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{ On “Doing” Philosophy with Children } Philosophy cultivates a generation of inquisitive minds that will grow up challenging the assumptions that hold us back

{ On "Doing" Philosophy with Children } Philosophy cultivates a generation of inquisitive minds that will grow up challenging the assumptions that hold us back | rethinked.org

“By encouraging children to examine the world from perspectives other than their own, philosophy cultivates a generation of inquisitive minds that will grow up challenging the assumptions that hold us back.” – Giacomo Esposito

I was thrilled to discover the work of The Philosophy Foundation through Giacomo Esposito’s deeply relevant article, Why I Teach Philosophy in Primary Schools. The Philosophy Foundation is a UK based, award winning educational charity raising aspirations and attainment through doing philosophical enquiry in the classroom.

Our aim is to make ‘Reasoning’ the 4th ‘R’ in education – by giving children the tools to help them think critically, creatively, cohesively and autonomously we aim to fill the gaps in education and consequently benefit society as a whole. 

Philosophy can help to shape the way we think and live in the world. Learning to think clearly and creatively helps in many ways – the most obvious being the effect it has upon one’s actions.

At the core of The Philosophy Foundation ‘s work is the belief that thinking is a capacity–a habit of mind–and that thinking well requires learning and practice.

It is the job of our specialist philosophy teachers to identify and draw out from the children philosophical material, and to encourage them to adopt a philosophical attitude. Our aim is to cultivate the habit of thinking and we do not believe that this will come about simply by giving them the opportunity to think. Like anything else it needs to be learnt. So the facilitation should include teaching and guidance. Philosophy is not something that can be learnt by being told a list of propositional facts about what it is, it is best learnt by modelling. In other words, the children will learn how to do philosophy best by seeing it done well on a regular basis by a skilled philosophy teacher.

Head over to The Philosophy Foundation website to learn more about the fantastic work they are doing and check out their many excellent resources to start doing philosophy with the children in your own life.

Below are some highlights from Esposito’s article, first published on The Guardian, which I highly recommend reading in its entirety.

THINK, LEARN, DO . . . * 


The sessions I run usually begin with a story or short “stimulus” which draws on a traditional philosophical problem, but reframes it to make it more engaging for a younger audience. The story then ends with a question, and a discussion ensues. Throughout the class, I try to take a backseat; I’m there to help draw out the children’s thoughts, but it’s really for them to decide where the discussion goes and, crucially, what they think. In fact, rather than teaching philosophy, a more accurate description of my job is “doing” philosophy with children.

Children can be fantastic at doing philosophy. Their natural disposition to wonder at the world is given free rein during lessons. Recently I was running a session about time travel. In response to the claim that “time is a feeling”, a 10-year-old boy thought hard for about a minute and then said: “Time is different for us than it is for the universe, because 100 years passes in a flash for the universe, but seems a long time to us … so time is a bit like a feeling.”

[ … ]

At its core, philosophy is about thinking and reasoning well. It’s about learning how to be logical, present arguments, and spot bad ones. Yes, this is often done through strange, improbable examples, which can feel removed from – and therefore irrelevant to – the real world (like the tree in the forest). But these exercises in mental gymnastics train the mind to think more clearly and creatively, which benefits all aspects of life.

As well as learning how to naturally construct arguments, the children are also invited to question them – both their classmates and their own. When it seems like there’s a firm, unwavering consensus across the class, I only have to ask them to put themselves in the shoes of an “imaginary disagreer”, before a flurry of hands appears.

. . . *

Source: Why I Teach Philosophy in Primary Schools by Giacomo Esposito via The Guardian, published July 13, 2015

“I like it when someone gets an opportunity & makes the most of it. Could be the smallest of openings but they squeeze in there & pry that shit open” – Our Interview With RAE, Artist …*

"I like it when someone gets an opportunity & makes the most of it. Could be the smallest of openings but they squeeze in there & pry that shit open" - Our Interview With RAE, Artist ...*| rethinked.org

Art & Photograph by RAE

 

Chances are you’ve likely come across prolific Brooklyn based artist RAE‘s work before. If you’ve spent any time in NYC, it is almost a certainty that you’ve seen some of his stickers, installations or murals. RAE’s art is vibrant, colorful, dynamic and enigmatic and never fails to make me stop and smile when I chance upon it. I have often wondered about the person behind the art and reached out to RAE to ask him my nine questions about his heart, his fears and his notion of the good life. I am delighted that he agreed to participate in our interview series. His responses, as you’ll see below, are full of the same poetic whimsy, depth and energy as his artwork. You can connect with RAE on Twitter @RAE_BK or follow him on Instagram @rae_bk.

