In this issue: prompts for self-reflection in an overly busy world, interviewing hermits in deep America, and why working at home isn’t working. NPR’s newest podcast takes on International Day of Yoga from different perspectives, and a long read of an immigrant chef father told through a traditional Hong Kong dish. And four fun things I’m digging, including the best photos of the year, taken under a microscope.
◦ selected words
Beyond the Myths We Tell Ourselves, Big Love Is Waiting
Beautiful words about stepping out from the house of cards and self-imposed mind bottles we’ve built around ourselves. A poetic, timely piece on striving, purpose, busyness, connection, the fear of love and isolation.
onbeing.org (6min read)
Time With Hermits and the Draw of a Reclusive Life
The urge to leave the big city can go to the extreme, leading some to leave it all behind to live a life of solitude deep in the woods. A movement often romanticized in articles on young couples living off-the-grid, and movies like Captain Fantastic where entire families grow up away from the rhythms of civilization. In a quest to discover the answers of solitude, the author journeys to New Mexico and Arizona to seek out two hermits in hopes of better understanding life as a recluse.
theguardian.com (12min read)
How Squirrels Sort Their Nuts
On a lighter note, watching Sarah Silverman’s hilarious “Speck of Dust”, I laughed so hard with her joke about squirrels forgetting 80% of the nuts they’ve buried. Then this article pops up in my RSS feed, about a group of scientists who performed experiments and wrote a paper on the subject! Their “big” questions: How do squirrels decide where to bury their nuts? And how are they able to find them again? The researchers conducted experiments using GPS and old fashioned surveillance, giving different varieties of nuts to 45 squirrels to come up with surprising insights into the behaviors of these common little rodents.
theatlantic.com (5min read)
When Working From Home Doesn’t Work
A cure for work-life balance that can increase corporate productivity and lower costs. Telecommuting it was called, or remote work now, is the idea that led IBM to attempt a radical change to their work structure in 1979. By 2009, IBM boasted that 40% of their workers were working remotely. But in March this year, IBM shocked everyone, recalling all workers back into the office. This follows a trend with companies like Best Buy and Aetna reversing stance. With technology making it easier than ever to communicate, what happened, and what can we learn from these failings? Put simply, the power of presence is an intangible factor that’s difficult to measure.
theatlantic.com (10min read)
◦ listen in
Om Alone in India by NPR
Rough Translation is NPR’s newest podcast, seeking to bring new perspectives on stories and conversations happening in the U.S., but from an international point of view. The goal is to bridge cultures and geography, moving us towards a universal language on controversial topics such as race, culture and politics, shining light on how stories are framed differently across nations and how they’re interpreted locally. In this podcast, the International Day of Yoga is the hot topic, leading to charged conversations on religion, cultural appropriation, and the meaning of the word Om, the Hindu word representing the three gods Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. From Times Square to India, the birthplace of yoga, NPR interviews people from all sides, including some who see this United Nations holiday as a weapon.
Rough Translation on npr.org (32min podcast)
◦ eat well
Green Lentil Artichoke Legume Salad
Having discovered them very late in life, this wonderful legume is slowly sneaking it’s way into my regular diet because of it’s ease, cost and nutritional value. Here’s a unique recipe I’ve taken on overnight hikes as it’s filling and packed full of nutrients. My local bulk store and market didn’t have French Puy lentils, a bit smaller and darker green than the common ones, but the big supermarket did. Tip: substitute leeks or onions for the chives (which I’ve learned are not the same as green onions).
◦ read slow
Roast Duck Soup for the Chinese-American Daughter’s Soul
Reflections on a relationship with a proud, but emotionally avoidant immigrant chef father who once dreamed of being a physicist but got caught in the daily grind of the restaurant industry to support his family. A heartwarming personal essay crowdfunded by Long Reads readers, told through the author’s memories of the popular Hong Kong dish.
longreads.com (13min read)
◦ current read
Travels with Charley in Search of America
The 1962 Nobel Prize winner for Literature and author of classics such as East of Eden, Of Mice and Men, and The Grapes of Wrath (all on my to-read list) never wrote an autobiography. However, in his later years, the famed American writer took a 3/4 ton pickup truck and drove across America for the last time, taking with him his French poodle named Charley. In his journey across 40 states, he’d discover the “real” America, a country mired in racial tension and beset in loneliness and struggle, but also of depth and kindness in this travelogue.
goodreads.com (214p book)
◦ dig this
What I’m digging lately:
- News Match – The Democracy Fund, Knight Foundation and MacArthur Foundation will match up to $3M in contributions to encourage grassroots support for nonprofit news organizations.
