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September 08, 2010


"some sort of primal terror of [boredom] keeps me from spending as much effort on promising pursuits as I could."

You are quite extraordinarily productive. I can't imagine where you find the time to waste time. I'm also not certain what, in your case, a "non-promising pursuit" might look. One of the skills you're practicing might be called "how to see when I'm looking." Another is "how to explain to others what I'm seeing when I'm looking." This practice is going on in the background constantly because you're are so frequently engaged in seeing and explaining to others what you're seeing. This is, alas, what the 10,000 hours is comprised of.

"I have to believe that, when your level of ambient mental static gets down there toward zero, clarity-hunting isn’t an issue and the world around you becomes a hell of a lot more interesting."

Maybe. I would venture to guess that separating signal from noise is part of the basic human act of pattern-finding as a means of survival. I'm not sure, in human culture, that there is signal without noise; that there is meaning or clarity without static. Plus, you spend so much of your time -- happily -- in blogland, which is the Land of Static. But, so what? Trying to refine the quality of mental input is such a high-level act, part of healthy self-awareness, I can't imagine you can do much damage to yourself in the process. The medium may be the message in this case, although it's probably too soon to tell. Let's talk again in 10,000 hours.

I'm a big, big fan of your heuristics. I think you're right that they're a good way of inducing Moments of Clarity. But it may be that for smart, engaged people, pursuing Moments of Clarity is like heroin addicts pursuing the original high, or dogs believing that true happiness will on the next walk. Although I may be anthropomorphizing. Cesar Milan says that dogs live entirely in the present; the last walk is immediately forgotten, the next one unimagined. Humans are cursed by memory and its step-child, longing.

I have a question about Brian Eno, who I have to confess I never paid attention to until you started writing about him. It looks like he purchases the time to pursue his eclectic interests with the money he earned with Roxy Music. How did he live before he struck it rich? How did he address the money/time problem before money solved it for him? This is where you are now; how did he handle it when he was where you are?

This is where you are now; how did he handle it when he was where you are?

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