WHAT WAS THE LAST EXPERIMENT YOU RAN?

I have a cat that speaks to me. She told me she doesn’t want to lead such a nocturnal, lazy and mundane existence. So I made a hole in the bottom of my fence so she can go out and explore the neighborhood. I may take her to see Europe one of these days. In the beginning she was just going out for short trips but now she’s gone for days. I am about to outfit her with a small camera to see where she winds up and what she does in a day. I’ll let you know how that turns out.

WHAT ARE SOME OF THE THINGS THAT YOU FEAR AND HOW DO YOU MANAGE YOUR FEAR?

I fear that more and more people will make decisions on social and/or political issues based on what their group or party affiliation supports rather than look at issues on a case by case basis.

"I like it when someone gets an opportunity & makes the most of it. Could be the smallest of openings but they squeeze in there & pry that shit open" - Our Interview With RAE, Artist ...*| rethinked.org

Talk Talk Mural & Photograph by RAE

WHAT BREAKS AND DELIGHTS YOUR HEART? IN OTHER WORDS, WHAT DO YOU BELIEVE IN AND SURRENDER TO?

I was in Ethiopia in 2014 and noticed there was pretty much no public spaces for kids to play. In Addis, the capital city, I finally spotted a playground but only one kid was inside playing while others watched from behind a small fence. The fence was one they could have easily climbed over and joined in but they chose not to. Instead they stared longingly at the one kid inside who was laughing and enjoying the zip-line ride and swings all to herself. Next to the entrance of the park was a security guard who told me that the playground belonged to the large hotel behind it and they only allowed guests staying there to use it. It was bitter sweet to see one child enjoying themselves so much while the others couldn’t even get a sniff of what it felt like to soar through the air just for the fun of it.

"I like it when someone gets an opportunity & makes the most of it. Could be the smallest of openings but they squeeze in there & pry that shit open" - Our Interview With RAE, Artist ...*| rethinked.org

Art & Photograph by RAE

WHAT IS THE MOST PROVOCATIVE IDEA YOU’VE COME ACROSS IN THE PAST DECADE?

Allow yourself extra time and you can do the work of many alone.

CAN YOU TELL ME ABOUT A TRANSFORMATIONAL MOMENT IN YOUR LIFE?

In high school I was a delivery boy at a butcher shop in Brooklyn then later became a deli counter person and then sort of an unofficial manager. I worked there for about 5 years. One day a lady who often shopped there asked me for help and after I assisted her she turned to me and said, “You’re really good at your job. Keep going the way you are and one day you’ll be manager of this place.” For the rest of the work day I kept staring through this large glass window into the back of the store where all the older butchers and meat packers worked. I kept thinking about how each one told me at one time or another of the big dreams they had. Some claimed they still planned on following through with them. I quit the next day.

"I like it when someone gets an opportunity & makes the most of it. Could be the smallest of openings but they squeeze in there & pry that shit open" - Our Interview With RAE, Artist ...*| rethinked.org

Art & Photograph by RAE

WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO YOU TO LIVE A GOOD LIFE?

When I was younger I used to think a “good life” meant having what “you,” as an individual, wanted. Money, success, fame, etc, but as soon as I got a small taste of that I realized it feels very hollow if the people around you don’t have the means to at least make ends meet. So many hardworking people can’t pay the bills no matter how many hours they work in a week. Having the good life means being able to uplift others that want to do for themselves. I like it when someone gets an opportunity and makes the most of it. Could be the smallest of openings but they squeeze in there and pry that shit open.

COULD YOU SHARE ONE PIECE OF ADVICE ABOUT THE ART OF BEING HUMAN? 

Never hold people to the high standards you set for yourself. You’ll be disappointed more often than not. And when you do find those that operate on the same level take note and appreciate rather than be jealous.

WHAT IS YOUR DRIVING QUESTION?

I have several….

