Two Religions

“There are two religions in the world the religion of being right and the religion of being in love, and you can’t be a member of both at the same time.”

—Garrett Bucks quoting his pastor in an interview with Anne Helen Petersen, “when you realize you’re on the wrong side.” Substack. October 22, 2020.

Advice across religions:

(1) You should make it clear where you stand from the jump, but they need to know that your goal isn’t to “win” a single conversation, but to keep them coming back to the table with you

(2) The point isn’t to hear why or how the other person justifies their beliefs, but to get an understanding of what fears/wants/desires/needs are behind those beliefs and

(3) Offer them alternate baby steps “out” of their current belief system that are still rooted in fulfilling or satisfying those same needs.

ibid.

Stereotype Content Model: Warmth & Competence

“Fiske…had been developing a theory of dehumanization called the Stereotype Content Model, in which there are two criteria by which we measure people we meet: warmth and competence. “What do you need to know about people who are unfamiliar to you?” she says. “First you need to know their intentions — good or ill. If their intentions are benign, you trust them more. If they’re malignant, you don’t. Then you need to know whether they can act on their intentions. Because if they can’t act on their intentions, they don’t really matter to you. That’s competence.”

These two measures form a square with four quadrants into which we sort the people we meet. Those we consider to be like us are both warm and competent. People we envy are those we see as competent but not warm (think Wall Street bankers). We see people we pity or sympathize with as warm but not competent (disabled or elderly people). And people who are neither competent nor warm we see as something else entirely.”

-Frank Bures, “Are Cyclists Human?FrankBures.com. October 13, 2020

I’ve always been one to focus on competence. It occurs to me that not focusing on warmth can lead to other emotions beyond envy, such as being perceived as arrogant.

Importing Excellence

“If you want to know what it is that your own country produces that is genuinely excellent, look for what the most obsessively discerning residents of London and Tokyo choose to import. Look for the choices of the otaku, the fanatic of pure information.”

—William Gibson in the introduction to Paul Smith, “You Can Find Inspiration in Everything.” London: Violette Editions, 2002.

Not So Simple: Notes from a Tech-Free Life by Mark Boyle

“I intended to begin a new life without modern technology. There would be no running water, no fossil fuels, no clock, no electricity or any of the things it powers: no washing machine, internet, phone, radio, or light bulb…

…What are we prepared to lose, and what do we want to gain, as we fumble our way through our short, precious lives?”

—Mark Boyle, “Not So Simple.” Plough. July 4, 2019.

Conversations on Political Economy

Capitalist: Capitalism provides for the most efficient allocation of resources, wealth creation and individual choice. It’s the best economic system we’ve got.

State Socialist: There are other values than efficiency, prosperity and choice. Capitalism tends toward oligarchy and monopoly. As industries concentrate and gain economies of scale, wealth creation is concentrated for the benefit of society’s elite, and non-elite individual choice declines, and over a long enough time period, with limited or no competition, resources are not allocated efficiently. State socialism solves these problems.

Capitalist: State socialism is inefficient. There are few incentives and options to create wealth, and it limits individual choice. State socialism tends toward dictatorships and state monopolies. When the state takes over an industry, it benefits elite government officials rather than society as a whole. Bureaucracy and corruption lead to a squandering of resources, and kills individual initiative.

Small Socialist: Small socialist enterprises — such as employee ownership, cooperatives, and collective ownership — solve both the problems of Capitalism and State Socialism at the cost of economies of scale. Decision-making is distributed across the industry or enterprise. Employees and/or customers are also owners and have incentives aligned with the business. What’s not to like?

Capitalist: Without economies of scale, small socialists remain small. Some industries cannot exist without economies of scale. In others, it is impossible to compete with capitalist or state enterprises without them. Small socialists will stay small, with all the poverty that entails. Capitalism solves this problem.

State Socialist: Small socialists also have the problem of capitalists, except it concentrates power into decision-makers hands. They, in-turn, have incentives to collude to extract benefits for themselves or for their industry at the expense of the enterprise or society as a whole. Good stewards and state ownership solves this problem.

[Continue, ad infinitum and adding in small capitalist, communist, anarchist, fascist, etc.]

Discussions of political economy are ultimately discussions of what you value and which system you believe is most likely to give it to you. See also: Revolution for One.

The Rule of Awkward Silence

“[T]he rule of awkward silence is simple: When faced with a challenging question, instead of answering, you pause and think deeply about how you want to answer. This is no short pause; rather, it involves taking several seconds (10, 20, or longer) to think things through before responding.

If you’re on the receiving end–and not used to this type of communication style–it can seem very awkward.”

—Justin Bariso, “Intelligent Minds Like Tim Cook and Jeff Bezos Embrace the Rule of Awkward Silence. You Should Too.” Inc. September 9, 2020.

Oliver Burkeman’s Last Column: The Eight Secrets to a (Fairly) Fulfilled Life

  • There will always be too much to do – and this realisation is liberating.
  • When stumped by a life choice, choose “enlargement” over happiness.
  • The capacity to tolerate minor discomfort is a superpower. 
  • The advice you don’t want to hear is usually the advice you need.
  • The future will never provide the reassurance you seek from it.
  • The solution to imposter syndrome is to see that you are one.
  • Selflessness is overrated.
  • Know when to move on.

“If you’re prone to thinking you should be helping more, that’s probably a sign that you could afford to direct more energy to your idiosyncratic ambitions and enthusiasms. As the Buddhist teacher Susan Piver observes, it’s radical, at least for some of us, to ask how we’d enjoy spending an hour or day of discretionary time. And the irony is that you don’t actually serve anyone else by suppressing your true passions anyway. More often than not, by doing your thing – as opposed to what you think you ought to be doing – you kindle a fire that helps keep the rest of us warm.”

-Oliver Burkeman, “Oliver Burkeman’s last column: the eight secrets to a (fairly) fulfilled life.” The Guardian. September 4, 2020.

Mary’s Room

“The questions raised by ‘Mary’s Room’ – including whether anything about experience transcends physical facts – remain some of the most perennial and unsettled in philosophy, even if Jackson himself actually reversed his position, concluding that the experience of colour vision does indeed correspond to a brain state, albeit one we don’t yet fully understand.”

—TED-Ed, “Mary’s Room.” Aeon. September 3, 2020.

The Last Acceptable Prejudice

“We should focus less on arming people for a meritocratic race and more on making life better for those who lack a diploma but who make important contributions to our society — through the work they do, the families they raise and the communities they serve. This requires renewing the dignity of work and putting it at the center of our politics.

It also requires reconsidering the meaning of success and questioning our meritocratic hubris: Is it my doing that I have the talents that society happens to prize — or is it my good luck?

—Michael J. Sandel, “Disdain for the less educated is the last acceptable prejudice.” The New York Times. September 2, 2020.