but it doesn’t go far enough. If Darwin correctly identifies the “animal” origins of singing’s primal emotional appeal, he cannot account for its peculiarly human dimension, that part of singing that expresses our sense of belonging to a community of interde-pendent, empathetic, and cooperative human beings.


This Is the Voice (John Colapinto)

  • Your Highlight on page 280 | location 4291-4292 | Added on Saturday, 20 February 2021 21:57:19

Speech and song are equally an assertion of our existence against the void, a means for animating the air with news of our presence, however ephemeral, and thus should be performed with confidence in the Self, and with an awareness of the music from which our linguistic capability arose.


Instapaper: Thursday, Feb. 25th (Instapaper)

  • Your Highlight at location 3580-3582 | Added on Thursday, 25 February 2021 20:17:08

This year has been clarifying. Not everything needs to be done in person. Not everything need to be done now. And while those who work from home have discovered certain tasks are better accomplished asynchronously, others are better done in a collaborative moment.


Instapaper: Thursday, Feb. 25th (Instapaper)

  • Your Highlight at location 3781-3784 | Added on Thursday, 25 February 2021 21:52:49

For, I have seen the devil, by day and by night, and have seen him in you and in me: in the eyes of the cop and the sheriff and the deputy, the landlord, the housewife, the football player: in the eyes of some governors, presidents, wardens, in the eyes of some orphans, and in the eyes of my father, and in my mirror. It is that moment when no other human being is real for you, nor are you real for yourself.


Instapaper: Thursday, Feb. 25th (Instapaper)

  • Your Highlight at location 3895-3897 | Added on Thursday, 25 February 2021 22:36:34

we have no true personal privacy on the Web. Even if today’s online privacy laws are enforced, none will give us privacy any more than laws against indecent exposure will give us clothing.


Instapaper: Thursday, Feb. 25th (Instapaper)

  • Your Highlight at location 3896-3897 | Added on Thursday, 25 February 2021 22:37:12

Even if today’s online privacy laws are enforced, none will give us privacy any more than laws against indecent exposure will give us clothing.


Reclaiming Art in the Age of Artifice (Manifesto) (Martel, J.F.)

  • Your Highlight at location 123-124 | Added on Saturday, 27 February 2021 22:05:07

We are in danger today of losing the capacity to distinguish between artistic creation as Proust defined it and the aesthetic creativity that goes into a commercial jingle,


Reclaiming Art in the Age of Artifice (Manifesto) (Martel, J.F.)

  • Your Highlight at location 123-124 | Added on Saturday, 27 February 2021 22:05:21

We are in danger today of losing the capacity to distinguish between artistic creation as Proust defined it and the aesthetic creativity that goes into a commercial jingle, a new car design, or a hollow summer blockbuster.


Reclaiming Art in the Age of Artifice (Manifesto) (Martel, J.F.)

  • Your Highlight on page 15 | location 274-275 | Added on Sunday, 28 February 2021 12:08:22

Astonishment is the litmus test of art, the sign by which we know we have been magicked out of practical and utilitarian enterprises to confront the bottomless dream of life in sensible form.


Reclaiming Art in the Age of Artifice (Manifesto) (Martel, J.F.)

  • Your Highlight on page 16 | location 283-284 | Added on Sunday, 28 February 2021 12:09:17

concerns, an artist’s power comes down to two things: her sensitivity to the radical mystery of existence, and the artistry and craft with which she can channel that mystery into an object or performance.


Reclaiming Art in the Age of Artifice (Manifesto) (Martel, J.F.)

  • Your Highlight on page 16 | location 281-284 | Added on Sunday, 28 February 2021 12:09:25

bodies of work are varying means for achieving a common end. Both are realists in the real sense of the word. Regardless of personal convictions or professional concerns, an artist’s power comes down to two things: her sensitivity to the radical mystery of existence, and the artistry and craft with which she can channel that mystery into an object or performance.


Reclaiming Art in the Age of Artifice (Manifesto) (Martel, J.F.)

  • Your Highlight on page 16 | location 282-284 | Added on Sunday, 28 February 2021 12:09:32

Regardless of personal convictions or professional concerns, an artist’s power comes down to two things: her sensitivity to the radical mystery of existence, and the artistry and craft with which she can channel that mystery into an object or performance.


