35 Comments
Jan 24, 2022Liked by Ted Gioia

Thanks for this.

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Jan 24, 2022Liked by Ted Gioia

Hi Ted, great piece and I've loved the BCH work I've engaged with. I just wonder what his views are regarding self-discipline when working on things which are personally meaningful to oneself? Surely there is no other way to truly master your craft? Aren't many of us willingly disciplined in order to achieve something which gives our life meaning? (For example, playing a musical instrument). Interested to hear your thoughts.

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Jan 24, 2022·edited Jan 25, 2022Author

I've been thinking about this same question. In my own life, I pursue various projects almost round-the-clock, but they are mostly things I enjoy and I can do them at home—so I'm still around my family in a serene environment. Because of that, I don't feel burnt out. If anything, I feel energized. But my view is that even in that happy situation, I probably should make changes to my daily routine. Byung-Chul Han remarks at one point that even in the most rigid medieval societies, everyone still recognized the need for a "day of rest"—not even God could take that away from you. I suspect that even happy workaholics would do well to build in those periods of completely workfree periods of rest and recreation. I might start scheduling long blocks of empty time into my calendar, just to discover the joy of doing nothing.

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Jan 24, 2022Liked by Ted Gioia

Yes, I think you’re right. I suppose a feeling of happiness and agency mark out the difference. The difference, say, between a true lover of languages and someone who feels they ‘should’ build a habit of using DuoLingo because that’s what ‘successful’ people do.

But yes the time for quiet is so important. How do we ever have time to process the information (more than ever) that we take in if we’re constantly distracted? I think we’ve lost sight of that need for silence to let unconscious processing go on in our minds undisturbed.

Thanks for the reply.

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Jan 25, 2022Liked by Ted Gioia

"La dolce far niente"

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I wondered that too. But is there a difference when the striving to "play better" because of the innate joy that comes with it vs. having to get better joylessly? I play guitar and have done for along while. I am ok (and have begun lessons late in life). I really want to progress, but the love of the playing is joyful all by itself regardless of the improvement.

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Indeed. I wonder who it is that we’re trying to prove ourselves in front of?

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I am sure that you have heard this before: "The gods and goddesses have become symptoms."

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Jan 24, 2022·edited Jan 25, 2022Liked by Ted Gioia

This reminds of something I've come to realize in recent years. FOMO (fear of missing out) is pointless because you (and I and any individual) WILL miss out — inevitably. There is too much in the world — and too much just in human culture or even just in our own particular culture — to absorb. You (and I) will inevitably miss out on more than we don't miss out on.

I blogged recently about two brief videos on areas of knowledge and activity on which I’ve totally missed out in the sense that I lack concrete and specific knowledge, experience, and skill: 1) making movies and 2) making small airplanes. I watched those two videos with fascination because they showed me how much i’ve missed out on in just those two specific areas.

I’ve made my peace with that, and I focus on enjoying (and doing as well as I can, which is generally far short of expertise) things I do encounter and like. Rather than being frustrated by all that I’m missing, I luxuriate in all that I have. That seems the sensible choice, given the ineluctable realities of life. I leap joyously into those things I am not missing out on, and I continue to pay attention to what I encounter, and occasionally seize onto something new (fermenting vegetables, for example).

I believe it’s a big mistake to miss what you actually encounter because your attention is focused on worry about things you’re missing. We taste but a tiny sliver of what life has to offer, so it’s important to enjoy the slice we get.

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Yes, FOMO is wrong thinking. If you missed out on something, it was because you had something else better to do. That's a good thing.

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Well, I have to admit that I have often missed out on things because I didn't know about them or dismissed them too quickly. I am frequently late to the party on various things, and in some cases the party's over by the time I learn about it. OTOH, I do indeed have things to do that capture my interest. I don't sit around with vacant time passing, thinking "What am I missing out on?" :)

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Jan 24, 2022Liked by Ted Gioia

Great essay. I will go looking for his book on burnout.

On an unrelated topic, color me gobsmacked. I just realized that you were responsible for the Conceptual Fiction website that I used to read regularly. I will go back and see what I've missed in the last couple of years.

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Hello Ted, as usual, very good article, I have had the opportunity to read some of Han's work and his diagnostic capacity is extraordinary, the same as Bauman. Still looking for convincing solutions though, I'll take note of the list of authors you mentioned. Thank you!

