Came across two tweets today that have jointly taken up residence in my head. This tweet:
i don’t want a career, i want whatever bilbo baggins and the rest of the hobbits had in the shire
And from this tweet, a short clip of Ethan Hawke’s TED talk:
I think that most of us really want to offer the world something of quality, ☝️something that the world will consider good or important☝️. And that’s really the enemy, because it’s not up to us whether what we do is any good. If history has taught us anything, the world is an extremely unreliable critic.
The shire is tiny, quaint, communal. That’s part of why it “works”.
Our world, on the other hand, is enormous and increasingly fractured. We can be exposed to nearly every possible facet and product of humanity via our phone screens. The desire to make a mark is as strong as it has ever been, but it’s hard to do anything that feels of real consequence when you’re effectively a sea-monkey navigating the Pacific Ocean.
You can make it feel smaller by limiting media consumption (traditional and social), but it has to be a daily, conscious action. And the pressure to engage can be enormous depending on your age and career. It just wears you down.
I suppose the goal is a balance, cultivating a smaller, more meaningful personal world (friends, collaborators, family, acquaintances) that you can retreat to and just occasionally reaching out in to the hurricane. But when making a decent living feels tied to the hurricane, or the hurricane seems like all you have left… it’s not an easy truce.
This is why the silent retreats, the off-grid living, the hamlet cottages are so compelling. It’s easy to think that physically moving somewhere less frantic will automatically offer peace, but unless you can temper the virtual arena that makes up your world, it’s just more of the same.
No answers here, as usual. Just more thoughts for the whirlpool.
Edit: I just re-read this and it makes me cringe a bit. It’s so obvious, and it has occurred to me a thousand times before. Why is it an epiphany every time I think about it? I always forget, it’s like Groundhog Day. Maybe this is what mantras are for. Something like the perennial I am enough, but more My sphere of influence, the way I define it, and the way I engage with it is enough. Ugh I don’t know!
There’s a fine line between changing from within and being complicit.
Dr Kate Darling, MIT Media Lab researcher and expert in robot ethics, said this in her 27 August Guardian opinion piece on Jeffrey Epstein’s influence on the science world. This comment referred to her relationship with the MIT Media Lab and with literary agency Brockman. There was an all-hands Media Lab meeting on 4 September to internally address their part in all this, read more in the MIT Tech Review. Sounds like the meeting was something… hard to tell. Ended on a thoroughly rotten note.
That line from her article has stuck with me, it’s a succinct way of articulating an ever-present worry. If you’re doing good work at an organisation that is being questionably governed or is doing iffy things, you either A) stick with the org and live with that worry every day or B) step away from it entirely and be free from the worry. In scenario A, in order to feel ok with yourself you do everything you can to make a difference. This is exhausting, and you resent colleagues that aren’t working as hard to fix things. In scenario B, you’re free from this worry but you live in a fresh hell of new worries (missed opportunity, financial stability, unfulfilled potential, etc).
Don’t know where the line is, it shifts constantly and is probably different for every person. Just have to keep it on your mind and keep having the hard conversations. Don’t let it build up, talk little and often, with everyone.
Edit 10.09.19: Deleted a sentence mentioning Darling’s plans to drop Brockman and stay with the Media Lab, from her Guardian article. That may still be the case, but more has come to light so I wouldn’t assume anything. It must be incredibly tough thing to navigate.
Might be at a turning point in my career. A lot of my friends are expressing similar feelings. I think it has something to do with working for nearly 10 years.
This frame of mind has made me really interested in manifestos. Not anything strident really, more purpose-driven lists that can help guide everyday decision-making. Here are a few manifesto-y links I’ve identified with recently.
- These things I believe from “Not the user’s fault”. I think this is Jono Xia’s blog from when he was part of the Mozilla Labs team. I’ve tried to find him elsewhere on the web but haven’t found him anywhere so far. He raises some really good points about software design and development.
- The Recurse Center’s Social Rules. Such a good, concise set of guidelines for public discourse. “No well-actually’s, no feigned surprise, no backseat driving, no subtle -isms”.
- Immaculate Heart College Art Department Rules. Also available as a free tear-away poster at the Corita Kent: Power Up exhibition (8 Feb – 12 May 2019) at the House of Illustration.
- GitLab’s Remote Manifesto. SB and I try to implement a lot of this, though we’re definitely not strict enough about it! We also strive to work this way with clients and collaborators, even those that live in London. Face-to-face IRL meetings are great, but it can be tough to squeeze them in when it takes an hour to get anywhere in this city.
- Daniel Eatock’s manifesto, particularly “propose honesty as a solution”. See also the Scratching the Surface episode with Daniel Eatock from last September. Off the back of the Corita Kent exhibition, SB and I were talking about the lack of irony and cynicism in her work, about how refreshing that feels even though a lot of it is from over 50 years ago. He mentioned this podcast episode, that Eatock touches on this topic in relation to his kids, how kids just don’t perceive irony. I need to have a listen.
I’ll try to add more here as I come across them. Who knows, maybe I’ll add my own some day.