How big is the universe?
Will time travel ever be possible?
Will I ever get out of this life alive?
Would I trade in my life up to this point to start over again?

ANY BOOKS OR MOVIES YOU RECOMMEND? 

Books: “The Measure of a Man” by Martin Luther King Jr.
            “On Bullshit” by Harry G. Frankfurt
Movies: Amores Perros, Dead Man, Little Odessa, Rocks With Wings (the documentary film)

. . . *

THANK YOU, RAE!

"I like it when someone gets an opportunity & makes the most of it. Could be the smallest of openings but they squeeze in there & pry that shit open" - Our Interview With RAE, Artist ...*| rethinked.org

Subway Sculpture & Photograph by RAE

 

{ Keep Going } The First Rule of Anything Creative: Forgive Yourself For the Horror of the First Draft …*

Here’s a little creative inspiration for your Tuesday in the form of this lovely animation from The School of Life on the need to overcome “the horror of the first draft” and just keep putting in the work to slowly bridge the gap between our vision and what we are producing.

This video reminded me of Ira Glass’s advice:

“Nobody tells people who are beginners, and I really wish somebody had told this to me, is that all of us who do creative work, you know we get into it, and we get into it because we have good taste. But there’s a gap. For the first couple years that you’re making stuff, what you’re making isn’t so good. It’s not that great, it’s trying to be good, it has ambition to be good, but it’s not quite that good. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, your taste is still killer. And your taste is good enough that you can tell that what you’re making is kind of a disappointment to you, you know what I mean? A lot of people never get past that phase, a lot of people at that point they quit. And the thing I would just like to say to you with all my heart, is that most everybody I know who does interesting creative work, they went through a phase of years where they had really good taste and they could tell that what they were making wasn’t as good as they wanted it to be. They knew it fell short. It didn’t have the special thing that we wanted it to have. And the thing what to do is everybody goes through that. And for you to go through it, if you’re going through it now, if you’re just getting out of that phase, you’ve got to know it’s totally normal and the most important possible thing you can do, is do a lot of work. Do a huge volume of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week or every month you know you’re going to finish one story. Because it’s only by actually going through a volume of work that you’re actually going to catch up and close that gap. And the work you’re making will be as good as your ambitions. In my case, I took longer to figure out how to do this than anybody I’ve ever met. It takes a while. It’s going to take you a while. It’s normal to take a while and you just have to fight your way through that, ok?

– Ira Glass

Ira Glass on Storytelling from David Shiyang Liu on Vimeo.

rethink, work, create …*

{ A Methodology for Accelerated Learning } Five Easy Steps For Learning Anything In 20 Hours …*

{ A Methodology for Accelerated Learning } Five Easy Steps For Learning Anything In 20 Hours ...* | rethinked.org - Photo: Elsa Fridman

“We treat, in our culture now, learning as a very academic exercise—the objective is to suck in a ton of information about this thing whether or not you’re going to use it. And I think education in our culture now has been seen in the academic sense and less in the sense of practicing something with the eye of using it to do some particular cool thing.”  – Josh Kaufman

I loved this observation about the need to rethink the aims of learning outside (and inside!) an academic context. So much of the ends we pursue and the strategies we employ in our lives, work and learning all too often depend on unexamined and often limiting assumptions. It’s important to pause, examine and articulate our stance about learning so that we may rethink it. What are our fundamental beliefs about learning? As access to information becomes ever more present, easy, and democratized–in the age of Google–what should be the aims of learning–both for school-children and for ongoing learning as adults and knowmads?

In the video below, Josh Kaufman highlights the five step process to learning anything in twenty hours which he details in his book, The First 20 Hours: How to Learn Anything…Fast!  These five principles of accelerated learning apply to all quality of skills you may be trying to acquire, whether motor of cognitive.

What will you learn? 