Reclaiming Art in the Age of Artifice (Manifesto) (Martel, J.F.)

  • Your Highlight on page 24 | location 359-361 | Added on Sunday, 28 February 2021 12:20:20

We tend to see our “personal tastes” as positive personality traits, whereas they could just as well indicate limitations that we might overcome given the right opportunity, the appropriate context, and a little courage.


Reclaiming Art in the Age of Artifice (Manifesto) (Martel, J.F.)

  • Your Highlight on page 25 | location 371-373 | Added on Sunday, 28 February 2021 12:21:46

unfortunately the guardedness that is so essential to our mental wellbeing in this media-saturated world also contributes to the rampant apathy that is frosting over the globe like the beginnings of an unprecedented psychic ice age.


Reclaiming Art in the Age of Artifice (Manifesto) (Martel, J.F.)

  • Your Highlight on page 76 | location 917-920 | Added on Tuesday, 2 March 2021 22:47:27

manifestations.” He then adds something interesting: “I think that many confuse ‘applicability’ with ‘allegory’; but the one resides in the freedom of the reader, the other in the purposed domination of the author.”


Reclaiming Art in the Age of Artifice (Manifesto) (Martel, J.F.)

  • Your Highlight on page 76 | location 918-920 | Added on Tuesday, 2 March 2021 22:47:34

“I think that many confuse ‘applicability’ with ‘allegory’; but the one resides in the freedom of the reader, the other in the purposed domination of the author.”


Reclaiming Art in the Age of Artifice (Manifesto) (Martel, J.F.)

  • Your Highlight on page 138 | location 1573-1575 | Added on Friday, 5 March 2021 22:57:54

It began in earnest with television’s systematic co-opting of the night world formerly reserved for conversation, storytelling, and dreaming (an invasion prefigured by the rise of radio decades before). Already by the 1960s, mass entertainment, ubiquitous marketing, and consumer culture formed a beguiling haze of light whose function was to mediate between human beings.


Reclaiming Art in the Age of Artifice (Manifesto) (Martel, J.F.)

  • Your Highlight on page 157 | location 1781-1782 | Added on Friday, 5 March 2021 23:22:06

Seeing all things purely as symbols leads to a state comparable to schizophrenia, in which all things resonate with meaning yet nothing has a clear signification.


New Cthulhu: The Recent Weird (Gaiman, Neil)

  • Your Highlight on page 120 | location 2453-2454 | Added on Friday, 12 March 2021 14:58:28

Their fear was the small kind, borne of uncertainty rather than dread.


Instapaper: Sunday, Mar. 14th (Instapaper)

  • Your Highlight at location 295-296 | Added on Monday, 15 March 2021 23:14:15

Mycelium used to feel like a kōan, unintelligible to my mammalian mind. But I’ve come to think of our minds as the most mycelial parts of ourselves.


Instapaper: Sunday, Mar. 14th (Instapaper)

  • Your Highlight at location 330-332 | Added on Monday, 15 March 2021 23:20:40

I wanted Ambient to mean ‘a music without a clear distinction between foreground and background’ and ‘a music without clear beginning or end’. Removing those boundary conditions from the music opens it up to a kind of mental wandering, a sort of exploratory walk through a field of sound.


The Tangled Tree (David Quammen)

  • Your Highlight on page 286 | location 4381-4382 | Added on Thursday, 18 March 2021 22:41:29

“The tree of life is not something that exists in nature, it’s a way that humans classify nature.”


The Tangled Tree (David Quammen)

  • Your Highlight on page 287 | location 4387-4387 | Added on Thursday, 18 March 2021 22:42:09

“If there is a tree of life, it’s a small anomalous structure growing out of the web of life.”


The Tangled Tree (David Quammen)

  • Your Highlight on page 310 | location 4752-4754 | Added on Saturday, 20 March 2021 23:21:06

With genes flowing sideways, information moving across boundaries, and energy flowing upward from cells through communities and environments, the concept of an “organism”—an isolated creature, a discrete individual—seemed less valid too.


