March 2010

blocks

Picture a big steel box. Strewn about the box are some child’s blocks, the kind with letters on the sides. We place a rat in the box, to do as it pleases. It has enough food and water to live out a normal rat lifespan.

Then we let nature takes its course. Suspend any ethical reservations you have about putting a rat in a box like that — assume it is perfectly happy with this scenario, and even signed a release form.

The rat will live its whole life in that box, eating, exploring, poking at the blocks, maybe knocking some of them over and pushing them around. Eventually it will die of old age. Its corpse withers away or is removed by the night janitor.

Once the rat is dead and gone, we again have an empty box with blocks in it, same as at the start. It’s almost as if the rat’s life never happened — except there is one difference between the start of the experiment and the end: some of the blocks inside will now be in a different place.

The force that moved them was life itself. This new arrangement of the blocks — however random, pointless, meaningful or beautiful it ends up being — is the net effect of this rat’s life. The new landscape it left is the lasting impact it had on its world. It is evidence that says, “Ratty was here.” Read More



nietzsche

If there’s one thing Friedrich Nietzsche did well, it’s obliterate feel-good beliefs people have about themselves. He has been criticized for being a misanthrope, a subvert, a cynic and a pessimist, but I think these assessments are off the mark. I believe he only wanted human beings to be more honest with themselves.

He did have a remarkable gift for aphorism — he once declared, “It is my ambition to say in ten sentences what others say in a whole book.” A hundred years after his death, Nietzsche retains his disturbing talent for turning a person’s worldview upside-down with one jarring remark.

Even today his words remain controversial. They hit nerves. Most of his views are completely at odds with the status quo.

Here are 40 unsympathetic statements from the man himself. Many you’ll agree with. Others you will resist, but these are the ones to pay the most attention to — your beliefs are being challenged. It’s either an opportunity to grow, or to insist that you already know better. If any of them hit a nerve in you, ask yourself why.

***

1. People who have given us their complete confidence believe that they have a right to ours. The inference is false, a gift confers no rights.

2. He that humbleth himself wishes to be exalted.

3. The surest way to corrupt a youth is to instruct him to hold in higher esteem those who think alike than those who think differently.

4. There are no facts, only interpretations. Read More



red door

When you sit back and reminisce about your life, it’s almost a given that the most enjoyable and memorable moments are the ones in which you were completely present. Do you look back with fondness all the times you spent thinking about work while you drove home, or pondered dinner while you wheeled down the frozen aisle?

Unfortunately most of life passes that way for most of us. We’re in one place doing one thing, thinking of things we aren’t doing and places we aren’t at.

The bottom line of almost all self-help, spiritual, or religious literature is that our ability to be happy is determined by our ability to stay in the present moment. The Buddhists, the Toltecs, the Bible, Eckhart Tolle, Ram Dass, Emerson, Thoreau — anyone at all who is known for having found a path to consistent, recurring joy — cites staying present as the essential teaching.

Only when we’re present do we see beauty, enjoy gratitude, and experience happiness. It’s the moments we’re present for that make life good, so it only stands to reason that being present is something we’d do well to get better at.

We all know this already. Yet most of us — normal people with errands, work and to-do lists — spend most of our time considering the past and future rather than the present. Why doesn’t it click? Read More



The beginning

Raptitude was born March 15th last year, but it was conceived in the last week of January. I had just visited Problogger for the first time and saw that blogging wasn’t simply speaking your thoughts into a void, it was an interactive community. The words went back and forth, and side to side. There were big shots and little shots, up-and-comers and has-beens. People were making friends, improving their craft, building their livelihoods and legacies.

I wanted to be a part of it, but had no idea where to start. Darren from Problogger said he was a big fan of Yaro Starak’s Blog Mastermind course. I read his free report, and something about it spoke to me. The ad video seemed unusually frank and upfront for some guy selling something on the internet. My BS detector did not go off. I bought the course and was off to the races.

That upfront financial commitment removed any possibility of not following through, and the course itself removed any doubt about how to go about it. I got busy, excited in a way I hadn’t been for a long time. I spent two weeks shopping for hosts and themes, designing a logo, learning WordPress and breaking down the whole technical side.

Once it was all in place, I was all very proud of myself. The future looked bright. I felt with unusual certainty that I was barking up the right tree.

There was one minor task I hadn’t yet gotten around to, but I would need to do it before I could launch. In fact, it really was an integral component of a working blog. Read More



forest

Today is March 15th, Raptitude’s first birthday. A longer post will follow later this week — I was ambushed by an immediate-start job at 10pm last night — but it’s an important date so I just wanted to tell you I am so grateful you decided to spend some of your precious time on earth reading what I write here.

I hope it has brought something to useful to you, whether it’s a different way of looking at something in life, or just a few minutes of entertainment two mornings a week. If I’ve become a regular part of your life, no matter how small, I am proud of that role.

You play a crucial role. It’s something like that tricky Zen question: “If a tree falls in the forest, and nobody hears it, does it make a sound?”