1. SET A PERFORMANCE TARGET LEVEL 

The first step in this process, and this is something that applies to every skill—could be a motor skill like learning how to fly an airplane, or skateboard, or something like that; could be a cognitive skill like language or programming— so the first step is deciding exactly what it is you want. If you’re able to really clearly define what it is you’re trying to get—it’s called setting a target performance level—the more clearly you can define that, the easier it is for you to look out into the world and find ways to get there in the most direct way possible. So for example, one of the things I wanted to be able to do was programming. And so, instead of just saying, “I want to be a programmer,” —right, doesn’t give you any information whatsoever—it’s: “here is this idea of a program that I would like to sit down and create from nothing; and it looks like A, B, C, D, E, F, G. When I make this thing, I’ll have developed the skills that are necessary in order to get the particular result. So instead of learning everything in the world about programming, I decided this is the sub-segment of that skill I’m interested in first so that’s what I’m going to focus on.

So what is it going to look like when you’re done? What are you going to be able to see or experience that will let you know you’ve reached the level that you were going for?
2. DECONSTRUCT THE SKILL INTO SMALLER SUB SKILLS 
After you decide what you want, you do what’s called deconstructing the skill. And the idea behind that is a lot of the things that we think of as skills, like for example playing golf, or speaking French, or learning how to program, those aren’t exactly skills; they’re really kind of general topics that contain lots of smaller sub-skills. So it’s really hard to practice being a good golfer. It’s way easier to practice hitting off of the tee with the driver. So you take the global skill and you break it up into much smaller parts. And if you’re clear about what you want, it becomes very easy to find what are those sub skills, what are those smaller parts that are actually going to help you get to that target performance level as quickly as possible.
3. RESEARCH SMARTER & TRANSITION TO ACTION FASTER
Go out into the world and find sources of information that help you do this deconstruction. If you, for example, pick up five books on whatever it is you’re trying to learn how to do, don’t read them cover to cover, skim all of them one right after the other. And what you’ll see are the two or three sub-skills that you’re going to be using most of the time are the ones that come up over and over again. So you just practice those first. And if you spend your time practicing those things and avoid a lot of the distractions or things that aren’t going to help you, you save a lot of time and energy as you’re practicing.
You know the whole idea of researching the topic is something that I had to actively train myself out of. I love doing research. Programming was a good example of this for me. It’s like, “I want to learn how to program: I’m going to get ten books; I have these courses; I’m going to go through all of this stuff and then I’m going to sit down and write a program. It’s like no, you use the research to do just enough research to help you do the deconstruction and find the most important sub-skills first and then get out of research mode and into practice mode as quickly as you can. When you start practicing what it is you’re actually trying to do, that’s when you see the performance improvement.
4.  HACK YOUR ENVIRONMENT FOR BETTER ENERGY MANAGEMENT & INCREASED MOTIVATION
This is where the behavioral psychology elements of this come in —it’s how can you make it easier to do the thing that you want to be doing instead of getting distracted by some shiny object and then going and doing something else. So instead of relying on exerting a lot of willpower to force yourself to do this thing that you’ve decided you want to do, you spend a little bit of willpower, a little bit of time and energy, altering the structure of the environment around you, just to make it easy as possible to do the thing that you want to do.
Removing barriers to practice, so things that are preventing you from doing work. Sometimes those things are environmental distractions, like turning off the TV or blocking the Internet, or closing the door—you know all the things  you can do to make sure that in those early hours of practice, which are frustrating, you don’t get so frustrated that it’s easy to stop focusing on whatever it is you’re doing and start to pay attention to something else. Likewise, anything that you can do to make sure it takes as little energy as possible to start practicing is super helpful at that point. So, you know, instead of keeping your guitar in the case in the back of the closet on the other side of your house, take the guitar out of the case, get a stand and put it right next to your couch—anything that you can do  to make it easier on yourself to get those early hours of practice, the better
5. PRE-COMMIT TO PRACTICING AT LEAST 20 HOURS
So all the things that we’ve talked about so far is getting set up to sit down and do the work of actually practicing. The pre-comittment and the idea of practicing at least 20 hours, there’s a lot of behavioral psychology behind that. The two big things is, first it’s a really important check on your reasons for learning this thing in the first place. Is it worthwhile for me to rearrange my schedule and stop doing other things? Is this something that I’m expecting to get enough benefit from to make the effort worth it? If it’s not, don’t do it. So if you’re willing to set aside at least 20 hours, what the pre-commitment does is make sure that you practice long enough to push through that early frustration to actually start seeing results.
So 20 hours is roughly forty minutes every day for a month–give or take–and I usually break my practice sessions into about 20 minutes a piece so two twenty minutes practice sessions every day for about a month can get you there. And so, if you’re able and willing to do that, pre-committing the time makes sure that you practice long enough to see that really good result but it’s also, psychologically, it doesn’t feel like that big of a hurdle to say, “ok, this is important to me, I can set aside at least that amount of time.” So it’s just enough that you’re going to see dramatic results but not so much that it prevents you from making the pre-comittment in the first place.

