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Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Life Hack 23: Freedom

In ways that are very mysterious, certain behaviors appear to be constrained rather than freely chosen.    The obsessive compulsive or the addict do not appear to be choosing their actions, any more, but acting on the basis of compulsion, even though the compulsion is coming from the self.

Habits that line up with important life goals, though, appear to be freely chosen. So if I know I must do something to achieve my goal, I will be acting freely.

The best way to eliminate bad behaviors is to simply eliminate the time in which they occur by doing something better in that time. You will experience a sense of freedom, even if you schedule your time quite rigidly, because you will have chosen things that line up with what you really think of as meaningful to you.

You cannot change your behavior by first waiting for your cognition to be in the perfect state. Instead,                  I suggest first changing the behavior, and letting your brain figure out the benefits later. The mind might very well be the weak link, here.  Bad behavior sends a signal to the mind to have bad thoughts.  With my two good friends who are zen masters (although I haven't spoken to them much about zen it comes up a bit in conversation in various ways), I have noticed that they emphasize the practice. That word comes up both as noun and verb.

Monday, January 23, 2017

the realm of the sudden

Is that within the realm of the sudden?

Life Hack 22: The Partner

The life hacks are for you, not to be better for your partner.  Yet...

If your partner loves you, she gains in a few ways from your improvements.

1) She gets a better you.  You are a more attractive person to her, because you have more going on in the positive dimension.

2) If she cares about you, she wants you to thrive.  She should be happy for you.

3) You are setting a good example.  You are a close-up model of what it's like to be living a good life.

Of course, if your partner is already doing the right things, then she will be a model for you as well.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Life Hack 21: Spiritual Practices

This terminology might be off-putting to you.  I suggest that you find another term that is your own, or that produces the effect that you desire.

What I am suggesting here is that certain things can be spiritual practices. By this I mean that they are non-trivial things that you are pursuing in a mindful way.  It could be listening to music, or having sex, or reading poetry, or meditating.  Don't be pretentious about it or anything. The point is not to make yourself seem superior to anyone else, but to bring things into proper focus. If you want to see something as a hobby, that is fine too.

If I view reading poetry as a spiritual practice, then when I write about it my writing will reflect this. The way I approach it will be different, and I will no longer care about certain things, like people who don't like the same poets I do. I won't have to force others to agree with me, or enforce arbitrary institutional frameworks. So if I am teaching poetry, I will be aware that what I'm teaching is only a little sliver of what poetry is, because I cannot even emphasize the reading of poetry as a spiritual exercise. That will make me less frustrated.

Saturday, January 21, 2017


1. I don't have everything figured out. I just know certain things are working for me. I am the last person you want to take life advice from, because I barely know how to live life. I am trying to figure it out as I re-program my entire life. If something resonates with you, fine, but this is mostly about my own situation.  

2. Mileage will vary. The point at which you start will be different from mine.

Physical Sciences: Arte poético

Vallejo used prose as a verb--"I prose these verses" (Coolidge too)

Translators won't follow him that far --cowardice or lack of wit?

All sciences are "physical"--I think--that is the mistake

All instances of narcissism are denunciations of it

Or is it all denunciations of it come from that same mind trap?

In a good mood as I pen murky thoughts

What I thought of as badness in poetry was actually freedom

To move around a bit as in a large, chilly, uncluttered house

Large enough for me, anyway

Life Hack 20: Against forced cheerfulness

"Cheer up" is not helpful advice. You cannot force it. Happy moments are not the result of someone deciding to cheer up, but of a happy confluence of circumstances.  Too much attention to ones mental states probably is not good either. You might notice that you are happy at a particular time, and usually it is because you are absorbed in doing something, not because you've looked inside, found yourself depressed, and decided to cheer up.

Positive psychology is fine, I guess, as an antidote to the idea that psychology should occupy itself with times human psychology goes wrong. Still, I prefer a more neutral approach, in which emotional states are not the main issue in the first place. What you should be concerned with most is whether you are doing what you are supposed to be doing in life,  not your moment-to-moment degree of contentedness.

Philip Lopate wrote an essay "Against Joie de Vivre."  To have a satisfying life you don't have to have joie de vivre in some exaggerated sense, making sure that everyone knows how much you are enjoying life.

It is often a good idea, though, to act half-way cheerful around people you meet in supermarket, etc... Not in an exaggerated way, but just to spread a little less dreariness around. If someone responds to your cheerfulness with a smile, then that will make you feel a bit better as well.