Turns out, the number 27 is magical. The Internet can tell us why, mathematically, the number 27 is so unique. For example, 27 is a perfect cube, a completely balanced equation. In math, that is saying something.
For some reason, 27 pops up a great deal, lately, which is what led me to learn more about it. While doing so, I made a list of 27 things my 27-sided-self values.
I do not take myself too seriously here, rather this is just an exercise in making a playlist, I suppose, of thoughts and notions to help move the ball closer to the goal of staying committed to growth, being a better communicator, a better pal, partner, father, son, and generally well-balanced cube, er, dude:
1 – Arguably, one of the greatest strengths may be helping others feel more comfortable being themselves.
2 – “Please” and “thank you” are two of the best parts of any language.
3 – Good moods are contagious. Help spread them like colds.
4 – Be mindful of others’ aural, physical, and visual space. We all have different boundaries.
5 – Respect and trust require respect and trust.
6 – Words and tone of voice deliver packages to others. Stop sometimes and wonder what it may be like to receive them.
7 – Short fuses burn ourselves and others. Take a moment, get all the facts, or step away until it passes.
8 – Being open to constructive criticism is worth risking the initial discomfort of trying it on. Nothing to lose.
9 – Read, preserve, and share books and stories. Like music, they are the crux of so many good things.
10 – Good aesthetics are like good manners. Create atmospheres that foster acceptance. See #1.
11 – Any voices inside that say “You are not good enough” are illusions, shadows of fear. Break through them.
12 – Skills are not demonstrated better than by putting them to good use for a good cause.
13 – Laugh. Play. Pause objectives. Let fun in. It is not irresponsible or a waste of time.
14 – When I feel like the weight of the world is on my shoulders, pause and read #24.
15 – Keep moving forward. Giving up is easy. Building anything good takes compromise, resources, and work.
16 – Things work out whether I like it or not. Do not underestimate the “unswerving punctuality of chance.”
17 – Do not be afraid to accept or admit I need someone who will not give up on me.
18 – Forgive myself. Moments of weakness do not make me fundamentally weak, only fundamentally human.
19 – Make and share good, healthy, and tasty food with friends whenever possible.
20 – Risk being affectionate and vulnerable.
21 – Keep money and ‘need vs. want’ in perspective. Measuring against others is an empty pursuit. See #11.
22 – A brief stop to smell the roses is worth being ever-so-slightly late for on occasion.
23 – Values only mean something if stood by when inconvenient.
24 – Stress kills slowly and silently. Reduce it by taking a break, a walk, reading, writing, or something.
25 – Music in any shape or form helps everything.
26 – Stop and listen. A clear mind is open to ideas.
27 – Keep it simple. Show up and do my best.
This piece speaks for itself:
Go cart design, assembly and testing by the inimitable Team Tinker with snippets of boat model design and other moments of singular, whimsical tinkering mastery. Thanks to Moby for his song, Porcelain.
Who is Neil Postman?
Wanna watch more? I sure did. Click here.
Easy to take this all for granted. Breathing. Walking. Seeing. Feeling. Any sense. Pick one. And it’s even easier to stroll through this whole thing blind to the possibility that this may just very well all be some dream. We know nothing about what any of us are doing here.
In the meantime, we find things to make it about: for some, it’s about love and a sense of belonging. For many it appears to be money and fame. That’s surprising, isn’t it? Celebrity only seems to present new problems. It doesn’t change anything. It steals privacy, creates further issues with identity, but doesn’t provide any solutions for this singular dilemma. Nothing does.
So I am writing this to myself.
When people die, people close to us, it kindles something. What is that feeling? It makes me calm, reminds me of our connectivity to everything. It may be morbid, but I am oddly comforted by that loneliness, walking around in that stupor. Pleased to be again so intimately conscious that we have no control over any of this schwack. I am at peace within the moments of tragedy in a way I cannot be to quite the same degree otherwise. i don’t need anything in those times. I’m not hungry or thirsty. I’m not tired. I just seem to be picking up some signal that can’t be known coming from somewhere, everywhere. Call it shock if you want. There’s something more going on there, something unseen that has properties. As if ocean waves generate this frequency that we haven’t even considered the possibility of, or clouds being ghosts that have trapped themselves here, not having let go of their lives here on Earth yet. I laugh at what we think we know. Even if it is correct, it is always, ALWAYS, only the tip of the iceberg.