Doubt (Jennifer Michael Hecht)

  • Your Highlight on page 450 | location 6888-6893 | Added on Thursday, 25 March 2021 22:17:06

“The method to be practiced is as follows:you are to doubt regarding the subject in you that hears all sounds. All sounds are heard at a given moment because there is certainly a subject inyou that hears. Although you may hear the sounds with your ears, the holesin your ears are not the subject that hears. If they were, dead men wouldalso hear sounds.” He says, “You must doubt deeply, again and again, ask-ing yourself what the subject of hearing could be.” Ignore the thoughts thatcome to you. “Only doubt more and more deeply,” concentrate, “withoutaiming at anything or expecting anything” and “without intending to beenlightened and without even intending not to intend to be enlightened;become like a child in your own breast.”


Through Thick And Thin – An Infrastructure For Relationships (Unknown)

  • Your Highlight on page 14 | location 201-203 | Added on Wednesday, 31 March 2021 17:34:16

One of the challenges with field building is that the language is newer and less well known, and therefore can be distracting for those whose primary objective in life isn’t to think deeply about the methodologies of collaboration and collective action.


Through Thick And Thin – An Infrastructure For Relationships (Unknown)

  • Your Highlight on page 20 | location 299-300 | Added on Wednesday, 31 March 2021 17:48:06

‘My safety net is not my job or my house, it is the people in my life. People who are willing to step in and offer me support when I need it.


Through Thick And Thin – An Infrastructure For Relationships (Unknown)

  • Your Highlight on page 24 | location 364-365 | Added on Wednesday, 31 March 2021 17:50:46

That we are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny, and that what affects one directly, affects all indirectly.’


Instapaper: Wednesday, Mar. 31st (Instapaper)

  • Your Highlight at location 438-439 | Added on Thursday, 1 April 2021 21:19:01

But, she reflected, “I had created this world of constant busyness and work that pretty much prevented me from spending any time sitting with myself and examining my inner world.”


Bullshit Jobs (David Graeber)

  • Your Highlight on page 11 | location 158-160 | Added on Tuesday, 6 April 2021 20:49:42

If 1 percent of the population controls most of the disposable wealth, what we call “the market” reflects what they think is useful or important, not anybody else.)


Bullshit Jobs (David Graeber)

  • Your Highlight on page 18 | location 265-267 | Added on Tuesday, 6 April 2021 20:58:32

“productive work” but work as an end and meaning in itself. We have come to believe that men and women who do not work harder than they wish at jobs they do not particularly enjoy are bad people unworthy of love, care, or assistance from their communities.


Instapaper: Thursday, Apr. 8th (Instapaper)

  • Your Highlight at location 49-51 | Added on Saturday, 10 April 2021 22:17:13

We can logically infer that these friendships are not an end in themselves but are instrumental to some other goal, such as furthering one’s career or easing a social dynamic.

Instapaper: Thursday, Apr. 8th (Instapaper)

  • Your Note at location 51 | Added on Saturday, 10 April 2021 22:17:45

This is a weird inference…


Instapaper: Thursday, Apr. 8th (Instapaper)

  • Your Highlight at location 90-91 | Added on Saturday, 10 April 2021 22:20:45

If it has been more than a month, you might be kidding yourself about how close you really are.

Instapaper: Thursday, Apr. 8th (Instapaper)

  • Your Note at location 91 | Added on Saturday, 10 April 2021 22:21:52

Again theres an assumption here that i dont buy. Years maybe but a month?


Instapaper: Thursday, Apr. 8th (Instapaper)

  • Your Highlight at location 831-834 | Added on Sunday, 11 April 2021 11:01:22

“Christianity” or (even more crudely) “religion” that is at issue. What’s a problem is when a teacher or institution asserts that there is a kind of knowledge that is noncontingent, exclusive, unarguable, universal, eternal, and unitary. If it is generally supposed that knowledge is like that, then the students’ job becomes one of conforming themselves to that knowledge—not exploring it, not questioning it, not playing with it, not experimenting with it, but confirming


Instapaper: Thursday, Apr. 8th (Instapaper)

  • Your Highlight at location 832-834 | Added on Sunday, 11 April 2021 11:01:29

What’s a problem is when a teacher or institution asserts that there is a kind of knowledge that is noncontingent, exclusive, unarguable, universal, eternal, and unitary. If it is generally supposed that knowledge is like that, then the students’ job becomes one of conforming themselves to that knowledge—not exploring it, not questioning it, not playing with it, not experimenting with it, but confirming


Instapaper: Friday, Apr. 30th (Instapaper)

  • Your Highlight at location 106-106 | Added on Saturday, 1 May 2021 20:47:50

re-establish the role of community, empathy and cooperation amongst humanity.