- Nikon Small World Photomicrography Winners – The best photos of 2017 from under a microscope. Nature, you’re beautiful.
- Freelancer Achievement Stickers – Humor freelance laptop workers can relate to.
- HaBanot Nechama – The Israeli folk trio has one album from 2007. One member performed with Lauryn Hill and Erykah Badu. Spotify
Correction: last issue’s dig for the best weather app should have been Forecaster for Android ($0.99), not DarkSky. Though the data is provided by the excellent DarkSky website, I prefer Forecaster’s interface.
◦ humble thought
“Your task is not to seek for love, but merely seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.” – Rumi
Stuck in a rut. An expression used for that “blah” feeling when you’re stuck in an established way of living or working and you feel like you’re just spinning your wheels (idioms everywhere!). However, the word “rut” sounds too small. It alludes to a horse-drawn wagon’s wheel stuck in a groove on the road, unable to change course. The difference is that you can see that coming, whereas if you’re in a rut as the idiom means, often you don’t realize it until some deep self-reflection or an external shock to the system.
Without sounding too dramatic, this rut has felt more like a chasm. It’s as if I were paddling a boat down into a river valley, blind to my environment and the beauty around me as the walls gradually rose, reaching a point where they became so mystically high that they’d obscure my views, eventually arriving at a point where there was no way to go but continue down river. This process happened so slowly, that you don’t feel the world closing in until it has. It was only when the boat capsized and forced me to climb to the top of mountain, could I see how off course I had gone.
Previously, I’ve kept these thoughts and feelings inside, dealing with it alone, or more often keeping myself busy with physical activities, work and reading another layman’s book on psychology or another article in The Atlantic about how tech is ruining our generation. I didn’t want to burden anyone with the privileged angst I was feeling. But that’s bullshit. Yes, there are bigger problems than finding your meaning or purpose in this world. And yes, you are only an inconsequential speck on an infinite timeline or the universe. After all, there are ten times more stars in the universe than grains of sand on all the beaches on Earth.
I’d like to think of myself as a fairly aware person. I journal regularly, read personal development books, attend “conscious community” conferences and try to have meaningful conversations (there’s a Meetup group for that) to connect with people at deep levels. But sometimes the version of yourself you present to the world doesn’t match what’s actually going on inside. I found I was resisting the city I’ve adopted, the culture, and let fear, self-loathing and busyness take over. I was making excuses NOT to here. But I’m here, so what good is that doing but wasting my own time, and the others around me by not being fully present for them. Who is this person I’ve become?
As I confided with a dear friend of mine, she said wisely, sometimes you need to tear down all the blocks to see the beauty behind around you. I had the privilege of being able to take some tiem away, camping alone in Laurentian mountains in Quebec and the Green Mountains Northern Vermont to reflect and do some inner work, things I’ve pushed aside for too many months.
I’m not saying getting outside is the cure for everything. It was by no means a magic cure nor do I have it “figured out”. But tuning the increasing chatter of the world out gave me space to set intentions and armed me with a clearer vision of the world, I know now what I’ve felt in small doses before — you can’t do it alone. The press likes to romanticize self-made millionaires and rags to riches stories, but they’re selling papers. As humans we are social beings, we are stronger together because we can balance each other’s strengths and weaknesses to elevate each other.
“A desk is a dangerous place from which to view the world.” – John Le Carré
We can’t thrive in a box (which makes the quote a bit ironic because “carré” means square in French), particularly a box which we’ve built for ourselves, as comfortable as it feels (and damn, I’ve built some comfortable boxes). The most important thing I’ve learned from this journey is that it’s OK to lean on your friends and family. Your true friends will help you gain perspectives without judgment. To be vulnerable does not show weakness, in fact, it’s a show of strength. So go shut off the screens. Climb a mountain. Talk to a life coach or psychologist. Call friends. They’re probably busy, as everyone seems these days, so make Skype dates, and stick to them. Reach out to people who are different than you. Older friends with more life experience often can help you find the biggest insights.
Tear down those blocks and stop resisting, and you’ll see there is so much beauty in this universe, if you just pause and let it in.