Ego, Inspiration, and Achievement*

Friday, February 15, 2019

Delray Beach, FL.- It’s impossible to see the pyramids of Giza, the Colossus of Rhodes, or the Great Wall of China without thinking about the will it must have taken to build these wonders of human creation. They were built thousands of years ago when the technology for building at that scale didn’t exist.

Even something as “ordinary” as the Palace of Versailles, built in the 17thcentury by Louis XIV, is awe inspiring.

Or how about what it took for Michelangelo to paint the frescoes in the Sistine Chapel… or Mozart’s gargantuan struggle to compose his Requiem… or Thomas Wolfe’s painful work revising Look Homeward Angel

And that’s to say nothing of scientific or business or military accomplishments.

Most of what we think of when we talk about human “achievement” is the result of one part inspiration and nine parts long and sustained effort, often under difficult conditions, focused toward a specific objective.

In fact, this quality of sustained and focused activity towards “making” new and bigger and better things could be said to be distinctly human. Animals are capable of hard and sustained work to create food and shelter, but they do not create new things for the purpose of bigger and better.

Put conversely, if human beings were not capable of such focused effort, civilization would have enjoyed few (if any)  scientific, industrial, social, and even artistic innovations throughout history.

The impulse to fix, improve, enlarge, and beautify seems to be hardwired into our brains. There is no human society that hasn’t produced inventions and art.

But what is the thing that drives people to do these things?

Read MoreEgo, Inspiration, and Achievement*

Ratiocinate (verb) – To ratiocinate (rash-ee-AH-sih-nate) is to reason, to figure things out. As used by Robert Louis Stevenson: “But I give you warning – Stasie may weep and Henri ratiocinates – it will not serve you twice.”

Cleopatra was born in 69 BCE – closer to the Apollo 11 moon landing (1969) than the time when the pyramids of Giza were built (roughly 2550 to 2490 BCE).

What I’m Reading: Satori in Paris by Jack Kerouac is a short, semi-autographical novella about a trip the author took to Paris and Brittany to look into his family’s genealogy. Full, chock full, of interesting (though sometimes irrelevant) facts that display Kerouac’s fluency in French and knowledge of history, language, art, Buddhism, and literature. It is saved from pretention by the loose and easy writing style. Although written after he returned to Florida (didn’t know that he lived in Florida), it reads as if it was written as notes while he was traveling. Maybe most of it was.

The style is effective. And it seems like it could be emulated. I am inspired to try to write like him, just as Hemingway’s sparse but poetic style makes me want to imitate him.

Rotary Phone

It’s humbling to have to ask a teenager to help you sort out a problem with one of the myriad devices on your iPhone. Here’s a video that will make you realize that the kids are not necessarily as smart as you think.



Are You An Information Addict?

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Delray Beach, FL.- “Let’s have lunch,” DK said in his email. “There’s something I need to talk to you about.”

Two days later, we were eating chopped chicken salads at City Oyster on Atlantic Avenue. We talked a bit about family news, but it was clear that he wanted to talk about a question that was on his mind.

The question: Should he spend $100,000 on the highest level of an internet marketing program that he had been looking at?

“It looks really good,” he said. “But I’m not sure it makes sense for me to invest that kind of money.”

“A hundred grand is a lot of money,” I said.

“But you get an awful lot for it,” he explained. “They do all the technical stuff for you, which I’m not very good at. All I have to do is come up with the product idea.”

The waitress filled our drinks.

“So if you invest in this marketing program… what kind of products would you sell?” I asked.

“I don’t know,” he said.

“How about this: If you had all the money you could ever need, how would you spend your time? What would you do to give your life purpose?”

“That’s a good question,” he said. “Actually, I like the idea of purposefulness. Maybe I’d do something along those lines.”

Read MoreAre You An Information Addict?