9 Thoughts Worthy of Immortality

Halls of immortality

The smallest bookstore still contains more ideas of worth than have been presented in the entire history of television. ~Andrew Ross

I am indeed prone to hyperbole, but I’ll go ahead and say it: the advent of writing is by far the greatest tipping point in all of civilization.  Often I think about the instant in which it happened, that very first moment when a primitive person scored a few strokes on a rock face, in order to demonstrate some idea, however simple, to another cave-dweller.

It floors me that there was a specific point in time (maybe at seventeen minutes after sunrise on the 25th day of the year 42,128 B.C.) when a few people convened to attempt to relate something to each other with markings on a wall.  They could never have imagined the epic, world-changing sequence of events triggered by this tiny, innocuous act, but I suspect that each of those individuals left that little gathering with an as-yet-unprecedented sense of understanding and closeness to their peers.

That first instance of symbol-scrawling unlocked an incalculably powerful ability in humans.  Suddenly, knowledge was no longer confined to an individual’s memory.  It could be transferred, replicated, stored and accumulated.  It could be displayed in a public area, for an entire community to see and absorb into their own personal knowledge.  Each individual could now contribute their own exclusive insights and experiences to a collective, whereby everyone could gain from them.

Whatever happened that day exactly, it marked the point in time when knowledge became bigger than any one person.  Finally we could accumulate information and insight outside of our addled, vulnerable brains.  Writing made thought permanent, immortal.

This must have unleashed a ferocious tidal wave of advancement.  The best methods for hunting, gathering, farming, interacting, crafting, and living could have become apparent to everyone very quickly, and the less efficient methods could be abandoned.  This proliferation of permanent thought sparked exponential growth in individual and collective human knowledge.

The written word allows us instant access to the thoughts of greatest minds in history.  I can go to the library, and within minutes be experiencing Thoreau’s 150-years-dead contemplations about mindfulness.  I can cross the aisle and absorb a first hand account of the Normandy Invasion, or slip into the adjacent aisle and, by suppertime, know what the world’s leading CEOs do to keep organized.

The information age has applied yet another multiplication bracket to the already exponential growth of human knowledge.  Among countless other incredible feats, our beloved internet has effected three very significant changes in the writing world:

  1. The written word can now travel from person to person across any distance, at the speed of light
  2. Virtually anyone can now publish whatever they like
  3. Virtually anyone can now find something great to read any time they like

Getting your work read is no longer exclusive to a well-connected and well-established few.  You don’t need to get a publisher to get behind you.  You don’t need to be profitable.  You can do it all yourself.  Immortality is now free.

The past five or so years have brought on a new explosion of neatly packaged and readily transferred ideas in the medium of blog posts.  Technorati is currently tracking over 112 million blogs, which realistically only represents a fraction of the total blogosphere around the world.  I’ll be blunt and say most of them are certainly terrible, but if even ten percent are readable, and ten percent of those readable blogs are good blogs and ten percent of those good blogs’ posts are great posts, that means there are already hundreds of millions of great blog posts at your fingertips right now, with a few million more dumped onto the pile every week.

Deep in the vast, mostly forgotten (yet immediately accessible) archives of the blogosphere lie billions of touching, hilarious and brilliant thoughts that humankind has been stockpiling for years.  Here are nine that moved me, with excerpts.  Bookmark this if you don’t have a lot of time right now.

The Genie — by Angus from Belief Systems & Other BS

Angus presents a heartbreaking lesson about human nature, in a brief and colorful fable.  Chances are good it applies to you too.

Lost in his thoughts, he kicked at some debris on the beach. One object—an old metal teapot?—rolled for several feet and then came to a stop perched upright on its base. A luminous purple gas hissed out of the spout.

You Are Self-Employed — by Steve from Stevepavlina.com

In an uncharacteristically-short 744-word post, Steve completely and permanently flipped my mentality towards working life upside-down.

The only true boss of your work is you.  Any external boss is just a customer of your personal services business.  Maybe you’ll do a great deal of business with a single customer, but you’re always free to fire a customer you don’t like. Saying “I quit” to your boss is essentially the same as saying to a customer, “I’m sorry, but apparently our business is unable to serve you.

Don’t Wait Their Little Lives Away — by Sherri from Serene Journey

An urgent must-read for anyone with small children; and for the rest of us, an important reminder to live now instead of always “making other plans.”

When they take their first steps we can’t wait for them to run, start to speak and then read. Before you know it they are doing all this stuff and at some point you think “wow when did this all happen?” and begin wishing you had it all back again.

The Internet and the Love Revolution — by Michael from Love to Spare

I am a firm believer that the internet is going to bring humanity closer together than was ever thought possible only a few years ago.  Michael has a gentle finger on humanity’s pulse.

There’s an important message here: Despite our desire for self gain, our right to privacy, our intolerance, our mistrust and the safe distance we try to maintain from each other, we have a fundamental need to share. We have a thirst to reach out and connect with others, to communicate, to contribute and collaborate as a part of something larger than ourselves. Isn’t that what Web 2.0 is all about?

