The 36 Questions That Lead to Love

“If you could wake up tomorrow having gained any one quality or ability, what would it be? … [Buddhist Enlightenment and the corresponding freedom from suffering, obviously]

What is the greatest accomplishment of your life? … [Not being preoccupied with accomplishments.]

When did you last cry in front of another person? By yourself? … [Any given month, probably during a movie.]

-Daniel Jones, “The 36 Questions That Lead to Love.” The New York Times. January 9, 2015.

In 3 sets of 12, designed to become increasingly intimate. Reading through, it also occurs to me that there are implied values in these questions. For instance, how many people think in terms of superlatives, e.g., perfect days, most grateful, truth about yourself, greatest accomplishment, most treasured, most terrible, etc. The latter questions also have a focus on finality and resolution. What does it mean to find someone’s death disturbing?

But, on the other hand, the questions reveal what is core in relationships, that is, vulnerability, regard for the other person and some sense of shared experience and purpose. A useful exercise to go through with the people close to you.

Highlights of Kevin Kelly’s Unsolicited Advice

“* Being able to listen well is a superpower. While listening to someone you love keep asking them “Is there more?”, until there is no more…

* The more you are interested in others, the more interesting they find you. To be interesting, be interested…

* To make something good, just do it. To make something great, just re-do it, re-do it, re-do it. The secret to making fine things is in remaking them…

* To make mistakes is human. To own your mistakes is divine. Nothing elevates a person higher than quickly admitting and taking personal responsibility for the mistakes you make and then fixing them fairly. If you mess up, fess up. It’s astounding how powerful this ownership is…

* If you are not falling down occasionally, you are just coasting…

* Friends are better than money. Almost anything money can do, friends can do better. In so many ways a friend with a boat is better than owning a boat…

* Hatred is a curse that does not affect the hated. It only poisons the hater. Release a grudge as if it was a poison…

* For every dollar you spend purchasing something substantial, expect to pay a dollar in repairs, maintenance, or disposal by the end of its life…

* Anything real begins with the fiction of what could be. Imagination is therefore the most potent force in the universe, and a skill you can get better at. It’s the one skill in life that benefits from ignoring what everyone else knows…

* When crisis and disaster strike, don’t waste them. No problems, no progress…

* When you get an invitation to do something in the future, ask yourself: would you accept this if it was scheduled for tomorrow? Not too many promises will pass that immediacy filter…

* Rule of 7 in research. You can find out anything if you are willing to go seven levels. If the first source you ask doesn’t know, ask them who you should ask next, and so on down the line. If you are willing to go to the 7th source, you’ll almost always get your answer…

* How to apologize: Quickly, specifically, sincerely.

* When someone is nasty, rude, hateful, or mean with you, pretend they have a disease. That makes it easier to have empathy toward them which can soften the conflict…

* Buying tools: Start by buying the absolute cheapest tools you can find. Upgrade the ones you use a lot. If you wind up using some tool for a job, buy the very best you can afford…

* The universe is conspiring behind your back to make you a success. This will be much easier to do if you embrace this pronoia.”

-Kevin Kelly, “68 Bits of of Unsolicited Advice.The Technium. April 28, 2020.

How to Make Friends as an Adult

“1) Don’t be chill when it comes to making friends. Tell people you like or respect or value that they’re great and you want to hang out with them. If they signal that they’re not interested, that’s fine — but don’t miss the opportunity to get to know someone wonderful just because you don’t want to appear overly eager.

2) Be personal. Talk about your real problems, and ask people about theirs. Invite someone into your home instead of going to a bar or coffee shop. Give thoughtful gifts. A big part of friendship is understanding someone for who they are and having them understand you for who you are, and that’s not possible without some degree of vulnerability.

3) Get comfortable saying no to people you don’t want to prioritize. That sounds harsh, but in the end, it will save your time and effort and theirs. It’s not a kindness to “perform” friendship without genuine support and commitment, and both of you have limited time to spend. Instead of saying you’ll grab lunch and then canceling yet again, you can just part ways and make friends who are better suited to each of you.

4) Remember to reciprocate. If your friend is always the initiator, invite them to do something with you. If you do have to cancel on someone — sometimes circumstances happen — you should be the one to make a plan for the future. And then make sure that it happens.

5) Show up for people who matter to you. Sometimes that means your physical presence; sometimes that just means your emotional support. There will always be reasons to not be there, but if you keep choosing other commitments over a friendship, that’s a signal to that person. Friendships aren’t static. They require work from both people.

—Jackie Luo. “If you’re wondering why you’ve lost friends in adulthood, this is probably why.” Vox. August 16, 2018.

Are My Friends Really My Friends? – The New York Times

“‘Your available social time is limited, and you can either spend it face to face or on the internet,” Dr. Dunbar said. If it’s spent with people who are ‘remote,’ whether geographically or just because they’re represented digitally, ‘you don’t have time to invest in new relationships where you are.’

People from our past that we no longer directly communicate with but who are active on social networks can ‘colonize valuable space in your mind, and you think about them instead of about your close friends,’ said Carlin Flora, the author of ‘Friendfluence: The Surprising Ways Friends Make Us Who We Are.'”

—Teddy Wayne, “Are My Friends Really My Friends?The New York Times. May 12, 2018.

Reminds me of 10 Types of Odd Friendships You’re a Probably Part Of, which suggests that social media isn’t the origin but rather amplifies an existing issue and adds complexity to it. Cardboard bridges don’t carry heavy loads.

The Theory of Visitors

“She leaned in. ‘Do you believe in the theory of visitors?’ She said this conspiratorially, as if she was sharing with me a secret.

‘What’s that?’ I asked.

‘All relationships are transient,’ she said. ‘Friends who stab you in the back. People you network with at a fancy party. Relatives who die. The love of your life. Everything is temporary. People come into your life for a limited amount of time, and then they go away. So you welcome their arrival, and you surrender to their departure. Because they are all visitors. And when the visitors go home, they might take something from you. Something that you can’t ever get back. And that part sucks. But visitors always leave souvenirs. And you get to keep those forever.'”

—Sam Lansky, “The Theory of Visitors.” Medium.com. November 10, 2017.

Enjoyed the whole essay. It invites us to consider that the theory of visitors and the looking for the next swipe right encounter might be preventing us from interacting more deeply with people. Engaging with the projected personas that are reflected in the digital medium that can only be maintained at short intervals or at a distance, we make quick judgments about complicated, multi-faceted human beings. Perhaps everyone is a visitor, but the key point may be that relationships (at least some of them) are worth investing time in, irrespective of their duration.