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Social networking – a shared anxiety

What I want is to be creative. I want the tools to serve me, not the other way around.

I’m getting absolutely nothing significant done, but I’m supposedly “busy” all the time. And it’s all driven by a shared anxiety: if we don’t keep up, we’ll be left behind; if we don’t flock over here with the Crowd, we’ll lose our audience and no one will talk to us or listen to us anymore.

We’re not so sure they’re listening now…maybe we’d better issue another Tweet or Post or Dent and make sure they’re there.


Oliver Sachs reflects on (his) life upon learning he has terminal cancer

This a few months old but it never gets old. Focus, perspective and having no time for the inessential.

It’s never too late to get to clarity. And the earlier, the better.

I feel a sudden clear focus and perspective. There is no time for anything inessential. I must focus on myself, my work and my friends. I shall no longer look at “NewsHour” every night. I shall no longer pay any attention to politics or arguments about global warming.

This is not indifference but detachment — I still care deeply about the Middle East, about global warming, about growing inequality, but these are no longer my business; they belong to the future. I rejoice when I meet gifted young people — even the one who biopsied and diagnosed my metastases. I feel the future is in good hands.

I have been increasingly conscious, for the last 10 years or so, of deaths among my contemporaries. My generation is on the way out, and each death I have felt as an abruption, a tearing away of part of myself. There will be no one like us when we are gone, but then there is no one like anyone else, ever. When people die, they cannot be replaced. They leave holes that cannot be filled, for it is the fate — the genetic and neural fate — of every human being to be a unique individual, to find his own path, to live his own life, to die his own death.

I cannot pretend I am without fear. But my predominant feeling is one of gratitude. I have loved and been loved; I have been given much and I have given something in return; I have read and traveled and thought and written. I have had an intercourse with the world, the special intercourse of writers and readers.

Above all, I have been a sentient being, a thinking animal, on this beautiful planet, and that in itself has been an enormous privilege and adventure. (via NYTimes.)

Résoudre en soi et pour soi les plus grandes questions

Je lis chez Desbiens (Ainsi donc):

L’abondance des notes, en effet, et la dimension de la bibliographie ne m’impressionnent plus. (…) En outre, je suis gouverné depuis longtemps par l’idée qu’il faut résoudre en soi et pour soi les plus grandes questions.

Cette pensée rejoint celle d’Ortega y Gasset: lire moins et penser davantage (leer menos, pensar más).

Au lecteur qui se demande comment reconnaître si cette résolution est faite et est sienne, je propose ceci: demande-toi si tu peux donner raison de tes plus profondes convictions.

The dissident leader

I found this quote in my notes. And it coincides with my current reading of Tomas Sedlacek‘s Economics of Good and Evil. Sedlacek was an economic advisor to Vaclav Havel. Although I have not finished reading the book, I can already recommend it. More on the book and its thesis in a future post.

[Vaclav] Havel embodied the guidelines of creative defense with wit, wisdom, and the shortcomings of a man. He inspired people with a bold algorithm, a mantra really: living in truth. In an era of cryptic truths, so too was the very notion of “living in truth”. After 1989, he became the first anti-political president of the Czech Republic and the planet; he remains so to this day the bearer of a political legacy not so much shrouded in failure as indifference to power. Yet, he was never powerless, not for a moment.

Who in New York, Baku, or its affiliate, well-to-do cities of East and West dares brave the consequence for something greater than a slogan, or greater than themselves? To be a dissident has reached the point of cliché if only because human rights is all too often the case of a competing elites, alienated from “the people”; to be imprisoned does not necessarily mean you speak for human rights, but it does mean, if only for a moment, that you spoke for yourself.

Yet in many societies, this remains a grave crime. To do so creatively, brilliantly, and in a way in which the humor never fades from the voice, the laughter never subsides, and the constant cackle is one that echoes in the executioner’s chamber as opposed to in society, the inmate’s cell and among those who have struggled to know the difference between the two — this is the gift Havel gave.

via The New Inquiry.

the IKEA catalog at the cutting edge of technology: the bookbook

Information and parody. Well done!

The power of one

Since the 1970s Majuli islander Jadav Payeng has been planting trees in order to save his island. To date he has singlehandedly planted a forest larger than Central Park in New York City.


For the movie buffs, pair this story with the Oscar-winning The man who planted trees (L’homme qui plantait des arbres):


The absurd assumption underlying publish-or-perish in higher education

That when a man writes a scholarly book that reaches a dozen specialists he adds immeasurably to the world’s knowledge; whereas if he imparts his thoughts and his reading to one hundred and fifty students every year, he is wasting his time and leaving the world in darkness.

One is tempted to ask what blinkered pedant ever launched the notion that students in coming to college secede from the human race and may therefore be safely left out when knowledge is being broadcast.

Jacques Barzun, Teacher in America. Boston: Little, Brown, 1945 – via Orange Crate Art.


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