Instapaper: Friday, Apr. 30th (Instapaper)

  • Your Highlight at location 107-110 | Added on Saturday, 1 May 2021 20:50:09

The time is ripe for a new story, one that allows us to integrate all parts of what it means to be human today. Fundamental to this new story should be the question of how do we create communities and individuals with a sense of meaning? Where do we find our belonging? What is our purpose? What makes a ‘whole’ human being — a sense of connection, meaning, purpose, self-worth, justice, community, belonging, and a sense of love for this planet, this one short life, and humanity at large?


Instapaper: Friday, Apr. 30th (Instapaper)

  • Your Highlight at location 268-269 | Added on Saturday, 1 May 2021 21:51:00

is about de-numbing our perceptions and senses to perceive what was always already there, but we do not usually include in our understanding of value, perspective or virtue.


Instapaper: Friday, Apr. 30th (Instapaper)

  • Your Highlight at location 268-269 | Added on Saturday, 1 May 2021 21:51:13

It is about de-numbing our perceptions and senses to perceive what was always already there, but we do not usually include in our understanding of value, perspective or virtue.


Bullshit Jobs (David Graeber)

  • Your Highlight on page 105 | location 1598-1601 | Added on Monday, 3 May 2021 21:44:03

is hard perhaps to think of our sense of self as grounded in action because when we are truly engrossed in doing something—especially something we know how to do very well, from running a race to solving a complicated logical problem—we tend to forget that we exist. But even as we dissolve into what we do, the foundational “pleasure at being the cause” remains, as it were, the unstated ground of our being.


Piranesi (Susanna Clarke)

  • Your Highlight on page 53 | location 798-801 | Added on Sunday, 16 May 2021 22:25:51

they turned (or seemed to turn) towards the Moon. I realised that the search for the Knowledge has encouraged us to think of the House as if it were a sort of riddle to be unravelled, a text to be interpreted, and that if ever we discover the Knowledge, then it will be as if the Value has been wrested from the House and all that remains will be mere scenery.


Piranesi (Susanna Clarke)

  • Your Highlight on page 53 | location 798-803 | Added on Sunday, 16 May 2021 22:26:02

they turned (or seemed to turn) towards the Moon. I realised that the search for the Knowledge has encouraged us to think of the House as if it were a sort of riddle to be unravelled, a text to be interpreted, and that if ever we discover the Knowledge, then it will be as if the Value has been wrested from the House and all that remains will be mere scenery. The sight of the One-Hundred-and-Ninety-Second Western Hall in the Moonlight made me see how ridiculous that is. The House is valuable because it is the House. It is enough in and of Itself. It is not the means to an end.


Bullshit Jobs (David Graeber)

  • Your Highlight on page 157 | location 2397-2398 | Added on Thursday, 20 May 2021 21:59:04

adolescence is precisely when most of us are first confronted with the challenge of how not to become the monsters we despise.


Bullshit Jobs (David Graeber)

  • Your Highlight on page 161 | location 2454-2456 | Added on Thursday, 20 May 2021 22:05:10

What we are witnessing is the rise of those forms of popular culture that office workers can produce and consume during the scattered, furtive shards of time they have at their disposal in workplaces where even when there’s nothing for them to do, they still can’t admit it openly.


Entangled Life (Merlin Sheldrake)

  • Your Highlight on page 20 | location 295-297 | Added on Monday, 24 May 2021 15:29:50

Tricked out of our expectations, we fall back on our senses. What’s astonishing is the gulf between what we expect to find and what we find when we actually look.


