Reflections on Aphorisms #12

Going to do a series of shorter reflections on aphorisms for a while so that I can focus on other writing, once I get back into a schedule I’ll be doing more. Until mid-week next week I’m going to be doing just one a day, and then perhaps even a tad longer than that.

Aphorism 19

At any stage, humans can thirst for money, knowledge, or love; sometimes for two, never for three.

Nassim Nicholas Taleb, from The Bed of Procrustes

Interpretation

The notion that one has to choose priorities is not new. I believe there’s a saying in the Bible that one cannot love both God and money. At very least, it is attributed to the Bible.

I don’t know if it’s necessarily Fair to make so absolute statements about human motivation. One thing that I is that there tends to be almost archetypal layers of being that drive station. This is to say that people have stages of their life in which the desire certain things, and these are not necessarily easily categorized by simply describing them as, say, wealth or family.

However one thing that I have observed, and which seems brilliantly clear, is that people are poor judges of themselves. Shakespeare’s Brutus, in the play “Julius Caesar”, says about himself that the eye sees not its own reflection. This is a metaphor that Brutus uses to explain that he does not pass judgment on himself, or rather, does not allow himself to make judgments as to his own virtue, because it is not something which is easily knowable. It would seem natural the person that we know best is our self, but in reality we tend only to see the first order effects of our actions. It is those around us see who we truly are because they have to deal with the consequences we create.

To get back to the original point, there’s something to be said for the pursuit of the Balanced Life, but it is also something which is unnatural. It is a common tragic trope that a character cannot deal with all the parts of their life that they need to deal with. Because we go through immense changes over the course of Our Lives, the inability to truly assess our own motives and to accurately prioritize many factors of our being poses a great threat to us. This is one of the reasons why the suffering of a tragic hero is so cathartic.

My Life

I often used Carol Pearson’s psychological archetypes (Amazon affiliate link) to teach the Hero’s Journey to my students. The reason for this is that represents transition through a hierarchy of needs.

In my life right now, I am focusing on pursuing knowledge, figuring out more the truths of reality while also mastering my trade of writing and teaching.

One thing that’s interesting about Pearson’s archetypes is that she presents the notion that a highly successful person achieves balance, but each archetype has a sort of order in which they come.

The ideal is to transcend the limitations that come with uncertainty. In the works of Jung and other analytical psychologists, there’s often this concept of a balance between order and chaos.

In my own life, I seek to find the balance between these things. Having too much order breeds limitation. One never learns how to truly live if one only follows rules. Too much chaos, one and can never really pursue purpose. It is lost inside the void.

Pearson presents the Sage and the Fool as the final archetypes in development. We would associate these with wisdom. The Sage pursues the right order of the universe, and the Fool its potential.

When I was a child I was referred to as old for my age. Some people even called me wise, though I believe this was perhaps more because I parroted what they wanted to hear than because of any particular merit of my own upon later reflection. In any case, I value wisdom highly, something that has been impressed upon me since I was a child reading the Bible story of King Solomon.

To get back to the point, I think that there is a distinction between setting a goal, which can be clearly focused on something like wealth or family, and finding meaning, which is more holistic in nature.

Resolution

Work towards clear goals.

Reorient frequently enough that I do not lose sight of what is important.

Go beyond what is comfortable.

Reflections on Aphorisms #11

Going to do a series of shorter reflections on aphorisms for a while so that I can focus on other writing, once I get back into a schedule I’ll be doing more. Until mid-week next week I’m going to be doing just one a day, and then perhaps even a tad longer than that.

Aphorism 18

You know you have influence when people start noticing your absence more than the presence of others.

Nassim Nicholas Taleb, from The Bed of Procrustes

Interpretation

This quote stuck out to me. Part of having influence is not necessarily this Machiavellian notion of control, but rather making yourself useful or interesting. The result of that is that there is an incentive to help others. Influence isn’t necessarily about being on top, but it’s about being part of life.

One of the things that I’ve noticed, when I worked with kids, is that outside of a strict social hierarchy whether or not someone is important tends to come down to whether or not they provide something to other people. As someone who considers himself a fan of capitalism, this is not that different from my approach to business. The act of changing things makes you influential. From there, you can decide whether you want to be positive in your influence or negative, if you are clever enough and wise enough to choose to do so.

It’s worth noting that tell that doesn’t necessarily say whether it is good or bad to be influential. Sometimes you want to be the quiet unnoticed person, though I think this is rarer than some people would suggest.