We can buy this, travel there, pretend to be this or that but it doesn’t help.
As Vonnegut used to say:
“We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful what we pretend to be.”
Are we evolving closer or further away from this awareness? What are the advantages of each? Disadvantages?
What could this awareness do for us? Is it important?
Does it change how we treat each other? Ourselves?
Do we care?
CSAs require 90 seconds or less of our time and, when done well, can be artful while they make great impact. This is a particularly good example, thankfully tipped off by Julian Gough, who we tip our hat to for it:
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As I write this, I am taking meds to fight off malaria. I am leaving for Dakar this morning for a week and the meds are a final, though ongoing, step in a series of vaccines administered to me en masse (The first of two rounds knocked me for a loop for a week. I had not ever felt that kind of energy depletion as my body immediately began building up antigens, fighting off the militia of micro-infections introduced into it) in preparation for the trip. The bottle told me to start taking them two days before entering the malaria risk zone. It says to take with food. It says to take them with plenty of water. It says to take one every day I am in the malaria risk zone. It says to continue taking them for 4 weeks after I return.
I should be surprised at the types of reactions I get upon telling others where I am headed and what steps I have have been required to take in order to be eligible to go, but I cannot say that I am, given the current mode of the media, especially in the West, full of anger and fear, some justified, though mostly misguided. The information given out at the infectious disease center is intimidating enough to make many change their travel plans. I have heard stories from others about these malaria meds who have experienced nightmares throughout the prescribed duration. This is all to say that the general culture in the developed world effectively conditions us to be afraid of anything that poses even the slightest amount of risk – and there are plenty of excuses around for us to use and give in to it.
Before today, I have not stepped foot upon the continent of Africa. I honestly do not know what I am expecting. When I think of Africa, the only images and ideas that come to mind are not my own. They are the images and sounds of films, emblazoned with romance and exotic, timeless beauty or violence and timeless unrest. Then there are the various agendas of the associated news agencies and television ad campaigns to raise money for the developing world, full of images chosen exclusively for their compelling attributes. All told, a polarized mix of love and hate, reverence and fear.
There are many ways of interpreting those messages. Realities are ethereal things, existential and elusive. They are relative, just like the physical. Like biology. What constitutes a cold to one person, requiring a trip to the doctor, may be just a sniffle to another. So they wait it out and in a couple of days they are just fine.
I do not know what we will eat there or if the water will agree with us. I do not know how I will fare in the heat of the day while filming the team. I do not even know if there will be enough electricity to power the equipment I will be using to shoot. I have learned what little I can about the region from what is posted on the CIA’s World Fact Book and related sites about the history, populations, languages, political and economic stability of the region. The work of Ben Herson, Democracy in Dakar, is some of the more current, compelling and poignant information out there and I am thankful for it – the struggle of the Senegalese people, politically similar to that in other regions of the world, is set apart by the conditions under which they muster the spirit to persevere in order to bring change and any improvement in their quality of life. How they manage to create such beautifully compelling art amidst such adversity and poor living conditions is a triumph in and of itself.
I do know that I feel a sense of mystique about it, having been so glorified by my own culture as a key piece of the anthropological record and also demonized for the strange differences of culture hidden within it. Is it natural for us to fear or discount what we do not understand? My culture has made the same mistakes as those that have gone before it – including insulating its people with convenience and luxury, softening minds and hardening hearts.
Naturally, I am invigorated by the idea of leaving these burdens behind if only for a few days. The mere thought of what it will be like to see, taste, smell, hear and feel Dakar for myself stirs butterflies of the best kind within. However, I am clumsy the way others are graceful. My only concern about the journey is making some bumbling move or inadvertently inconsiderate statement relating to something I take for granted in front of our less fortunate hosts. A good solution for this: I am focused on doing more listening and less talking, which should serve us all well. Being behind a camera lends itself to this.
