August 2011

Post image for The Revolver: Well-Kept Secrets Edition

Life is always right in front of us but that doesn’t necessarily mean we know what we’re looking at. The best-kept secrets are in plain view.

PostSecret

I guess it’s possible that somehow you haven’t heard of PostSecret, and that you have not experienced the spike of empathy that comes with reading one of these homemade postcards. In 2005 Frank Warren created a self-perpetuating art project by asking people to decorate a postcard, on which they anonymously reveal a personal secret they have never revealed to anyone. Some of these are shocking, others hilarious, others might feel like you could have written them. I saw a few hundred of them in an exhibit at my local Art Gallery a few years ago, and suddenly strangers became a lot more interesting. Frank’s Twitter feed is also worth following.

Animal Minds

A fascinating National Geographic article on one ever-underestimated quality of animals: their intelligence. Again and again, scientists are surprised by the discovery of complex behaviors in animals that were once thought to be exclusive to humans. Animals can make tools, understand languages and even learn to lie.

Money As Debt

A light and entertaining animated feature about what money really is: debt created by banks on the spot. Amateur videographer Paul Grignon aims only to inform, and spares us the hysterics about international banker conspiracies that are so popular these days. It seems like something every citizen should understand, but I bet this will shock most of you.

Waking Life

Most people won’t like this bizarre film, so don’t try too hard, but a certain minority will never forget it. No plot to speak of, no character development, full of self-important philosophical talk, even banter about the meaning of dreams! Yikes! Not for everyone, perfect for some. It’s shot in a beautiful and maddening rotoscope format that I can’t stop staring at but will probably make some people throw up.

***

Photo of Chico the cat by David Cain


Post image for Procrastination: The Finale

Now and then I do habit experiments here on Raptitude, usually trying something out for a month or two to see what happens. See them all here.

It’s about time I got around to wrapping up my procrastination experiment.

A quick recap:

Over three months ago, I recognized that my problem with procrastination was, in a way, threatening my life. Deep-rooted avoidance habits were keeping me from making any meaningful ground towards my goals. Days, weeks, and months would go by with lots of busyness but no real progress. It felt like it could continue that way until I was suddenly eighty, with none of my aspirations having materialized.

So I posted an official experiment on my experiments page, and immediately launched into the three most productive days of my life. After that I just kept falling a little bit shorter every day, and the momentum faded. Soon I wasn’t really doing anything resembling an experiment, just bumbling along as usual.

What went wrong?

Well, I’m not about to say the experiment has been a failure. Life is different now in a good way. But I quickly ran into a stalemate with the rules I had set for myself, and after a few weeks I no longer had a real idea of what I was doing, until I wasn’t really doing anything.

The premise was pretty simple, with three rules:

1) Check in with myself at the end of every day — Get clear on the plan for the next day. Make a to-do list on an index card. Put away anything left out in my house.

2) Check in at the end of every week — Tie up all loose ends by emptying all inboxes and deciding what I’m going to do about everything that has come up. Get all my concerns on paper and set reminders for anything I need to be reminded of.

3) Put a stop to aimlessness the moment I notice it — Recreation is fine, breaks are fine, as long as I always do what I’ve decided to do, and I know when I’m going to get to work again. Whenever I notice I’m being aimless, I decide what to do right then.

The problem was the third rule. Read More



Post image for The kind of truth you can’t argue with

To this day I’m not entirely sure he was speeding. Maybe 55 in a 50. But it made me insane for a brief moment.

Just before that I had been in supremely thoughtful and grateful mood, just having visited my one-year-old nephew. Little kids make me more mindful, of how abruptly I move, of where I put my feet, of what I say, until I forget.

When I left my sister’s house the world felt like a china shop to me. Priceless and deserving of care.

So when the little Hyundai with the skinny driver came whipping thoughtlessly around the curve in front of the house, I couldn’t bear it. The Holden Caulfield in me took over and I slammed on the horn.

My car was still parked, so for him the honk must have come out of nowhere, and he almost jumped out of his seat, like he was in a cartoon.

He was a young guy with thick glasses, altogether harmless looking, and I felt bad immediately. I’m sure he had no idea I existed, or why anyone was honking at all.

I just wanted him to slow down on a residential street where kids live. But it was the wrong way. I was in my own world and he was in his and I communicated nothing to him. Read More



Post image for Ok, here’s what’s wrong with the world (Pt. 2)

This is part two of a two-part post. Part one.

So I think we’ve made morality out to be a very simple matter, and one which most of us have nailed down pretty well. But I think it’s actually quite complicated and difficult, and most of what guides us has nothing to do with what’s right and wrong, even in our own eyes.

The prevailing opinion is that most people live morally sound lives, and the people who don’t are ruining things for everyone else. The evil CEOs, the terrorists, the English hooligans smashing storefronts right now.

We all have values. It’s easy to have values. In fact, it’s impossible not to have values. Great. But having values is not the same as living those values. Living your values is damn hard.

For example, I think child labor is wrong. You would probably say you do too.