Part of the challenge that comes with influence is the responsibility it carries. Choosing to be quiet and unnoticed can often be a self-deceptive escape from responsibility. At the very least, he can be a waste of potential.

In this context, it is almost always better to be influential than not.

My life

In my own personal life, I found it beneficial to always be doing small favors for people. This started because I am too polite to say no when met with a reasonable request, but not only do I find it enjoyable, but has the added side effect of making people generally like me or at least pretend to like me so they continue to do favors for them. In any case I do not obsess over the issue because pretending to like someone and liking them have very similar effects.

I have also found that the inverse corollary of this is important. If you don’t have an impact on someone and you are not influential, it creates a situation that most people would prefer not find themselves in. I think this often with students I’ve had. Children are surprisingly honest, though not necessarily by choice. When someone who is not influential is absent, children will mention but they did not even notice the absence.

One of the important psychological needs is the need to feel significant. This is often made too much of, but there is some truth to it. I often wonder if the people who my pupils would not notice missing realize this. Generally they tend not to be the happiest of their group, whether teachers or students themselves.

Resolution

Behave in a way that is meaningful to others.

Identify needs and meet them.

Do today what will be felt tomorrow.

Reflections on Aphorisms #10

Going to do a series of shorter reflections on aphorisms for a while so that I can focus on other writing, once I get back into a schedule I’ll be doing more. Until mid-week next week I’m going to be doing just one a day, and then perhaps even a tad longer than that.

Aphorism 17

Mediocre men tend to be outraged by small insults but passive, subdued, and silent in front of very large ones.

Nassim Nicholas Taleb, from The Bed of Procrustes

Interpretation

One of the things that I’ve noticed is that people who think they have something to prove try very hard to do so.

When I was a teacher (this no longer applies to me as of today, and I hope to be a teacher again once the current arc of my saga draws to a conclusion), I noticed that students who were under-performing would rarely deny their greater problems, but would make up for it with bluster in meaningless things.

I think that some of this comes from the following notion: if one has not done the due diligence to find priorities and work on them, they won’t fix them. However, there is a universal desire to be good, or at least above average. One student (who was actually decent, but created a sort of cult of mediocrity around himself) created a scatological analogy by saying that he was the “turd that floats to the top”, but this isn’t actually how mediocre people tend to react to their own mediocrity.

Instead, status symbols and irrelevant comparisons are the main point, while the things that should take a high priority are left more or less ignored.

My Life

I’m perfect and have nothing to change.

I kid. One of the things that I’ve noticed about myself is that I have a tendency to sweat the small details. I remember when I was in college and working on my PHP-based interactive fiction platform that I was trying to figure out the most optimal way to do things well before I actually had a working prototype.

The kicker here is that the whole system was, to my knowledge, never subject to more than a single user at a time. So, basically, I was going over the small things.

This isn’t quite the same as bearing insults, but I think it follows. Taleb talks about “Mediocristan”–the place in which events have a very predictable range of consequences–and “Extremistan”–the counterpart in which events can have incredibly unpredictable outcomes–frequently in his work.

I spend a lot of time ignoring Extremistan for Mediocristan, and the consequence of this is that I sweat over little things that aren’t going to have a lot of impact (like whether I eat 400 or 415 calories at a meal).

It’s not that I intentionally ignore big-risk things, but I run into human limitations because of my focus on things that bear little risk and little reward.

I do think that in a personal sense, though, I’m good about insults. I’m willing to accept criticism, and I’ll even accept a certain amount of unproductive criticism (working with kids does that to you) without sweating it.

Resolution

Don’t focus on small things for more than they’re worth.

Remember that your first impression is designed to give you a good feel for what things are.

Organize your priorities and cut the wasteful expenditures.

Reflections on Aphorisms #8

Just one today, but it’s one that I can write about a fair deal.

Aphorism 15

To become a philosopher, start by walking very slowly.

Nassim Nicholas Taleb, from The Bed Of Procrustes

Interpretation

I don’t think this is meant to be taken in a strictly literal sense, though it might not be the end of the world to do so.

I think it has to do with understanding value.

If you value things that are related to activity, you will live a life of activity.

This is not bad. Actions prove ideals.

However, ideals cannot flow from actions (or, perhaps it is better to say: ideals that are good do not typically flow from action).

By pursuing action rather than ideal, you put the cart before the horse.