Entangled Life (Merlin Sheldrake)

  • Your Highlight on page 23 | location 340-341 | Added on Monday, 24 May 2021 15:35:02

To talk about individuals made no sense anymore. Biology—the study of living organisms—had transformed into ecology—the study of the relationships between living organisms.


Entangled Life (Merlin Sheldrake)

  • Your Highlight on page 39 | location 584-586 | Added on Monday, 24 May 2021 16:51:26

“Daniele hunts truffles at night, and I hunt them in the day. He is nervous, and I am not. His dog bites, and mine is friendly. His dog is slim, and mine is not slim. He is bad, and I am good.”


Entangled Life (Merlin Sheldrake)

  • Your Highlight on page 59 | location 893-894 | Added on Tuesday, 25 May 2021 21:03:20

William Bateson, who coined the word genetics, observed, “We commonly think of animals and plants as matter, but they are really systems through which matter is continually passing.” When


Entangled Life (Merlin Sheldrake)

  • Your Highlight on page 59 | location 893-894 | Added on Tuesday, 25 May 2021 21:03:27

William Bateson, who coined the word genetics, observed, “We commonly think of animals and plants as matter, but they are really systems through which matter is continually passing.”


Instapaper: Monday, May. 24th (Instapaper)

  • Your Highlight at location 388-388 | Added on Tuesday, 25 May 2021 22:32:51

“the monopolisation of possible realities”.


Entangled Life (Merlin Sheldrake)

  • Your Highlight on page 100 | location 1520-1523 | Added on Thursday, 27 May 2021 22:56:26

Some researchers use the term “holobiont” to refer to an assemblage of different organisms that behaves as a unit. The word holobiont derives from the Greek word holos, which means “whole.” Holobionts are the lichens of this world, more than the sums of their parts. Like symbiosis and ecology, holobiont is a word that does useful work. If we only have words that describe neatly bounded autonomous individuals, it is easy to think that they actually exist.


Entangled Life (Merlin Sheldrake)

  • Your Highlight on page 100 | location 1530-1531 | Added on Thursday, 27 May 2021 22:57:16

authors of a seminal paper on the symbiotic view of life take a clear stance on this point. “There have never been individuals,” they declare. “We are all lichens.”


Instapaper: Wednesday, May. 26th (Instapaper)

  • Your Highlight at location 275-277 | Added on Tuesday, 1 June 2021 15:18:55

It is in this sense, then, that Graeber argued that what may define the Left, and distinguish it from the Right, is its insistence that “creativity and imagination were the fundamental ontological principles” – that is, we can (and should) creatively produce the world and remake it as we wish.


Instapaper: Wednesday, May. 26th (Instapaper)

  • Your Highlight at location 297-298 | Added on Tuesday, 1 June 2021 15:21:32

“The ultimate, hidden truth of the world is that it is something that we make, and could just as easily make differently.”


Entangled Life (Merlin Sheldrake)

  • Your Highlight on page 201 | location 3073-3075 | Added on Friday, 4 June 2021 17:54:07

In 1941, this “pretty golden mold” was found on a rotting cantaloupe in an Illinois market by Mary Hunt, a laboratory assistant, after the lab put out a call for civilians to submit molds. Before this point, penicillin had been expensive to produce and remained largely unavailable.


Entangled Life (Merlin Sheldrake)

  • Your Highlight on page 216 | location 3302-3303 | Added on Friday, 4 June 2021 21:07:28

Somewhere deep in the psycho-spiritual compost heap of his dream world, Stamets metabolized an old radical mycological solution into a new one.


Entangled Life (Merlin Sheldrake)

  • Your Highlight on page 238 | location 3646-3648 | Added on Saturday, 5 June 2021 09:42:39

Our hands imbibe like roots, so I place them on what is beautiful in this world. —SAINT FRANCIS OF ASSISI


Entangled Life (Merlin Sheldrake)

  • Your Highlight on page 240 | location 3675-3676 | Added on Saturday, 5 June 2021 09:45:31

Ambiguity isn’t as itchy as it was; it’s easier for me to resist the temptation to remedy uncertainty with certainty.