The trip will mean something different to each of us on the team, though our primary goals are the same. One of the goals is clear: to move us out of the comfortable security of an illusion of our own design about the world. As I have said, the team is coming from a place of extraordinary comfort when compared to that of our hosts and our own struggles will be put promptly into new perspective. The other goal is to contribute to the construction of a house on behalf of Habitat for Humanity, which will power our third goal to create in the process a documentary of the journey, both for posterity and for the benefit of Habitat to use to promote their own future efforts. Our work shall leave an indelible impact on all of us.
In the case of the few who believe such a humble contribution is equivalent to a screw falling out of a deck chair off the back of the Queen Mary, they may have have a point of merit, given the obstacles between what is right and fair in the world and the sad fact that justice does not always prevail. Nonetheless, there are those who give up and those who, in the presence of great adversity, continue to do what they can to push the world to a better place. This is in line with something I read in my only surface-scratching study of the region’s primary religion – Islam:
None of you truly believes until he wishes for his brother what he wishes for himself – Number 13 of Imam – Al-Nawawi’s Forty Hadiths
Such thoughts are small changes in thought which act as catalysts for larger ones. Through subtle shifts in our perceptions we are able then to move forward in bigger ways that would not have been possible without them. Whether we like it or not, as tough as they often are to initiate, these small changes are the stuff. Moving ourselves out of our comfort zones is arguably the only way to growth, intellectually, emotionally, spiritually, physically and metaphysically. The metaphor of dropping of a pebble into the glass stillness of a lake is spot on here: the ripples fan out towards shore, bringing with it perhaps a nourishing drink that makes it just far enough up onto the shore to provide a drink for a flower that may have otherwise perished were it not for a timely, though seemingly insignificant, toss. These are the risks that have value, that have the potential to produce beauty. Without taking risks, we risk living life without beauty. Beauty in our ability to be generous. Patient. Tolerant. Alive, curious and excited to learn about the myriad of things we do not know or have only heard of.
I raise my glass to anyone reading this with my most sincere wishes that all our travels, wherever they take us, may nurture and raise our understanding to new pinnacles and give us fresh vantage points from which we are naturally inclined to take less and less of our life and times together for granted.
The first week of living in a new place is somewhere up pretty high on the list of things that don’t get any easier with practice. Like a new anything, after the initial infatuation wears off, what’s left is this: the realization that what worked before is no longer valid here. Here, in a new place, we are confronted with what we seem to be most naturally resistant to: change.
So it is with a tinge of reticence we set off to see about developing new methods for accomplishing the tasks of living under a new definition of ourselves within the unknown environment surrounding us. This means getting lost, losing precious time and generally being hard on ourselves to find a pace equivalent to what we once knew. Previously simple tasks that were quickly accomplished now require inordinately huge investments of time by comparison. Add to this a language component and we’re talking about a serious commitment to even the most basic objectives, such as acquiring groceries. Everything must be undertaken with a strong focus on patience and not getting down in the face of the adversities that present themselves on a seemingly constant basis.
This is the real stuff. The moments that move us outside of our comfort levels and force us to face our weaknesses in spite of our better judgment.
At least, that’s what we keep telling ourselves as we step lively into the streets of the unknown ; )
Such is the case for yours truly, who admittedly hasn’t had much of any other experience in this life other than nearly constant change. Let me share this earnestly with you: for someone who’s had as much practice as anyone, change simply does not get any easier with practice. It continues to challenge, it continues to humble and it continues to push me to being open to the process of learning in all of its tough, wonderful and hidden manifestations.
This, of course, does not mean to imply that it’s always a barrel of laughs.
Take, for example, the luxury in which people live in the US. Particularly: hot water. Most of the people living in the States take this single resource for granted far more than they realize. Hot water is in abundance there, even in the less-refined regions of apartment living. Folks rise in the morning, evacuate their bladders and promptly prepare for the day ahead with a shower of the stuff. Each time they approach the shower, turn it on, they are accustomed to waiting no more than a few moments before the warmth of it is doing what it does to invigorate, cleanse and get them ready for the day. It runs freely over heads, arms and legs while washing away the sleepy night and down the drain it goes for as long as deemed necessary. It’s given nary a thought.