Philosophers devote intentional time and effort to deliberate thought, and they are willing to invest the time to do so. That’s time spent reading and reflecting, time spent ruminating on concepts.

If you want to become a philosopher, taking a more passive approach is good. You don’t observe when you are obsessed with the change you want to bring.

My Life

I was (briefly) nicknamed “The Terminator” in high school because I have a tendency to power-walk, a trait which, when combined with a trench coat, led to the nickname. I also tended to be fairly expressionless because I was lost in thought most of the time, but I don’t think that was the origin.

The fact that I am a mostly harmless nerdy kid probably contributed to the end of the nickname, since the only way that anyone was in danger because of my actions was myself on account of poor diet (I wasn’t fantastically overweight, but the only way my diet could have been considered balanced would have been if I held it funny).

In any case, I hope that this does not disqualify me from being a philosopher. I still have a tendency to be ruthlessly efficient, and I try to avoid navel-gazing over everyday events.

Of course, the reason why I do this is because I know that I have the counter-part to it in me. I have the Millenial fixation with losing sleep over something that happened over a decade ago (like basically anything I did in middle school which I can still remember; embarrassment seems to be a strong driver of memory, which I should know from reading so much psych), and I have to work hard to not spend too much time looking into an infinite void of potential and doubt.

In any case, I think I definitely need to consider slowing down a little, not necessarily in terms of work but in terms of other things. I’ve noticed that I’m afraid of being bored, and I’m not sure that’s a way I want to be.

Resolution

Be willing to commit to quiet.

If my cat were still around, I’d spend time cuddling her. As is, a quiet cup of tea may have to suffice.

Cut out noise, find signal.

Reflections on Aphorisms #6

Another day, another set of reflections.

Aphorism 9

What I learned on my own I still remember.

Nassim Nicholas Taleb, from The Bed of Procrustes

Interpretation

There’s a stark difference between education and learning.

One of the foundations of learning is engagement. If someone doesn’t pay attention, they don’t learn.

A lot of our school system is based on things that aren’t engaging to students, which is why the focus is on rote repetition and memorization (though less so than in the past, and our level of engagement is perhaps no higher).

Another part of this is that there’s an element of activity in doing, rather than just passive reception, which fosters greater memory.

My Life

I read incessantly. More or less incessantly. Okay, I read a lot. Not infinitely, but certainly more than average. I’ve been aiming for a book a week, and I don’t necessarily keep up with that on a micr0-scale but I certainly keep it up on a yearly scale.

One of the things that I’ve noticed is that I don’t remember a majority of what I learned in school. I’ve probably forgotten a lot of what I learned on my own as well.

However, it’s certainly a lot less painful to forget something I read than something I paid to learn.

Oh, and of course, the few things I remember from school were the most interesting to me. Anything I was forced to learn I only remembered if it turned out to be surprisingly pleasant.

Montaigne may have been right.

Resolution

Be surprised by some new learning every day.

Strive to learn, and learn outside my bubble.

Do, don’t observe.

Aphorism 10

“For example” is not proof.

Yiddish proverb, from The Viking Book of Aphorisms

Interpretation

One of the things that I discussed with an acquaintance today is how modern history curriculum sucks because it tries to be causal.

They try to justify their existence by looking at patterns and then putting together links and a chain of events.

I’ve been reading through Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s Incerto, and the current book I’m on, The Black Swan (Amazon affiliate link), covers this as one of the fallacies of reasoning that stem from human limitations.

I think it’s also a tendency to like to justify knowledge beyond just what it is good for. Knowing things is beneficial, but people have this tendency to be restless with information, to stretch and interpret it until they are left not with the original but rather an interpretation of it, having forgotten the objective fact in favor of the worldview’s supporting pillar.

This has self-evident risks, because if the process goes wrong it can go dreadfully wrong.

My Life

I am guilty of having “For example” in my top ten phrases.

Now, to be fair, I tend to use it literally in the sense of providing an example.

I don’t typically care to win arguments.

No, that’s untrue.

I don’t typically care to argue. When I do I like winning.

But I don’t argue, and most of the time I give an example it’s not to prove my point but simply to clarify what I mean.

With that said, I’m not making this an “agree with every aphorism” thing but rather a “reflect on every aphorism” thing, and I think I’ll partially disagree with this.

Evidence is good.

Bad evidence is bad.

Resolution

When I give an example to try to prove something, I will make sure it actually proves my point.