If I posted on Raptitude and nobody read it, it wouldn’t exist.

Thank you all for coming.

Photo by Frielp



the path

A political victory, a rise in rents, the recovery of your sick, or return of your absent friend, or some other quite external event, raises your spirits, and you think good days are preparing for you. Do not believe it. Nothing can bring you peace but yourself. Nothing can bring you peace but the triumph of principles.

~Ralph Waldo Emerson, from “Self-Reliance”

It seems to me that circumstances, when they are agreeable, make it feel like we’re on the right path. Everything looks good and there seems to be no reason to make adjustments. Needs are hard to notice while they’re being met.

When circumstances go awry, we look for what we’re missing.

Maybe agreeable circumstances can be found, much of the time, along the wrong path too.

So maybe agreeability and ease are not such good signposts for finding the right path.

The path we’re on, then, isn’t what we do, or where we are. It’s why we do what we do, and how we got where we are.

Our principles define the path that’s right for us. We don’t choose them, we uncover them.

If we aren’t living up to our principles we are wandering off the path, even if circumstances still feel quite agreeable, for the moment.

When circumstances become disagreeable, clear principles will illuminate the right path. If better days happen to arrive on their own accord, they may only make you forget to look for it.

What do you think?

Photo by David Cain



headphones

This is part 2 of a two-part post. The first half is here.

Let’s continue, shall we? Things may get a bit rowdier here in the second half. But as before, there’s something for everyone.

“Need You Tonight” – INXS

Looking back to the decade that produced me, there was a point when all the ridiculous fluff of the mid-80s gave way to some really timeless, inspired tunes. I figure it was about the time Kick came out. Still one of the grooviest guitar riffs I know, this song was ultra-cool on arrival and still is. It makes non-dancers want to dance.

If you like it: The rest of Kick is worth a listen. Consult an INXS die-hard for further instruction.

“Jolene” – Dolly Parton

A heartbreaking song about a girl watching her man drift away to a woman she can’t compete with. There is something so refreshing and honest about a song that looks unflinchingly at personal powerlessness, without dolling it up by babbling about hope. We’ve all been devastated by a Jolene of some kind, in one way or another. Utter defeat is human too, and Dolly saw something meaningful in it.

If you like it: The White Stripes do a fantastic cover of this song, mercifully ignoring the obnoxious custom of changing the gender when a male sings it. Check it out.   Read More



guitar and dandelion

One of my earliest (and to date most successful) posts was Six Songs that Illustrate What it Means to Be Human. Many readers said they hadn’t heard some of these tunes before, and really liked them. I’ve since received a number of requests to post a list of my favorite songs.

So here it is. But first a few quick things:

Choosing my forty outright favorite songs is not really possible. I can’t recall every song I love at any given time, so I can never be sure I’m not omitting something. Therefore this is a list of forty of my favorite songs. Some songs are very well known. Most aren’t, but I didn’t take the indie-snob route and give you forty small-time artists you’ve never heard of and won’t “get” because you aren’t cool enough. I happily included songs and artists that are decidedly uncool. (You’ll see.) You’ll find this list to be a bit 90s-heavy, which just reflects my age and tastes. But there’s something for everyone.

Each song links to a place where you can listen to it. Most point to Youtube, and some are on Mp3Raid.com. On the latter site you just have to enter the code they show, no need for signing up or anything. Let me know if any links are broken.

This is part one of a two-part post. Part two will be posted on Monday.

Enjoy.

“Grandma’s Hands” – Bill Withers

An unbelievably catchy tune. Members of my generation might think they’re listening to Blackstreet for the first few bars. It will get stuck in your head, beware! You’ll be snapping, clapping, head-bobbing or shoulder-dipping to Billy’s vivid memories of his sweet old grandma.

If you like it: go find Bill Withers’ version of Use Me, probably better known as an Aaron Neville song. I think Bill did it best.

“The Seeker” – The Who

The taking-life-back anthem of Lester Burnham, the pot-smoking, career-ditching mid-life revolutionary from American Beauty. It’s a straight-laced rock tune, with a comedic take on the biggest of all human themes. It characterizes the search for life’s meaning as a mocking, hopeless conundrum, through the eyes of a regular joe who sees no reason why it shouldn’t make perfect sense. And with a guitar riff like that, it’s hard to see it any other way.

If you like it: I’m no Who expert, but you could do worse than giving My Generation (the album) a good listen. Read More



kicking buttons

Recently I remarked on Facebook how I’ve been using a lot of exclamation marks recently! I’m not sure why, I used to hate them, but in emails and tweets and other short correspondence they do add a touch of enthusiasm that would otherwise be missing!

But as you can see, they are also heavy-handed and become obnoxious quickly! After only three sentences, I’m sure some people have already decided not to continue reading today’s post! Their loss! Regular readers will suspect I’m getting to a point here, but how long can they tolerate the extremely inappropriate — yet very tiny — extra vertical line I am appending to these otherwise peaceful sentences?!

With such casual, terrible ease I’ve made today’s post rude and strangely upsetting! Read More




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