Unfortunately, thinking something is wrong is not the same as acting morally. If I intended to act morally on that matter, I’d have to make sure I don’t pay people to exploit children by buying their products. But to be honest I have no idea how most of the things I buy are produced, and for whatever reason I haven’t taken any time to find out. On this issue, just one of a zillion, I am not acting morally, even by my own standard.

Why not? Why don’t I take some time and find out which companies engage in practices I don’t approve of? I could save some helpless people a lot of trouble if I lived my life as though it were important to me.

The honest answer is that I’m kind of busy with some other stuff right now. Maybe when I have a long weekend I’ll do some of that.

But it is still easy for me to, say, look down on anyone in jail. I am good and they are bad, as dictates my nursery-school level of morality. Read More



Post image for Ok, here’s what’s wrong with the world

A couple of posts ago I asked the readers what’s wrong with the world, only I didn’t mean it as the rhetorical question it usually is. If you were going to answer that question at face value, what would you say?

There were so many wise and thoughtful responses. I’d love to address each of them but then this post would be 50,000 words. I also don’t really want to favor a particular camp and dismiss the opposing ones, so I’ll just give my take on it and you can do what you like with it.

It’s really hard to identify a cause for the problems in the human world, because all causes have their own causes. For example, “bad parenting” was a pretty common one, but it implies that the problem begins with the failing of a particular individual. What causes bad parenting? Usually, it’s bad parenting. So where did it start?

With each answer I’m trying to dig a bit deeper and find out if there isn’t something more fundamental that might be at the root of everything in your newspaper.

The most common answer

I’m not going to go through all the responses because there are just too many, but I do want to look at one of them in particular. The most common response was that there’s nothing wrong with the world, except that we look at it in terms of what’s wrong with it.

It’s a nice thought that I’ve expressed myself sometimes. I can’t really argue that whether there is something wrong or not depends on your disposition. Wrongness does seem to be a relative matter, and that is the way I happen to see it.

When a fish is getting eaten by a shark, I’m sure he thinks everything is going wrong, and the shark thinks everything is going right. Both are relatively correct and neither is absolutely correct. Fair enough.

But as humans we do share values, some of them pretty much across the board. So I don’t know who could argue in any meaningful sense that child abuse or irreversible pollution has nothing wrong about it aside from how we each regard it personally.

If it really is just a matter of relative values (and maybe it is) then it’s still fair to say there is something wrong with the world in that humans are consistently interfering with their own values. We are creating enormous amounts suffering for ourselves and others, we are ravaging the surface of the earth, and we are rapidly destroying the things we cherish. We are wrecking the place and hurting each other, and for the purposes of this discussion let’s just presume that there is something wrong with that. Read More



Ok, the site’s new facelift is live. There are still some bugs, but I didn’t want Raptitude to be offline any longer, so I’m putting it up now. There are a few weird things going on with formatting, and I’m still testing stuff. One problem you’ll notice on some older posts is the “R” signature has a big white block around it, which I never noticed before because the old background was white. I’ll have to go through all 200 posts and delete them manually because they are part of the content.

In the mean time I could use your help though. Please enjoy the site as normal but drop me an email about any bugs you find: graphics out of place, formatting problems, or whatever, and I’ll have them taken care of.

Thanks for your patience, I hope you like the cleaner look. Two years ago I just threw together the site in the stock Thesis theme which is really dull and common, and it’s been bothering me ever since. It’s all about the content anyway but I’m glad to have a simpler and saner design. Thanks to rtcamp for their endless patience with me, and thank you for reading.

-David



Post image for The site it is a-changin’

Raptitude will be receiving an interim redesign this weekend, so it may be offline for a bit, or it may be online and look funny and things may be broken. It will look different on Monday for sure. See you on the flipside.

-David

Photo by UntitledBlue



Post image for Anger makes you forget other people are people

I had a rough couple of days and last night I was angry when I went to bed and I was and angry when I woke up today. In rotten moods, perspective goes out the window, and even though I’m aware of that, I can’t get it back.

It’s like how Hunter S. Thompson described one’s behavior under the influence of ether: you can see yourself behaving in this terrible way, but you can’t control it. There’s a point where all wisdom has left on vacation and all bets are off, and I was way past there.

This morning, while I angrily packed my lunch I was lucky enough to remember something I’d once realized about anger:

Anger makes me forget other people are people.

They’re still around, their faces and voices, but they no longer quite appear to be people, like me. I become blind to the fact that other people might also be having a hard time. My world becomes entirely about me and the last thing on my mind is giving thought to how the other people might be doing. When we get angry, that’s the first casualty: compassion.

I guess the corollary to that is this:

Other lives are just as real and immediate as your own.

I think most of the time we don’t quite appreciate this truth. We would still probably nod our heads in agreement if someone said that, but that’s not the same as really feeling the reality of that in the moment. The pit in your throat you sometimes feel when things go wrong, other people have that too, and it’s every bit as real. Often it’s happening right beside you, in the next car over, in the elevator with you, across the counter from you. Really.

When I get mad, any awareness of that is the first thing that goes out the window. Read More




Raptitude is an independent blog by . Some links on this page may be affiliate links, which means I might earn a commission if you buy certain things I link to. In such cases the cost to the visitor remains the same.