Don’t mistake the tree for the forest.

Trust with hesitation.

Reflections on Aphorisms #5

Another day, another bunch of aphorisms. I’m hoping to get on a schedule of just doing an aphorism or two as a morning routine (namely, reading them in the evening and writing about them in the following morning), but if I’m being honest I can’t get the reflection process down to a consistent amount of time.

That’s probably better than forcing it, though.

Aphorism 7

Writing is the art of repeating oneself without anyone noticing.

Nassim Nicholas Taleb, from The Bed of Procrustes

Interpretation

I’m not sure if Taleb is being sardonic here or not, but I’m going to treat this as a sort of double edged statement.

On one hand, we know that the brain is relatively poor at taking in abstract information. It requires repetitive exposure to a complex concept or environment to form what we would call an accurate picture, and even then you need some variance in input data or you can end up with a faulty understanding.

It also helps to have solid arguments based on facts, and rather than just blurt out all the information at once and then try to address all the points at the end. The interspersed presentation means that you do wind up going through a cyclical presentation that leads to some duplication of previous ideas.

The other side of the coin is that writers often blather, especially those of us who are paid by the word or are particularly verbose. However, our brains get bored of hearing the same thing over and over, and to make our work “worth it” we need to keep people from realizing that we generally don’t have that many good ideas.

My Life

This is basically me, though I think it’s a little more complicated. I believe in constant revision and analysis, so I often repeat myself.

There’s also the blog format I’ve used for much of my writing, which requires a certain repetitive element because even entries in a series of posts are not necessarily going to be read together, so important concepts need to be repeated.

There is an upside to this, however, which is that you move toward perfecting your ideas. As a teacher, I often found myself wishing I had taught differently and finding a better method after finishing a lesson.

Writing is like that too. You stay dynamic, but you lean on the same core body of work. If you do too much variety you wind up devaluing your own expertise by stretching it too thin.

Resolution

Make what I have to say be worth reading, perhaps even more than once.

Keep in mind that I have my limits, and balance novelty with depth.

Consider whether what I have been said has already been said better. Learn from exemplars.

Aphorism 8

Late resounds what early sounded.

Goethe, quoted in the Viking Book of Aphorisms

Interpretation

Goethe was one of the earliest members of what in America we just call the Romantic movement (technically he was part of the Sturm und Drang movement in Germany), and while he wasn’t necessarily a true member in the sense that he “grew out of it” as it were, he was nonetheless quite influential in the form of his Faust and The Sorrows of Young Werther, the latter of which I’ve had to read more than twice in my college career.

One of the ideas of the Romantics is that you have an inner guiding star that you should follow, which sort of sounds like me when I’m waxing poetic.

However, it’s worth thinking of them as being somewhat reactionary. They were among the first nationalists (before most of the negative things began to be associated with nationalism), and really believed in finding a cause, even if it meant finding destruction along with them.

Another way of putting it is that they’re very into the “die young, leave a beautiful corpse” way of life. The Sorrows of Young Werther sparked a suicide wave that would make 13 Reasons Why look like a palliative (though that doesn’t make either good for society), though now we can look at it in a little more detached a fashion–Goethe himself was the basis for Werther, and he was attempting to chronicle his mistakes, so the protagonist’s suicide was actually a hypothetical exercise in idiocy in an otherwise autobiographical work, one that Goethe himself tried to make a counter-example rather than a role model.

To get to the aphorism, however, I think that this really does tie in with the Romantic period’s prevailing philosophy in the sense that greatness tends to start early. If it’s something that’s put off, odds are it will stay put off forever.

My Life

I’m not sure I’ve followed this well. I’m still “young”, but I’m probably not young enough to be on the earlier side of this analysis.

However, I think there is something to be said here by translating it away from the language of time and into the language of procedure: “What is begun will likely continue.”

Basically, if one behaves like a child forever, one will be treated like a child forever. If one is wise in youth, they will stay wise.

I don’t know that this is an absolute, but it’s certainly something that’s measurable and observable in life. My friends who were highly disciplined in college about doing what was meaningful for them (even if that meant dropping out of college) remain on a path that brings them meaning, and those that were not find themselves in flux and with less success.

I, as someone who falls in the middle of this equation (I am good at doing what has been suggested for me, but not at finding my own path), find myself in a situation now where I have a chance to really make a name for myself and find opportunity.

Resolution

Seize the day and work toward greatness.

Strive to do today what I want to do tomorrow.