Adopt A Growth Mindset To Deal With Procrastination …*

“You get down to work when the fear of having done nothing finally exceeds the fear of doing it wrong.”

Okay, so I get that watching a video about procrastination may seem like, well, procrastination; but I found this lovely short from The School of Life quite insightful. It’s easy to grow frustrated with ourselves or others when things are not getting done, but rather than giving in to the labeling game (I’m/he/she is lazy, useless etc.) which, by the way, is a key characteristic of a (highly unproductive) fixed mindset, this video reminds us that a little (self) compassion and a growth mindset go a long way in helping us to get our work done. Often the reason we put off the work we know we should be doing is because we are afraid that it will be anything less than perfect (which, of course, it will be). So next time you find yourself putting off doing your work, remember this little girl, recognize the fears and anxieties that may be hindering your progress and rather than grow frustrated or discouraged, gently remind yourself that getting better at anything requires effort over time. And get started.

It seems like I’m lazy, that’s what everyone must say, I know. But in truth I do nothing, not because I’m lazy, but because I’m sacred. I’m terrified that if I start, what I do will be horrible. I want things to be so amazing and I know they can’t be so it seems best not even to begin. What helps me the most is when occasionally, it feels like it doesn’t matter, when it feels I can mess up and that would be okay. When the pressure isn’t so great. Like when I was younger and there was less at stake.

Frame Your Day Using This Little Rethink to Increase Gratitude & Mindfulness …*

Screen Shot 2014-08-11 at 1.32.53 PM

A new Indian restaurant recently opened near where I live and while I am thrilled with all the added delicious vegetarian options available in my neighborhood, I find my favorite part of ordering from them to be my encounters with their deliveryman. Each time he comes, he beams with a giant smile and shares tidbits of wisdom handed down from his mother. This weekend he told me about his mother’s 25-hour day and I thought it was a brilliant way to shape one’s frame of mind to increase gratitude and mindfulness in one’s life.

His mother would tell him, “I have twenty-five hours in my day.” When he asked how that was possible when everyone else only had twenty-four, she replied that she saved an extra hour, because no one ever knows about tomorrow.

I absolutely love this. Nothing is promised; tomorrow is not given to us. That’s something that we all know but most of us fail to fully appreciate. Most mornings I wake up to the jarring sound of my alarm, or the insistent meows and head-butts of my hungry needy cat and I get out of bed annoyed and groggy. I’m not a “morning person”, I generally wake up on the wrong side of the bed and anyone who has shared a roof with me has quickly learned not to speak to me until I’m done with my first cup of coffee (earning me the nickname of “bear” from my mother). But in the past few days, since hearing the 25-hour day anecdote, I’ve made a conscious effort to wake up and be grateful. When I open my eyes, I really take a moment to appreciate how lucky I am to be waking up to a new day. It may sound a bit cliché but really, it’s anything but. Life is unpredictable, circumstances change overnight and without notice. In claiming and savoring that moment, I feel I have added an hour to my day, it makes me less grumpy, more energized, happy, even.

The other aspect of this story that I really enjoyed was that the motivation behind adding another hour to each day had nothing to do with trying to be more productive or cram more things into a single day. It was about being present; about enjoying as much as possible what one is given. In the age of chronic busyness, stress and not-enough time, I found this focus on presence and gratitude greatly refreshing and inspiring.