How to be Awesome — by Chris from The Art of Nonconformity

World traveler and extremely nice guy Chris Guillebeau presents blunt and straightforward instructions on how to be awesome in a world where so few seem to want to be.

In any given work environment, almost everyone is focused on one goal: to make themselves look good. If you can change things around and focus on making other people look good, you’re well on the way to being awesome. In some environments (certainly academia), this is exceedingly rare behavior.

The “Hey, you’re my long-lost pal from camp!” Technique — by Gretchen from The Happiness Project

A surprisingly simple, surefire way to feel better and make more friends, for free, courtesy of the Queen of Happy, Gretchen Rubin.

When I was in sixth grade, my classroom had a poster that said, “If you want to make a friend, be a friend.” I guess that just because a piece of advice can be found on a Snoopy poster doesn’t mean that it’s not worth trying.

Young, Confused Iris — by Lisis from Quest for Balance

Pondering a resilient iris plant, an insightful Lisis recognizes a virtue shared by all plants and few people: patience with oneself.

Does she envy the weeds that still wear occasional flowers? Does she grow impatient with herself because somewhere, deep down, she kind of knows that she is more than we see, but no matter what she tries, she can’t show the world just yet? Does she realize there are too many variables that she cannot control?

Ten Simple Things We All Should Say More Often — by Ali from Dumb Little Man

So adorably simple.  I think a habit of saying number 7 alone could change anyone’s life for the better.

“I don’t think we’ve met.  I’m [name].”

What’s Wrong With the World? Not a Damn Thing — by Leo from ZenHabits

Initially I didn’t particularly like ZenHabits because it was too “listy” and “tippy.”  This post revealed the depth of Leo’s wisdom to me.  Finally, a sane view of the world at large.  One of the best posts I’ve ever read.

It struck me recently that a lot of people think they know what’s wrong with this world, and it also struck me that they’re all wrong…

These nine little posts represent only a tiny speck of the growing electronic ‘brain’ we call the blogosphere.  I feel so lucky to have a few of my own little drops in this gigantic bucket.  Please share this post with others (click the green icon below), and let me know your own discoveries.  The landscape of permanent human thought is growing faster than we can explore it, so let’s help each other out.

Think on, brothers and sisters.  And write it down.

Photo by eflon

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Angus April 13, 2009 at 10:28 pm

Wow, I’m touched David. Thank you so much.

cheers,
Angus

Evelyn Lim April 13, 2009 at 11:08 pm

You write beautifully. You’ve got a touch of rawness and share with authenticity. I’ve also been pretty amazed how blogging has changed my life so far. I’m connecting with friends or people whom I have never met halfway across the world. It’s been a great journey!

David April 14, 2009 at 8:35 am

@ Roger — Thank you for your exotic response (still trying to wrap my head around it) and welcome to Raptitude.

@ Evelyn — Thank you, Evelyn. That means a lot to me. I keep mentioning this, but I’m so glad to be a part of the blogging world; it’s so easy to connect with other people.

@ Angus — I had a lot to choose from.

Lisis | Quest For Balance April 14, 2009 at 8:54 am

David, thank you for the mention, and particularly for mentioning THAT post. I love that little Iris post!

As I was reading, I got a little sad realizing the flipside of the wonders of the written word: we don’t talk to eachother as much anymore. I recently saw the movie, Australia, in which they talk about the aborigines keeping all of their stores of knowledge in songs… songs they share and teach eachother. We, today, barely exchange a spoken word. That makes me a little sad… like some fellowship was lost along the way.

So, to Roger, who wrote a deeply touching response, maybe that counts as a little criticism? Also, your verse about a child sweeping the walk breaks my heart.

Are you two trying to make me cry today? ;-)

Jay Schryer April 14, 2009 at 9:35 am

Wow. This is some seriously deep, and interesting stuff. I envy you as a writer. I wish I had the talent to paint words as brilliantly as you do. I’m definitely going to bookmark this so I can come back and soak it up again and again and again…

Nadia - Happy Lotus April 14, 2009 at 9:35 am

Hi David,

Isn’t it amazing that even with all of this technology it still boils down to the power of the written word? One of the great things about the Internet is that people all over the world can connect and learn from one another. I have made friends from all over and it is so nice to see what I have always believed…we are more alike than different and we are all in search of the same things! :)

Positively Present April 14, 2009 at 10:29 am

Wow. As a writer, I found this post particularly moving. I love writing more than pretty much anything and I couldn’t imagine life without it. Thanks for posting this — it really made me think about the importance and value of writing. I recently finished reading The Handmaid’s Tale, a book about a future society in which women were no longer allowed to read or write. I couldn’t stop thinking about how terrible that would be and this post just reinforces how important the written word is.

David April 14, 2009 at 11:32 am

@ Positively Present — I really have to check out The Handmaid’s Tale; I’ve heard too many recommendations to ignore. Somehow I never knew what it was about, sounds fascinating.