Make plans to build a better future, but don’t worry about what comes next.

Reflections on Aphorisms #4

Figured out yesterday’s aphorism that I couldn’t get a satisfying break-down of, so that’ll be one of the two today (it’s the Taleb one).

Aphorism 5

The most depressing aspect of the lives of the couples you watch surreptitiously arguing in restaurants is that they are almost always unaware of the true subject of argument.

Nassim Nicholas Taleb, The Bed of Procrustes (Amazon affiliate link)

Interpretation

I’m not really in a significant relationship, so I’m not going to cover the relationship aspect of this so much as a simple truth here:

You don’t necessarily know what you’re looking at until you put it into words, and even then you might have done it wrong.

I think that a lot of arguments arise from what goes unsaid on purpose, and what goes unsaid on accident, and this aphorism deals with the latter.

You need to have a good identification with a life of meaning to really notice when things have gone astray.

My Life

Today was my last regular day as a classroom teacher for the foreseeable future. I’m doing some freelance writing in the immediate future and then I’ll be getting back to school to complete a master’s or maybe a doctorate program.

And, to be honest, it’s painful to say goodbye. It’s been an emotionally draining week for a variety of reasons, and teaching is just emotionally draining in general, but the fact remains that it’s still something that brings a lot of meaning to my life.

I wouldn’t say that I regret leaving; this is the perfect time to make a move for me, since I still retain almost no financial obligations except to myself.

However, it’s certainly not easy. Most of the kids were pretty sad to see me go, even more so than I expected (to be honest, since almost none of them were going to have me next year unless something changed in my position, I didn’t expect quite so much of a response).

I’ve probably had something like two hundred and fifty or three hundred students in the past couple years, and it’s sort of crazy to think about not seeing most of them after next week.

But, of course, such is the nature of things. If there is any lesson I’ve learned at a dear cost this past week, it’s that you can’t always anticipate change, so the best you can do is accept it.

Reflections

Find the hidden and secret things that have a tendency to sneak up on my life.

Never forget how meaningful the teaching experience has been in my life, even if more lucrative opportunities come along later.

Value authenticity, pierce the veil of easy explanations.

Aphorism 6

A book calls for pen, ink, and a writing desk; today the rules is that pen, ink, and a writing desk call for a book.

Friedrich Nietzsche, quoted in the Viking Book of Aphorisms

Interpretation

This is another aphorism that begs context. I think that it’s referring to the way in which we interact with books, namely comparing the act of reading and reflecting on things.

Nietzsche is often very concerned about the advent of modernity, and I think that part of this is the transition from having eyes on the past to focusing on the future.

Part of the old tradition is to go into texts as an end to itself. The contemplation on and analysis of the old masters is got necessarily lower than striving for personal mastery.

This is a lot of what Montaigne does in his essays, but while Montaigne may be “the first modern” in his philosophy and interests, he is also distinctly classical in his methods.

Now the fashion is to create and change, to pursue power before wisdom and influence before virtue.

My Life

I am beginning to write a book. I may not finish it, since I may find it unfit, but I am perhaps falling into what Nietzsche is warning about here.

However, I think that I’m not all bad.

Obvious self service aside, I feel blessed to have an inquisitive mind. I enjoy digging deep into everything, and I am reaching a point soon where I can pursue self perfection as a primary goal.

Resolution

Don’t waste my current shot at self improvement.

Learn from others.

Make sure that nothing I do stems from mere desire to do but rather from purpose.

Reflections on Aphorisms #2

I’ve made a resolution to start examining aphorisms on a daily basis, and here’s the second day of that. You can read the first day’s reflections here, and I’ll keep them coming for at least a while.

As always, I like to have a format, as follows:

  1. Aphorism
  2. Interpretation
  3. My Life
  4. Resolution

In addition to Taleb’s work, I’m breaking out an old copy of the Viking Book of Aphorisms, edited by W.H. Auden and Louis Kronenberger that was published through Barnes and Noble in 1993. My best friend got it for me when we were both in college, and I’ve never really given it as much attention as I should have. As far as I can tell, this (affiliate link) is the closet offering on Amazon for a similar edition. In any case, I don’t think that most of the aphorisms contained within would be impossible to find elsewhere, but it’s a pretty decent volume.

I’m also continuing the numbering across sessions, so keep that in mind.

Aphorism 2

You cannot express the holy in terms made for the profane, but you can discuss the profane in terms made for the holy.