Try it out and let me know how the 25-hour day works out for you …* 

Rethinking “Someday” – On Courage & Letting Go …*

Rethinking "Someday" & Making Room For Flow ...* | rethinked.org

“About six months ago, I sat down and wrote some really audacious lists: one was Dream Mentors; another was People with Awesome Mystical Powers; another was Stuff I’d Like to Do Before I Die; and the last was Stuff I’d Like to Do Someday. On my dream mentor list, I had a mutual connection to one of the people, so I emailed her. For the mystical powers people, I wrote a cold email to four of them to ask if they’d like to do a weekly call with me for accountability and support. On the things I’d like to do before I die list, I created a plan. I literally backed my way into how to make those things happen. I put the things I’d like to do someday into a pile and threw them away, because who has time for someday? The very next day I heard from my dream mentor and we went out to lunch a week later. I don’t think people realize how close at hand their dream mentors can be.” – Elle Luna

Over the course of this past week, for National Simplify Your Life Week, I have been using the quote above by Elle Luna as a sort of compass for simplifying my time and my things. I went through my closets and let go of all those “just in case” items that I never use but feel an irrational need to hold on to because someday, in some improbable situation, I may need them. In the great, wise words of Elle, who has time for someday? So off they go to the Salvation Army where hopefully someone will be able to make use of them now, today. Conversely, I looked at some of the things I’ve been wanting to do but have felt “not enough” to begin–not enough time, ability, resources, knowledge, courage–all those things I’ve been dreaming about and saving for someday when I’d feel enough to start. I let go of most of the items on my “someday” list, but there were a couple dreams and projects on there, which when I considered abandoning, made me feel heartbroken. I took this as a cue for action and transferred them to the ‘things I’d like to do before I die” list. I am now in the process of backing my way into making these things happen. Step one, I decided, was to eliminate the many ways in which I mindlessly spend my time, those default activities utterly devoid of intent, flow or growth. 

I’ve decided to go a month with no TV watching. I don’t own a TV but between iTunes, Amazon Instant, Hulu and Netflix, I spend an ungodly amount of time watching bad TV shows. I’ve canceled my Hulu and Netflix memberships (did I ever really need both?!). 

I’ve gotten rid of email on my phone. Instead of having a constant stream of interruptions throughout the day popping up on my screen I’m going to allot two chunks of time for email, one in the morning, one in the evening. 

I’m also going to try going a month without using Internet at home. Given that some days I work from home, I think this one might be the toughest, but it will be a good excuse to get out of the house. I’d like for home to feel more like a sanctuary, a space and time to focus on passion projects with calm and intent.

I’ll see after a month if these are habits I want to shed for good. I think it is likely that I will, but after years of running experiments on myself, I have learned that I need to break down change into small, achievable steps if I want to follow through.

What have you been doing to simplify your life? Any good tips? Let me know …* 

Milton Glaser: You Can’t Take Anything at Face Value, You Have to Go Beyond the Superficiality of Existing Belief …*

“I saw a Cézanne that I had never seen, a pencil and watercolor of a landscape, and I was transformed. By looking at it, my world was enlarged. At this ancient age, I am still capable of astonishment, of feeling, “My god, I never had this experience before.” And that is what the arts provide, this sense of enlargement and the sense that you haven’t come to the end of your understanding—either of yourself or of other things.” – Milton Glaser

If you’re looking to infuse your day with a hefty dose of inspiration, I suggest this interview, which iconic graphic designer Milton Glaser gave for Jonathan Fields’ Good Life Project. The conversation is full of insights into Milton’s creative process and his understanding of the human experience. I highly recommend finding the time to watch the video in full, but in the meantime, I have transcribed below my three favorite insights from the conversation.

make the ordinary unknown & rethink …*

Milton Glaser: Certainty Is A Closing of the Mind via The Good Life Project

{ To Make Something Is Miraculous & the Creation of Beauty, At Its Core, Is About Empathy }

After a while you begin to realize, a. how little you know about everything and, two, how vast the brain is and how it encompasses everything you can imagine, but more than that, everything you can’t imagine. What is perhaps central to this is the impulse to make things, which seems to me to be a primary characteristic of human beings—the desire to make things–whatever they turn out to be. And then, supplementary to that is the desire to create beauty which is a different, but analogous activity. So the urge to make things, probably, is a survival device, the urge to create beauty is something else, but only apparently something else, because as you know, there are no unrelated events in the human experience. So beauty, and the creation of it, is a survival mechanism. There is something about making things beautiful, and we sometimes call that art, that has something to do with creating a commonality between human beings so that they don’t kill each other. And whatever that impulse is and wherever it comes from, it certainly is contained within every human being I’ve ever met. Sometime the opportunity to articulate it occurs, sometimes it remains dormant for a lifetime, you just don’t get the shot at it.
But I’ve been very lucky, I’ve imagined myself as a maker of things since the age of five. I realized that to make something was miraculous and I never stopped. I just kept making things all my life.
*

