Let’s pause for a moment, in fact, to notice that this kind of story almost always imagines a future world that’s far simpler than the one we currently live in, one in which all the stuff and clutter of our lives – the screens, the gizmos, the cars, the noise – has evaporated. As David Mamet once put it, every fear hides a wish.
In light of all our focus on “progress,” it’s easy to forget that you can turn around from traveling in a wrong direction, and return to the place where things last felt right—whether that’s for something as trivial as what I’m trying to do with my goofy website, or as monumental as restructuring your identity, ambition, and emotional furnishings to match the last time you felt like yourself. You can go back. Sometimes that’s progress.
There’s no need for you to “decide” on one feeling. If we don’t allow ourselves multiple, confusing, even conflicting feelings, then how else do we learn to deal with people when the going gets gray?
The full story is never as tidy as the one that starts with “Obviously . . .”
I find two things especially noteworthy about these things that Everyone Knows: first, they tend to be really nasty-minded; and second, they tend to be equally tidy-minded — that is, they make the world a neat, simple place in which there are ever so many people one needn’t take seriously, or treat with anything other than immediately reflexive contempt, because one knows in advance of any particular encounter exactly what they’re like.
Many people today find it easy to use the vocabulary of entrepreneurialism, whether they are in business or social entrepreneurs. This is a utilitarian vocabulary. How can I serve the greatest number? How can I most productively apply my talents to the problems of the world? It’s about resource allocation.
People are less good at using the vocabulary of moral evaluation, which is less about what sort of career path you choose than what sort of person you are.
In whatever field you go into, you will face greed, frustration and failure. You may find your life challenged by depression, alcoholism, infidelity, your own stupidity and self-indulgence. So how should you structure your soul to prepare for this? Simply working at Amnesty International instead of McKinsey is not necessarily going to help you with these primal character tests.
[…] It’s worth noting that you can devote your life to community service and be a total schmuck. You can spend your life on Wall Street and be a hero. Understanding heroism and schmuckdom requires fewer Excel spreadsheets, more Dostoyevsky and the Book of Job.
Wes Anderson’s Arrested Development. Interesting criticism here. This led to an aha! moment for me:
Nothing more perfectly evokes the feeling of both a child’s literal interpretation of the world and youthful big ambition on a frustratingly small scale like a school play, and Anderson smartly adopts this style.
[…] We don’t lose ourselves in the emotion of the production, and for the same reason we’re not meant to lose ourselves in the story of an Anderson film. Like in a children’s play, we are meant to be aware at all times of creative effort, for this is where its true value lies. Anderson’s ability to blend substance and form and communicate this feeling is his greatest skill. His films look like a stage plays: Sets look like sets, the frame becomes the proscenium arch (with a symmetry in the set that exaggerates and enhances the frame’s boundaries), and the action is kept in the center of the frame, usually directed out toward the audience in mainly medium or wide shots.
And I like this:
Anything that helps to enlarge an understanding is important, as large thinking is contagious and will contaminate all other areas of your life, so that eventually nothing will be allowed to remain simple and small.
Post-Popchips reflections. Anil Dash is awesome.
One of the great struggles in trying to challenge racist aspects of culture is that we’ve moved from overt, obvious, overbearing racist practices to things that are much more nuanced, and which are often the result of bad habits or ignorance from otherwise well-intentioned people.
If we can manufacture a good guy, we can exalt him. If we can manufacture a bad guy, we can degrade him. If we can’t decide, we can argue and call each other names. But more than anything complicated, the dialectic is always about deciding who is the bigger asshole.
Real life is messy. And as a general rule, the more theatrical the story you hear, and the more it divides the world into goodies vs baddies, the less reliable that story is going to be. […] One of the central problems with narrative nonfiction is that the best narratives aren’t messy and complicated, while nonfiction nearly always is.
If there are more stories about this, in-depth ones, I am afraid Glass is going to conclude We wanted to believe. That is going to be his deepest comment on this. I hope I’m wrong. I don’t agree with that assessment. I think the real problem is We wanted things to be simple.
Conspiracy theories and the occult comfort us because they present models of the world that more easily make sense than the world itself, and, regardless of how dark or threatening, are inherently less frightening.
Stories, to work, have to be simple, easily grasped, easily told to others, easily remembered. So stories will serve dual and conflicting purposes, and very often they will lead us astray.
The confidence that people have in their beliefs is not a measure of the quality of evidence, it is not a judgment of the quality of the evidence but it is a judgment of the coherence of the story that the mind has managed to construct.