Nicholas Nassim Taleb, The Bed of Procrustes (Amazon affiliate link)

Interpretation

I think that this is generally a pretty straightforward quote, but there’s something that I’ve heard that is interesting.

The term “holy” in its more traditional religious sense refers to something which is set apart and dedicated to God.

Profane, on the other hand, is sort of an antithesis of holiness. The Bible describes figures like Esau and Lot as profane. It isn’t even so much that they are wicked in their hearts (though that can be a consequence) as that they don’t take the necessary steps to set themselves apart from the world and can therefore be corrupted by it.

I think there’s something to be said for our society in this; I recall being in a college level class where in the course of a discussion the concept of sin came up, and there was actually at least one person who didn’t even know what the word meant.

If you don’t pursue the holy, you can’t find it. It’s not something that comes by accident: even if you are inspired to suddenly become holy, the inspiration requires following action to be brought to fruition.

My Life

I’m not sure how precisely this fits to my life. I don’t tend to swear very often; I don’t think there’s a single expletive in my entire published work, which because I write obsessively and without thought of reward has swollen to quite an amount. Some of that’s growing up in a Holiness tradition, where we simply weren’t allowed to cuss (though minced oaths were tolerated by some of the less strict families), and some of that’s just personal preference.

However, I think that there’s a deeper meaning to this than just spoken and written language. Language is a catch-all for consciousness. We might be able to have consciousness without language (I’m not enough of a brain scholar to make authoritative statements on the matter), but they are strongly correlated together where both exist simultaneously and are inextricable from each other.

If you don’t intentionally contemplate the holy, you will be stuck with just the profane.

Resolution

Consider my words carefully, choose things that build up the divine spirit in myself and others.

Spend time contemplating holiness, cultivating it deliberately within my life through thought, word, and deed.

Guard my mind against the influences of the world where they might corrupt my purpose and vision, and my relationship with God.

Aphorism 3

The essential matter of history is not what happened but what people thought or said about it.

Frederick William Maitland, from the Viking Book of Aphorisms

Interpretation

Maitland lived in the late 1800’s and very early 1900’s, but this saying seems like something out of the zeitgeist of more contemporary society.

While I’m interested in seeing the context, the point of analyzing an aphorism is to free-associate, so I’m going to hazard being wrong on Maitland’s intent and go on my own bent here.

There’s an expression that history is written by victors (which may be overrated in its own right), but I think that there is an defense to be made about the dissociation between history and fact.

I’m not any sort of conspiracy theorist who states that the fundamental outline of history books is incorrect, but I’m also enough of a historian myself to know that history is something which is made by filling in gaps. We live in a day and age when information is essentially free and unlimited, and so much is preserved that it seems unlikely that there will be many mysterious events in fifty years unless people want to keep them mysterious deliberately.

If you travel back five hundred years you find yourself in a place where it’s not possible to preserve and store information for posterity. How people fill in the dots is a key part of figuring out what really happened, but the truth of the matter is that there isn’t all that much that we can do.

Our histories are a reflection of our beliefs; both in a “we are driven into perceiving certain patterns by the very nature of our consciousness and experiences” sense and a “we see things the way we want to because we want to” sense.

History in this sense is a mixture between attempting to gather facts and figuring out the narrative you wish to create from them, and it makes for interesting events.

My Life

I have often thought about the persistence of memory and the way that my own self-concept has changed. This past week has been one of incredible change for me, and it’s one that has shook me to my foundations. I’ve made decisions about who I want to be, and I’ve cast my fate to the stars, to speak poetically (don’t worry, Mom, I’m not into astrology), and actually taken concrete steps toward them despite my historical risk aversion.

The point being that my own recognition of my own existence is driven by the current moment, not the facts of the past. Some big things are inescapable, or at least would have large consequences for ignoring them (see: bank accounts, rent checks), and they occupy a lot of my mental energy.

However, I’m sure there are thousands of little things that I’ve never thought of when making decisions. Today on my commute I thought of a game I made back in my freshman year of college (or maybe the summer before or after), and I realized that I’ve probably started two dozen independent game projects over the course of my life.

Even in this moment, as a historian of myself, there are things that escape me.

Part of me blogging like this is an effort to be that historian of myself, at least inasmuch as I feel comfortable doing so for the whole world (and I’m a believer in radical openness, so that’s most things that don’t influence the privacy of others).