@ Nadia — Yes, it is amazing. Language is amazing because it provides common ground so readily. Imagine a world with no words. I love words.

@ Jay — You’re too kind, Jay. I sometimes get down on myself for my maddening inability to find the write word when I’ve got an idea that needs out badly. So I feel like I compromise sometimes, and choose the almost right words. BTW, thanks to my mom for pointing out two typos before too many people read this.

@ Lisis — I think you’re right, social media has kind of steered our habits away from face-to-face interaction, and in particular, letter writing has become a lost art. My penmanship has atrophied, not that it was ever any good. I guess it all boils down to how important those things are to us. I greatly enjoy ‘face time’ with my friends and family, more than ever, in fact. It’s refreshing after having sat in front of a screen for so long.

Andrew Gubb April 14, 2009 at 12:00 pm

Nice article! I love your passion – it seems to me that is the value you provide here is fire to kick the brain into gear. I definitely can do with that, being a “cool” person myself right now.

Writing is a freaky thing. I sometimes feel like books have a consciousness of their own. My copy of Johnathan Livingstone Seagull, for instance, was a traveller – it had been passed from hand to hand for apparently years before it got to me, by the look of the dedication. Then someone took it when I was staying at the University of Barcelona, and it’s started travelling again.

Andrew Gubb April 14, 2009 at 12:01 pm

PS: I thought it was just the summary so now I see the recommendations. Yup, a bookmark. :)

David April 14, 2009 at 12:30 pm

I love the idea of traveling books. There is a great website called BookCrossing that encourages you to leave books in public places, then note it and track it online, so each person who reads it can share their opinion of it. Great idea.

Sherri (Serene Journey) April 14, 2009 at 12:59 pm

Hi David,
You write so beautifully. Technology has indeed had a massive effect on the writing world and accessibility to information and people thousands of miles away.
Thanks so much for including my article in such an elite list. Such a lovely article!

Tom Maurer | Simple and Spiritual April 14, 2009 at 3:20 pm

I didn’t have time to read all of them just now but i read Steve and Leo’s posts. I have read extensively through the archives at both Zen Habits and Steve Pavlina but these are two articles that I must have somehow missed.

Thanks for bringing them to my attention David, they were great.

Roger - A Content Life April 14, 2009 at 4:53 pm

David,

Nice post! Technology, including writing and printing, has changed the world in interesting ways.

I sometimes think about the law of unintended consequences. Before there was writing, people transmitted information orally. They must have had phenomenal memories to memorize the equivalent of entire books.

Thanks for the other great links!

David April 14, 2009 at 5:47 pm

@ Roger — Your comment made me realize something sad. The technologies that make it easy to absorb and transfer information are probably one of the reasons why older people don’t get the same level of respect they used to get. Elders used to be the go-to source of wisdom and knowledge, now it is just not like that, in my culture anyway.

@ Tom — They both have huge archives, and I haven’t been through them all.

@ Sherri — Thank you, Sherri. It was a great post.

Michael April 14, 2009 at 7:45 pm

David, there are certain pleasures that demand us to slow down and enjoy them. Your blog is one of them. Even though I am typically barreling down the highway of life, every time I visit Raptitude, I’m forced to pull over and step outside my box so that I can try to take it all in.

I always intend to come back and revisit a post, but every time I come here, you’ve added something new and wonderful to explore. It’s overwhelming really. I actually find myself avoiding your blog until the right time – when I can safely get away.

There are posts here on Raptitude that I haven’t even read yet (and I don’t want to read yet) for fear that I will feel compelled to take the rest of the day off to soak up their full goodness. As it is, you’ve linked to 8 other jewels in this post alone that I now REALLY want to read. (Oh, and btw, thanks for linking to my post. It’s great to know that you got something of value out of it.)

Anyway, David, your deep and moving posts are stressing me out – because there’s more and more that I want to read and reflect upon. Could you stop it please! Just take a break so that I can enjoy it all. ;-)

David April 14, 2009 at 9:39 pm

Wow, that is a serious compliment Michael, thank you.

I can’t stop writing, I’m outta control!!

Chris Edgar | Purpose Power Coaching April 15, 2009 at 1:06 pm

Thanks for this post — something that often gets lost in all these electronic applications and social media we use to communicate with each other, I think, is that what we’re doing is still about people and connecting with other human beings, and this is a useful reminder of that.

Ian | Quantum Learning April 15, 2009 at 2:28 pm

Thanks for these! I especially loved the Genie. Inspired!

David April 15, 2009 at 2:47 pm

@ Ian — Angus is quite a good writer, take a look at his archives. http://www.otherbs.com

@ Chris — Right on Chris, it’s a weird paradox. Technology seems to make things more inhuman and impersonal, but at the same time it facilitates more connections with a wider variety of people. I guess it all comes down to how we choose to use technology.

Brandon April 18, 2009 at 6:33 pm

I really enjoyed some of these. I think my favorite was “How to be Awesome.”

Thanks for the list.

Ian April 17, 2013 at 9:08 pm

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