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Jan 24, 2022Liked by Ted Gioia

Makes me think of a story: [When Vonnegut tells his wife he's going out to buy an envelope] Oh, she says, well, you're not a poor man. You know, why don't you go online and buy a hundred envelopes and put them in the closet? And so I pretend not to hear her. And go out to get an envelope because I'm going to have a hell of a good time in the process of buying one envelope. I meet a lot of people. And, see some great looking babes. And a fire engine goes by. And I give them the thumbs up. And, and ask a woman what kind of dog that is. And, and I don't know. The moral of the story is, is we're here on Earth to fart around. And, of course, the computers will do us out of that. And, what the computer people don't realize, or they don't care, is we're dancing animals. You know, we love to move around. And, we're not supposed to dance at all anymore.

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Jan 24, 2022Liked by Ted Gioia

Like written below; thanks for this!

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Jan 24, 2022·edited Jan 24, 2022Liked by Ted Gioia

Nos piratis sumus qui nihil facimus.

“We are the pirates who don’t do anything.

We just stay at home and lay around

And if you ask us to do anything.

We’ll just tell you we don’t do anything.”

Songwriters: Mike Nawrocki / Kurt Heinecke

The Pirates Who Don't Do Anything lyrics © Bob And Larry Publishing

Music can change your life.

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Hi Ted,

Very thought provoking... brings up an example in my own life... I started surfing at age 40 (I am nearly 60 now).

At first it was just great to be out in the ocean doing this magical thing.. riding transitory energy.

But recently I have found myself looking at coaching videos.. how to improve your surfing....

Why???? I don't compete????

It is just a built in idea in our current lives that you should improve at everything you do.

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First:

"...Sometimes the disorders get classified as medical syndromes with impressive acronyms, such as ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) or CFS (Chronic Fatigue Syndrome) or BPD (Borderline Personality Disorder)...But in every instance, something similar can be seen: the victims are at war with themselves."

Yeah. Science says Nah.

Instagram and the lack of large scale conflict causes ADD and CFS? Is that the thread being loosely followed here?

"But we have a need to combat enemies even when the actual battlefields are disappearing. This leads to a panoply of dysfunctional behavior patterns—many of them resulting in battles on an individual basis. My neighbor or family member becomes a substitute target for the actual foes our ancestors met in open combat."

This is the kind of philosophical drawing-a-long-bow I have trouble getting behind.

The ideas relayed in this article really want me to trot out the old "ok boomer" schtick. It's very "Look at man's inhumanity to man!"

Meanwhile, we're able to keep in touch with friends we moved away from, go to the gym so we don't get out of breath going up the stairs, take supplements that mitigate some of our health issues, and watch videos of people building sheds in their backyard while we wait in the car.

Is that really where the subjugation is happening?

Does Han talk about the last 40-50 years of economic history that have made life a desperate zero-sum game for so many people in the "prosperous" west? Does he draw attention to the shabby couches and damaged walls in the backgrounds of dance TikToks? Or has he just watched a few influencer videos, or maybe read a couple New Yorker articles about them for his thesis? I watch TikTok and I see a lot of escapism mixed between desperate economic hustle.

There's your burnout.

As for counter culture. It's atomised. It's always been atomised. You just couldn't see it for the hippies. Hippies were posers who moved on to become yuppies and then aged into boomers. But there are still intentional communities. There are still drum circles. If they are harder to find now than in the early 70s, again, blame economics.

Economics was also the death of beatniks and bohemians. But we have trustafarian Bohos, so we've got that going for us. No inspirational works of amphetamine fuelled fiction and poetry but still lots of drug taking and really sweet accessories.

Facebook knowing what beer you like isn't going to stop you from living in the woods in a handmade cabin with a bunch of artists. Nor is posting your breakfast to Instagram. Nor is trying to improve yourself or your situation, unless you are part of the unfortunate minority who through genetics and/or past trauma have issues exacerbated by such behaviour.

But economics will stop almost all of us from doing it. It already has.

The metaverse is joke not worth worrying about. Unless the NFT bros win - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YQ_xWvX1n9g

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Jan 25, 2022·edited Jan 25, 2022

Sure, you can trace it all back to Reagan/Thatcher et al and the resultant "Productivity Paradox" - which is really no paradox at all.