Resolution

Consider my own life as something which I am witnessing from a subjective perspective.

Work to reduce the differences between my self-perception and my own past by taking stock of what I’ve done with my life.

Think about how I can move toward important events in my life.

Reflections on Aphorisms #1

A while back I picked up Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s The Bed of Procrustes (affiliate link), which is a collection of “political and practical aphorisms” that I intend to work through slowly.

I’ve been listening to the other books in the Incerto series in audiobook format, but I’ve opted to go for a more traditional Kindle read of the book, because aphorisms tend to be dense in information and I want to digest them slowly, not listen to them rapid-fire.

There’s also something to be said for this being a conversation. I’m not the only source of wisdom here, so if you have something to add feel free to leave a comment and I’ll check it out. Part of Taleb’s whole point is humility, and humility begins for me with accepting that I might miss or be in error during central parts of my interpretation.

Also, I’m not so naive and self-involved as to think that this is tremendously important, but it might be interesting. I’m treating this kind of like Marcus Aurelius’ reflections, though I am not necessarily a Marcus Aurelius myself. I merely publish them because part of living unafraid is leaving nothing of yourself secret.

I’m going to start with just a single aphorism today, but I’m going to establish a sort of simple formula for these: the aphorism itself, my own take on what it means, how I think it has or hasn’t been applying in my life, and an action to take.

So, without further ado, the first aphorism of the series:

Success is becoming in middle adulthood what you dreamed to be in late childhood. “The rest comes from loss of control.”

Interpretation

I think that one of the interesting things here is how it’s somewhat vague. We all seem to have a sense on what being “middle aged” is, but middle adulthood could mean other things. Likewise, late childhood reflects a sort of ambiguous state: if we consider people young adults once they’ve started steps toward their vocation, this could actually have quite an age range (14-26, or maybe even older), but I think here that Taleb’s sort of referring to the age in which one is not yet responsible for themselves but is beginning to be capable of looking out for themselves, the independent age when most people start to get jobs or take up serious hobbies and academic studies beyond what their parents or society require.

Middle adulthood is also an interesting concept, and I think that there’s a good definition of this as the age at which you’ve “settled down” and acquired responsibility. This could probably take the form of settling down with a family for most people. I’m sure that one could add additional criteria ad infinitum if they wanted to, so I won’t. I don’t think that this is necessarily a numerical age so much as a particular stage of life, and is therefore dependent on all sorts of things.

My Life

I’m honestly not sure where to put this in my life.

I’m a game-designer, but I’m not doing it with my all. I’m also writing books, which I should maybe eventually finish (Bad Kyle, bad! Get back to work!) but which are bringing me joy.

When I was a kid in 8th grade, I wanted to be a game designer. I think I even dressed up as Richard Garriott on career day, even though I don’t know that I’ve ever played any of his games seriously. I remember this because in the sort of thing that teachers write to their students, my teacher wrote that she couldn’t wait for her kids to play a game that I made.

Throughout high-school, I definitely wanted to become either a game designer or a writer (I remember sketching out designs for a game that became Orchestra that became Street Rats on the back of a senior-year math test), and although I was originally planning to go into pharmacy it was more of a financial decision than a life-goal decision.

Now, in practice, I think I’m decently successful as a game designer in the sense that I’ve been growing and pushing myself, but I haven’t made a living at it yet. I’m definitely not at a point where that’s financially feasible.

But there’s an interesting thing here with the final sentence: “The rest comes from lack of control.”

I think that there’s maybe some of that in my life. I’m something of a lay Stoic. I assume, based on my limited success which seems to exceed that of other amateur writers/game designers, that I have some ability and affinity for the practice, but I definitely can be held back by my wasting of time and my current difficulties with sticking to my projects.

Resolution

Spend more time, more consistently, moving toward my goals.

Consider what elements of my life are disordered and lack control: figure out if it is possible to bring them under control or if the chaos is something that can be excised entirely.

Engage in behavior that is in alignment with me making my goals something more feasible. If I cannot make a living as a game designer and writer, I need to figure out a profession that interferes with that as minimally as possible, or which offers me the same satisfaction of being able to create and bring to life.

Review and Reflection: Skin in the Game

I listened to Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s Antifragile: Things that Grow from Disorder a while back (you can find my write-up about it here) and found it to be tremendous, so I got Skin in the Game on Audible (it seemed to be the next-closest thing to my interests).

Continue reading “Review and Reflection: Skin in the Game”