Instapaper: Thursday, Jun. 17th (Instapaper)

  • Your Highlight at location 88-90 | Added on Thursday, 17 June 2021 22:30:47

Instead of reviving ideas of nature, we must reclaim the artificial — not fake, but designed. For this, human-machine intelligence and urban-scale automation become part of an expanded landscape of life, information and labor. They are part of a living ecology, not a substitute for one. Put more specifically: The response to anthropogenic climate change will need to be equally anthropogenic.


Instapaper: Thursday, Jun. 17th (Instapaper)

  • Your Note at location 90 | Added on Thursday, 17 June 2021 22:32:19

Not sure i buy this. The same assumption that we can understand and design for the complexity of global systems is what got us here.


Instapaper: Thursday, Jun. 17th (Instapaper)

  • Your Note at location 104 | Added on Thursday, 17 June 2021 22:36:52

This phrase feels a little terrifying to me, maybe because of my own biases, but the idea of rational ecosystems seems like a misunderstanding of the nature of life and a succumbing to the control trap


Instapaper: Thursday, Jun. 17th (Instapaper)

  • Your Highlight at location 104-104 | Added on Thursday, 17 June 2021 22:36:52

the rationalization of ecosystems


Instapaper: Thursday, Jun. 17th (Instapaper)

  • Your Highlight at location 137-137 | Added on Thursday, 17 June 2021 22:40:47

the designer and programmer Ben Cerveny has said, the city is “perhaps the longest continuous process that humans have created.”


Instapaper: Thursday, Jun. 17th (Instapaper)

  • Your Highlight at location 179-179 | Added on Thursday, 17 June 2021 22:44:43

What future would make the past worth it?


Bullshit Jobs (David Graeber)

  • Your Highlight on page 218 | location 3338-3341 | Added on Saturday, 19 June 2021 22:40:34

Opinion writers are the moralists of our day. They are the secular equivalent of preachers, and when they write about work, their arguments reflect a very long theological tradition of valorizing work as a sacred duty, at once curse and blessing, and seeing humans as inherently sinful, lazy beings who can be expected to shirk that duty if they can.


Bullshit Jobs (David Graeber)

  • Your Highlight on page 233 | location 3560-3560 | Added on Saturday, 19 June 2021 23:10:33

Virtutum omnium pretium in ipsis est.


Instapaper: Sunday, Jun. 20th (Instapaper)

  • Your Highlight at location 143-146 | Added on Sunday, 20 June 2021 22:35:32

energy sources, to grow, to reproduce, to evolve. I would argue that we “conscious” beings share something more during our relatively brief moment in the “era of life”: the ability to witness and reflect on the spectacle of existence, a spectacle that is at once mysterious, joyous, tragic, trembling, majestic, confusing, comic, nurturing, unpredictable and predictable, ecstatic, beautiful, cruel, sacred, devastating, exhilarating.


Instapaper: Sunday, Jun. 20th (Instapaper)

  • Your Highlight at location 143-146 | Added on Sunday, 20 June 2021 22:35:37

energy sources, to grow, to reproduce, to evolve. I would argue that we “conscious” beings share something more during our relatively brief moment in the “era of life”: the ability to witness and reflect on the spectacle of existence, a spectacle that is at once mysterious, joyous, tragic, trembling, majestic, confusing, comic, nurturing, unpredictable and predictable, ecstatic, beautiful, cruel, sacred, devastating, exhilarating.


Instapaper: Sunday, Jun. 20th (Instapaper)

  • Your Highlight at location 143-146 | Added on Sunday, 20 June 2021 22:35:47

would argue that we “conscious” beings share something more during our relatively brief moment in the “era of life”: the ability to witness and reflect on the spectacle of existence, a spectacle that is at once mysterious, joyous, tragic, trembling, majestic, confusing, comic, nurturing, unpredictable and predictable, ecstatic, beautiful, cruel, sacred, devastating, exhilarating.


Bullshit Jobs (David Graeber)

  • Your Highlight on page 233 | location 3564-3566 | Added on Wednesday, 23 June 2021 11:01:11

“I wanted to do something useful with my life; work that had a positive effect on other people or, at the very least, wasn’t hurting anyone. But the way this economy works, if you spend your working life caring for others, you’ll end up so underpaid and so deeply in debt you won’t be able to care for your own family.”