{ Learning to See is A LifeLong Endeavor; Drawing Helps }

The great benefits of drawing is that when you look at something you see it for the first time.
You have to constantly be attentive to what you deflect in life and what you don’t pay attention to and all the things that you can’t see, and all the preconceptions that you do have about everything. Those preconceptions basically blur your vision. It’s very hard to see what’s in front of you.
*

{ Be Suspicious of Defining the “Good Life,” Don’t take anything at face value & go beyond the superficiality of existing belief }

I’m very suspicious of some words like that and also what they link to. I guess I feel now that you can’t take anything at face value, you have to go beyond the superficiality of existing belief. My favorite quote is, “Certainty is a closing of the mind”. And so, I don’t know what a good life is. A good life for me, certainly, has been the things that I think are important–friendships that I have; people that I love; certainly, a marriage that has endured and continues to endure; teaching, which I’ve been doing for well over half a century, and feeling that whatever you know has a possibility of being transmitted and shared—outside of that I wouldn’t know how to define a good life. And as you know some people seem to be heroes to some and villains to others.
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Kicking Off National Simplify Your Life Week by Embracing Essentialism …*

“In the end, in the final analysis, anything less than the disciplined pursuit of the essential, will lead to the undisciplined pursuit of the non-essential. And that’s a price I don’t think many of us would deliberately choose.” – Greg McKeown

Today, August 1, marks the beginning of National Simplify Your Life Week. Obviously, ‘simplify’ can mean a lot of different things to different people. Are we talking about time, relationships, objects, all of the above? Ultimately, that’s for each one of us to decide. One avenue into simplifying–which is primarily focused on time, but applies equally well to relationships and objects–that I found particularly interesting is the idea of Essentialism, or the disciplined pursuit of less, coined by Greg McKeown.

To learn more about Essentialism and get some tips on how to become “absurdly selective” in how you use your time, head over to the Harvard Business Review and check out the 15 minute podcast where McKeown discusses more strategies to do things better by doing less.

In the meantime, here are two exercises, mentioned in the podcast, that McKeown suggests doing as you embark on your Essentialist journey:

  1. The Rule of 3 – Every three months, we should take three hours to identify what the three most important objectives are for us for the next three months. There’s lots of threes in there. But to me, it’s a very helpful rule of thumb. Because if we don’t do this, we are just buried now in the day-to-day.
  2.  OK. If I had just a week left to live, what would I do? If I had a month left to live, what would I do? If I had a year left to live, what would I do? And then finally, if I have a full rest of my life left to live, what will I do? And that exercise, which can easily be done with one hour, might be the most important hour of our life. Because it’s helping to address this error of judgment we make about short term versus long term. It’s helping us to see really what is essential to us. And when you go through the exercise, what happens, I think, is that the fog of our day-to-day life starts to lift. Because in a normal life, every day we tend to think everything’s important, and it’s almost as if it’s all equivalently important. But actually, it’s not. We’re just tricked by the urgency. We’re tricked by the latest email, the latest tweet, the latest text, to make us think that this thing should garner our primary attention. But when you go through this exercise, it’s very obvious that that isn’t the case. And so it helps us to make sure our day-to-day tactics are aligned with what we want our intended lifelong strategy to be.

simplify & rethink …*

Ernest Hemingway: “As long as you can start, you are all right. The juice will come.”

Ernest Hemingway: "As long as you can start, you are all right. The juice will come." | rethinked.org

From things that have happened and from things as they exist and from all things that you know and all those you cannot know, you make something through your invention that is not a representation but a whole new thing truer than anything true and alive, and you make it alive, and if you make it well enough, you give it immortality. That is why you write and for no other reason that you know of. But what about all the reasons that no one knows?” -Ernest Hemingway

Today we are celebrating Ernest Hemingway’s birthday here at rethinked* Other than being a great and completely superfluous excuse for gorging ourselves on cupcakes, it is a splendid time to reflect on some of his insights on the creative process. Here are some of my favorite quotes from his 1958 interview with the Paris Review.

