Sunday Snippets #1
Raptitude; Slate Star Codex; Deep Work; Ribbonfarm
I’ve been collecting snippets for years now; I use Readwise to collate them from Instapaper notes, Kindle highlights, and wherever else. At last count I have around 5,500. I thought I’d experiment with posting a few here occasionally – let me know what you think. (Emphasis mine in all the below quotes.)
The Writing Life, Annie Dillard:
How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives. What we do with this hour, and that one, is what we are doing. A schedule defends from chaos and whim. It is a net for catching days. It is a scaffolding on which a worker can stand and labor with both hands at sections of time. A schedule is a mock-up of reason and order—willed, faked, and so brought into being; it is a peace and a haven set into the wreck of time; it is a lifeboat on which you find yourself, decades later, still living. Each day is the same, so you remember the series afterward as a blurred and powerful pattern.
I originally read this quote in this piece by Maria Popova.
The Most Important Thing I Ever Learned, David Cain:
When I was twenty, desperately leafing through some forgotten self-help book, I came across a peculiar line. It didn’t astound me at the time, but it still stuck in my head. It kept appearing in my thoughts. I think I detected a hint of its significance, but it was years before I fully appreciated how powerful it is. Now I believe it is the most important thing I ever learned:
Life unfolds only in moments.
Nobody has ever experienced anything that wasn’t a moment in action. And all those moments have had one thing in common: they were all now once.
Raptitude is one of my all-time favourite blogs; I can’t recommend it highly enough. David manages to write about everyday things in a way that resonates so deeply that I end up quoting his posts years after I first read them.
Deep Work, Cal Newport:
I’ve been a depth devotee for more than a decade, but even I am still regularly surprised by its power. When I was in graduate school, the period when I first encountered and started prioritizing this skill, I found that deep work allowed me to write a pair of quality peer-reviewed papers each year (a respectable rate for a student), while rarely having to work past five on weekdays or work at all on weekends (a rarity among my peers).
I build my days around a core of carefully chosen deep work, with the shallow activities I absolutely cannot avoid batched into smaller bursts at the peripheries of my schedule. Three to four hours a day, five days a week, of uninterrupted and carefully directed concentration, it turns out, can produce a lot of valuable output.
On Being an Illegible Person, Venkatesh Rao:
I don’t want to be living off a few packs on a bicycle for the rest of my life. I like warm beds, hot showers and large, well-equipped kitchens as much as anybody else. I like having access to lots of useful things like washing machines and gyms. It is not inconceivable that the world could be arranged to provide all these in a way that supports both rootedness and nomadism. … I’d like to see the time-share concept expand beyond vacations to regular living. I’d like to see executive suites and coworking spaces sprout up all over, and acquire cheap bedrooms that you can live out of. I’d like to be able to rent nap-pods at Starbucks. I’d rather own or rent a twelfth of a home in twelve cities than one home in one city.
There is no necessary either-or between nomadism and rooted living. Technology has evolved to the point where the apparatus of the state should be able to accommodate illegible people without pinning them down.
I think a lot about nomadism (and the awfully-named slowmadism); this article is a nice treatment of it.
3/4, Scott Alexander:
This has seeped into my personal life. I was on a date with a girl earlier this year, and whenever she started telling me about her life I would just say “Tell me more”, and it worked.
And then there’s [awkward silence]. I learned this one from the psychoanalysts. Nobody likes an awkward silence. If a patient tells you something, and you are awkwardly silent, then the patient will rush to fill the awkward silence with whatever they can think of, which will probably be whatever they were holding back the first time they started talking. You won’t believe how well this one works until you try it. Just stay silent long enough, and the other person will tell you everything. It’s better than waterboarding.
The only problem is when two psychiatrists meet. One of my attendings tried to [awkward silence] me at the same time I was trying to [awkward silence] him, and we ended up just staring at each other for five minutes until finally I broke down laughing.
“I see you find something funny,” he said. “Tell me more.”
One of the funnier anecdotes from Slate Star Codex on life as a psychiatrist.
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