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December 2011

Post image for How to get rich without making more money

It only took about ten Christmases before I realized how quickly the new-toy feeling wears off. I knew by the time New Year’s came around, I would lose that feeling I looked forward to all year — getting up to a dazzling world of new stuff.

Then one Christmas Day I felt that same predictable boredom, the same fading of abundance, creep in by dinnertime. I had eaten more chocolate than could actually be enjoyable, and played with everything once.

I felt like I had definitely lost something substantial since that giddy first hour of the day. Obviously I didn’t own any less by that time (not counting chocolate), but it absolutely felt like I did.

Of course, no matter how I felt about my possessions at different times of day, I was always rich and rarely realized it.

The same is true for me today, probably you too. Average income across the world is about $7000 per year. But that’s just a mathematical mean. The vast majority of people make far less than that. Only about twenty percent of the world’s population lives in countries with an average income that high.

So no matter what class you are in your society, if you’re sitting in front of a computer with some blog-reading time on your hands, you probably outclass (financially anyway) a sizeable majority of people alive today, and certainly almost all of the people who are no longer alive.

But that’s just money. Wealth includes power and privilege too, and not just because you can buy more of those things. It’s reasonable to say that someone with a thousand dollars is less wealthy than someone with a thousand dollars and access to political connections, say. Ability, knowledge, and privilege all contribute to wealth.

You’re probably not doing too poorly on that front either. You’re unlikely to be reading this if you live in North Korea. All sorts of people read this blog, but statistically you probably have the right to vote, the right to protest, the right to say what you like, the right to travel, the right to practice your spiritual tradition, the means to contact your political representatives, the means to practice your chosen art, and the means to self-publish your thoughts. Extraordinary and exclusive privileges, if you have any of them.  Read More

Post image for An unfortunate development

The world’s most famous war photojournalist, Robert Capa, swam ashore with American troops as Life magazine’s official photographer of D-Day.

From the midst of the battle itself, Capa took 106 shots of one of the most famous and important days in history. At the earliest opportunity, the four precious rolls of film were whisked back to London and sent to be developed.

To this day nobody knows what those pictures looked like, because a fifteen-year-old lab assistant set a dryer too high and melted the negatives. Only eleven blurred images were saved from the final roll.

There’s a unique flavor of heartbreak that only comes from your work being destroyed for no good reason. Now, I know it doesn’t carry the same historical magnitude, but last night I think I felt at least a hint of what Capa felt when I saved over today’s article.

While I rewrite it, enjoy an ad-hoc time-constrained installment of The Revolver.


One of the more interesting Twitter feeds out there: An Oxford history student is tweeting moment-to-moment updates on the unfolding of World War II, as if it’s happening right now. It’s so compelling because we tend to think of the war with full knowledge of how it turned out, yet the people living it had to watch it unfold day by day with no idea what was happening to the world.


An interview with me at WriterViews.com, a site about writers learning from writers. The interview is about 40 minutes and is mostly geared towards bloggers. During it I drank a beer stein full of coffee, and it shows.


A video of North Korean child guitar virtuosos that I find absolutely terrifying and perverse. Yet I can’t look away.


The great journalist Christopher Hitchens, who died Thursday, giving a powerful and timely lecture on freedom of speech, and the insane laws that threaten it. The second and third parts are easy to find in the sidebar. It’s about 20 minutes all together.


If you want something even easier than reading tweets or watching videos, take a look at my winter photos taken in Winnipeg’s exchange district.

 Photo by Robert Capa
Post image for How to stay out of Hell

As the story goes, God told Charleton Heston two things to do and eight things not to do, and he listened. Then he passed the rules along to others, and human morality was born.

The commandments weren’t always easy to work with, they found. Specifically, many of them enjoyed violating the one about not killing. Chuck had passed on the divine orders in his own personal style, and couldn’t resist including the Second Amendment in the Ten Commandments somewhere.

There was a real awkward moment when God was telling Chuck specifically not to carve likenesses of anything in the Heavens, precisely at the moment he was carving His words into stone tablets. Chuck had smashed the originals during a tantrum, and without some notes he was always in danger or forgetting what right and wrong were.

This was about 33 centuries ago, and before then there was no right and wrong because the Heavens hadn’t mentioned anything about it yet. Murder and double-parking were rampant.

Even after Chuck and his friends knew the new rules by heart, sometimes they found they did accidentally covet their neighbor’s ox, or even his ass. As they knew, equally offensive to God as coveting one’s neighbor’s livestock was to covet one’s neighbor’s wife, or her ass, or any other material possessions of his neighbor’s. They had an especially tough time with this one, because as pious as they were, it’s really hard to obey rules against thinking.

They didn’t usually steal, except from indigenous populations, until many centuries later when Napster came out and a free-for-all descended that not even God could stop.  Read More

Post image for What happened in my last 1000 days


“Your experiments are the most interesting part of the site for me, but you don’t talk about them much and you haven’t done one in a while. Are those old experiments still a part of your life?”

He wasn’t the first one to ask that. I’ve always felt like I should post updates, but I don’t like to make posts that aren’t standalone articles, or to tack on little updates at the ends of other posts.

So I’ve mostly just left the experiments alone after they’re finished. But I’ve invested a lot in them, and the point has always been to create a lasting change.

They have. Next Saturday it will have been 1000 days since I started Raptitude, and I am a pretty different person than the guy who launched the blog. The writing habit is what I credit (or blame) for a lot of that, but my experiments have also left big changes to my personality, lifestyle and values. I’m now past 10,000 total days in my life, and honestly this last thousand have been my favorite ones. Thank you for playing your part in that.

So for those who have asked, and for readers who have never ventured into the little-known back rooms behind the front page of this blog, here is (briefly) the current status of each of my Raptitude experiments. [Note: except the seventh one, which was a second attempt at the first one and was even more disastrous.]

No. 1 — Sharpening the Mind

The gist: To make sitting meditation a habit by doing it for 20 minutes every day. I had for a long time meditated intermittently, but never as a daily habit.

The initial result: I struggled. Partly because it was suddenly a duty, I became positively enraged every time I sat down. It was bizarre how reliably I became furious, but that was what mostly happened.

Where I am with it today: The rage doesn’t happen any more, and I find it interesting how prominent a feeling it was in my experiment log. The following year I christened a lengthy backpacking trip with a five-day Buddhist meditation retreat. I learned a lot more about technique, and I had to come to terms with some of my initial hindrances because I was spending up to eight hours a day meditating.  Read More

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