eat [cup]cakes, reflect, create & rethink …* 

– On the Feeling Tones of the Creative Process – 

When I am working on a book or a story I write every morning as soon after first light as possible. There is no one to disturb you and it is cool or cold and you come to your work and warm as you write. You read what you have written and, as you always stop when you know what is going to happen next, you go on from there. You write until you come to a place where you still have your juice and know what will happen next and you stop and try to live through until the next day when you hit it again. You have started at six in the morning, say, and may go on until noon or be through before that. When you stop you are as empty, and at the same time never empty but filling, as when you have made love to someone you love. Nothing can hurt you, nothing can happen, nothing means anything until the next day when you do it again. It is the wait until the next day that is hard to get through.

 

– On Knowing When to Stop – 

But if you stopped when you knew what would happen next, you can go on. As long as you can start, you are all right. The juice will come.

 

– On Solitude, the Passing of Time & the Creative Act – 

The further you go in writing the more alone you are. Most of your best and oldest friends die. Others move away. You do not see them except rarely, but you write and have much the same contact with them as though you were together at the café in the old days. You exchange comic, sometimes cheerfully obscene and irresponsible letters, and it is almost as good as talking. But you are more alone because that is how you must work and the time to work is shorter all the time and if you waste it you feel you have committed a sin for which there is no forgiveness.

 

– On Enhancing One’s Craft By Learning From Other Fields – 

I put in painters, or started to, because I learn as much from painters about how to write as from writers. You ask how this is done? It would take another day of explaining. I should think what one learns from composers and from the study of harmony and counterpoint would be obvious.

 

– On the Artist – Audience Relationship & the Need For a Work of Art to Stand Alone –  

Read anything I write for the pleasure of reading it. Whatever else you find will be the measure of what you brought to the reading.

A sensible question is neither a delight nor an annoyance. I still believe, though, that it is very bad for a writer to talk about how he writes. He writes to be read by the eye and no explanations or dissertations should be necessary. You can be sure that there is much more there than will be read at any first reading and having made this it is not the writer’s province to explain it or to run guided tours through the more difficult country of his work.

 

– On the Only Constant of the Creative Act Being Change & Movement – 

Sometimes you know the story. Sometimes you make it up as you go along and have no idea how it will come out. Everything changes as it moves. That is what makes the movement which makes the story. Sometimes the movement is so slow it does not seem to be moving. But there is always change and always movement.

 

– On Competition – 

I used to try to write better than certain dead writers of whose value I was certain. For a long time now I have tried simply to write the best I can. Sometimes I have good luck and write better than I can.

 

– On Reminding Oneself that Creating Something Out of Nothing Is Always Difficult & Often Involves Some Degree of Despair – 

I read them [his own novels] sometimes to cheer me up when it is hard to write and then I remember that it was always difficult and how nearly impossible it was sometimes.

 

– On the Importance of Observing & Soaking Up Experience – 

If a writer stops observing he is finished. But he does not have to observe consciously nor think how it will be useful. Perhaps that would be true at the beginning. But later everything he sees goes into the great reserve of things he knows or has seen.

 

– On His Principle of the Iceberg – 

If it is any use to know it, I always try to write on the principle of the iceberg. There is seven-eighths of it underwater for every part that shows. Anything you know you can eliminate and it only strengthens your iceberg. It is the part that doesn’t show. If a writer omits something because he does not know it then there is a hole in the story. 

[…]

First I have tried to eliminate everything unnecessary to conveying experience to the reader so that after he or she has read something it will become a part of his or her experience and seem actually to have happened. This is very hard to do and I’ve worked at it very hard.

Anyway, to skip how it is done, I had unbelievable luck this time and could convey the experience completely and have it be one that no one had ever conveyed. The luck was that I had a good man and a good boy and lately writers have forgotten there still are such things. Then the ocean is worth writing about just as man is. So I was lucky there. I’ve seen the marlin mate and know about that. So I leave that out. I’ve seen a school (or pod) of more than fifty sperm whales in that same stretch of water and once harpooned one nearly sixty feet in length and lost him. So I left that out. All the stories I know from the fishing village I leave out. But the knowledge is what makes the underwater part of the iceberg.

*

Source: Ernest Hemingway, The Art of Fiction No. 21. The Paris Review, Spring 1958

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