I wouldn't be so quick to dismiss the urge to "combat" though. It's plain there's a deep connection there to human psychology that Rupert Murdoch exploited in his Fox News bizplan way back when, and was also utilized mercilessly by Mercer's Cambridge Analytica campaign for stone cold hearts and broken minds.

>> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YQ_xWvX1n9g

Well worth a watch, especially when he digs into the social, psychological, and economic elements at play. I loved the kicker at the end: https://twitter.com/sonicviz/status/1485526410056077313

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I don't dismiss the combat, it's just the old "man's inhumanity to man". Also old is the implied notion that a good war would stop the bickering. That feels positively Edwardian.

I went and started reading The Burnout Society. This is from the opening paragraph:

"Neurological illnesses such as depression, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), borderline personality disorder (BPD), and burnout syndrome mark the landscape of pathology at the beginning of the twenty-first century. They are not infections, but infarctions; they do not follow from the negativity of what is immunologically foreign, but from an excess of positivity. Therefore, they elude all technologies and techniques that seek to combat what is alien."

That last line. He's kind of setting up his next idea in the second last line, but that last line - he is either saying nothing of value or what he is saying is wrong.

I read more but this argument via convoluted metaphor style just makes me roll my eyes. Life is short. The truth is not so obtuse.

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On your 'science says nah' comment - you might be interested to read Lost Connections by Johann Hari, and Scattered Minds by Gabor Maté.

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Jan 25, 2022·edited Jan 25, 2022

Great post, though I don't think this is necessarily a new problem tbh - perhaps turbocharged a little more in the modern era though.

Have a listen to Alex Chilton's "Like Flies On Sherbet". I think that was his cathartic noise solution:-) Works for me!

ref:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Like_Flies_on_Sherbert

https://www.thevinyldistrict.com/storefront/2014/04/graded-curve-alex-chilton-like-flies-sherbert/

https://www.50thirdand3rd.com/alex-chilton-classic-music-review-like-flies-sherbert/

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👍🏼🙏🏼

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Jan 25, 2022Liked by Ted Gioia

Great and thoughtful article as usual from Ted. After watching "Why Beauty Matters" by great late Roger Scruton and reading his subsequent book I was thinking along the same lines for quite a while. We really need to start appreciating real beauty again.

“Beauty is vanishing from our world because we live as though it did not matter.”

https://archive.org/details/why-beauty-matters-roger-scruton

https://disclosureflicks.com/why-beauty-matters

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ShjGnEQjoxc

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Jan 25, 2022Liked by Ted Gioia

I massively burned out working a political campaign decades ago. I went into deep depression and frankly, the depression saved me. Yes I stared at the walls twelve hours a day and slept the other twelve, but it gave my mind and body a chance to heal from the stress of working ten consecutive 100-hour weeks.

But healing just allowed me go on making the same mistakes. When I retired I decided to fix this by telling everyone to stop calling me and email instead. Then last year I got rid of my phone. I'm not completely unplugged (I'm here after all) but life without a phone has been WONDERFUL. Not an option for most people but I heartily recommend unplugging yourself however you can.

Slowing the world down puts you first which lets you better deal with the world.

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One passage puzzled me:

"Sometimes the disorders get classified as medical syndromes with impressive acronyms, such as ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) or CFS (Chronic Fatigue Syndrome) or BPD (Borderline Personality Disorder).

"In other cases—a suicide or fatal breakdown, for example—things have gone too far for even medical intervention. All the acronyms in the world won’t help you then."

I'll observe that anyone impressed by 3-letter acronyms is extremely impressionable, and also acronyms are commonly used in medicine (and in other disciplines) as shorthand: for example, ECG, EKG, MRI, CAT scan. The use of acronyms seems unremarkable to me — even natural.

The real problem is the notion that acronyms are supposed to help the patient. Where did that come from? Acronyms help the practitioner (by cutting down on verbiage: instead of using the entire phrase, it is abbreviated), but I don't recall anyone every claiming that an acronym would help a patient. The acronyms listed refer to disorders that affect people and cause suffering, sure enough, and one step in alleviating suffering is to identify the problem in order to address it. It may be that these descriptions are incomplete or overbroad, but they do seem to describe actual problems encountered (without addressing cause or cure: just identifying the type of problem).

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