Things I’m Working On

How often can we start over again? Two times? Five times?  Fifty? I don’t know if there’s a definitive number.

Being able to begin anew is a skill we’re all going to have to cultivate. It’s not natural and works against the instincts and the cultural prescriptions that most of us have imbibed. Those messages framing our personal stories began in school and probably before; often, they are working against our own best interests.

Change brings dissonance and discomfort, but change and uncertainty is what is required if you have any hope of moving in the direction of reinvention. I know this firsthand and I’ve actually been reminded of this all over again the past few weeks. Sometimes we need reminders.

Here are some lessons I’ve been learning the past few weeks:

  1. When it’s 4th and 25, you have to punt.
  2. If you punt well, you can improve your field position for your next possession.

I actually hate these metaphors because football is my least favorite sport. I think they work ok. I can’t come up with better ones at 5:00 am.

Here are a few additional thoughts:

  • People matter, especially that small circle of people that have our backs and have been with us for years, not days or months.
  • Others outside that circle or “tribe” may not be a priority for me.
  • Alternative narratives are where to look for the real story.

I’ve been pondering the idea of community for the past few weeks and exchanging emails with select family and friends. This past week, I spent time in two very local settings with real human beings, not the two-dimensional variety from the Facebook.

Thinking about this is actually quite interesting; since computer screens are two-dimensional, all our photographs of three-dimensional people, places and things are represented in two dimensions by projecting the objects onto a flat surface (the computer screen or monitor). When this is done, depth is removed and replaced with indirect information. Thinking about social media this way, it is second-rate and shallow, compared to face-to-face and in-person interaction.

I think I’m focused on community because seeing the world through this lens puts me back in touch with local matters, where change can still happen.

As systems continue unwinding, and they most certainly are, the last remaining hope in my opinion are the people and places closest to you; this is most often geographic, but it doesn’t always have to be.

Narratives matter. The stories that we tell ourselves lend definition to our lives. We follow those stories around and it’s hard to change our lives without changing our story.

Because I filter my ideas through economic models, and focus on things like education, as well as ways to organize around change, I have been thinking in terms of the 20 mile radius around where I live. I can expand it out slightly because there are some economies of scale and the need for population density that my smaller community doesn’t offer.

I’ll have more to say and write about this.

3 thoughts on “Things I’m Working On

  1. The two dimensional screen has become the de facto authority figure in American life. If I see it on “the screen” it must be true, no?


    This is still the best essay I’ve ever read about the topic of books, technology, etc.:

    Driving a tractor requires both hands on the wheel. No texting allowed, at least on the type of tractor I’ll be driving around my twenty mile radius.

  2. The punting metaphor works, run with it. Or is that mixing metaphors? It’s certainly a bad idea to run the ball on 4th and 25.

    Nicole Foss and Dmitri Orlov both write about trust horizons and how quickly they shrink once credit (which includes cash), the current medium of trust, disappears. The hard, hard experience of places like Buenos Aires and Sarajevo, modern cities that descended right through the SHTF and deeper with frightening speed, is that community shrinks to village-sized towns, or single urban blocks or small neighborhoods. The experience of New Orleans and South Carolina following hurricanes, and Sarajevo at its worst, was that trust shrinks to family. Harsher still, there are things it is better that some family members don’t know about, the better to protect the rest.

    For all the griping about “urban” life, there is a reason humans choose to live in close proximity. Sadly, in the English-speaking world that has somehow been turned into a source of alienation rather than a source of commonality and security. Get to work.

  3. @LP I continue to be intrigued by what writers like Orlov and Nicole Foss posit about trust and how it shrinks when the SHTF. I’m not dismissing their claims at all, and maybe it’s really only maintained by smaller circles of people, people we happen to have a connection with, btw.

    I concur that we have a great of work to do and not a lot of time to do it, in.

    @JAB Thanks for sharing the The New Atlantis link. Reading via screens and devices changes how we read, or at least people like Nicholas Carr think so. His article in The Atlantic,, “Is Google Making Us Stupid?” caused a shitstorm of protest, because of course, anytime you question the technology gods and their attendant line that technology makes everything better, you’ll get shouted down.

    I’m a reader, will continue to be one, and by reading, I mean physical books; I have a NOOK, it’s nice, I read a handful of books on it, but my preference is always to be holding a physical book.

    Time will tell, but I don’t think our extensive amount of screen time is making us any smarter.

    Interestingly, the latest issue of independent, the monthly publication of the Independent Book Publishers Association (IBPA), an organization I’m a proud member of, has an article offering an alternative to the usual doom-and-gloom narrative that bookstores are a thing of the past. In fact, organizations like the American Booksellers Association, which represents independent bookstores in the U.S., has seen an increase in membership, after a long period of decline. People are still buying books.

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