Such extravagance is what is known as “double-glazing” (taken from the wise comments in this clip from Creature Comforts (@ 1:40 in)
Take, for example, my shower this morning: the size of the shower is taken into consideration here because in my experience in Barcelona, apartments all have showers half the size of what used to exist as phone booths. Half. The. Size. The hot water supply follows in kind. There is so little of it, that a person must ration if off during the course of a shower like oxygen would be should one ever find themselves trapped in a disabled submarine at the bottom of the ocean for an indefinite period of time.
Prior to entering the shower, one must first ensure that there even IS any hot water available. If there is, I don’t let it run too long during testing. I’m hip to the possibility that a short blast of what is left can be an illusion, which means upon entering the shower and reactivating, one must prepare to potentially be blasted with an equally-awakening, though, heart-stopping-ice-cold pulse and the risk of cardiac arrest before the day even begins. Should there actually be any remaining hot water, a quick blast to wet the head is priority one. My father always taught me to wash a car from the top down in order to ensure that we work with gravity to maximize the cleaning process. The same rules apply here to maximize effectiveness of our hot water rations. After a quick douse, proceed with suds-ing of the hair.
Now, mind you, the water is OFF at this point, right? If you’re not used to the sound of washing your hair WITHOUT the accompaniment of running water, this can be a rather, let’s say “odd” sound. I say it’s a bit on the sad side. I dunno why it’s a sad sound but it is to me. Perhaps because it is being faced with a RADICALLY different experience than the years of conditioning I’ve had doing this while listening to water running and warming my entire body while doing so. In this case, not only is the water not running, but my body, freshly warmed by the quick douse to wet the head, is beginning to cool rapidly: yet another strange sequence out-of-tune with what has been expected since birth.
For those of you who know me, you are aware that I am of of above average height and size. This makes the process one of even greater comedy. Anyone watching or listening to this would wonder what is the matter. Standing flush up against the inside of this glass box, a fella my size is at risk for breaking the thing, inflicting deep flesh woulds from the broken glass (here I should mention I can only just barely get the doors closed and am required to finagle myself extensively in order to succeed in doing so). The same is true for most restrooms found in restaurants in this part of the world. I can barely enter them, let alone contort myself enough to do what it is I usually desperately need to do at once, as I typically avoid these spaces vigorously until the last possible moment, which has often enough led to even more profound instances of bumbling foolery.
This is how the process continues: a quick rinse, followed by proceeding to wash whatever body part is next-highest in relation to gravity that has not yet been washed, a rinse, and so on, until the job is complete. All the while, the rest of the body shivers in the cold morning, wondering where the feeling of circulation-stimulating hot water is that it’s so used to after all these years.
One can imagine, though, how much water this actually saves compared to letting so much of it run down the drain while we’re washing or, even more gluttonously, just standing in it while dreading the idea of yet another day filled with unproductive meetings.
On the upside, successfully completing a shower while maintaining a successful balance of safety and hot-water-usage prepares one for the day better than transcendental meditation.
This is all to say that space, hot water and the double-glazing is all very easily taken for granted. In a week I will be in Dakar, Senegal, where this, too, will be deep-dish luxury by comparison.
I welcome the contrast. Returning to Barcelona will then be its own, new flavour of double-glazing that I can then in turn continue to take for granted as I have been so well conditioned to do.
David Byrne is spot on with his thoughts for a perfect city:
A Talking Head Dreams of a Perfect City
The Wall Street Journal, September 11, 2009
By David Byrne
ThereÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s an old joke that you know you’re in heaven if the cooks are Italian and the engineering is German. If it’s the other way around you’re in hell. In an attempt to conjure up a perfect city, I imagine a place that is a mash-up of the best qualities of a host of cities. The permutations are endless. Maybe I’d take the nightlife of New York in a setting like Sydney’s with bars like those in Barcelona and cuisine from Singapore served in outdoor restaurants like those in Mexico City. Or I could layer the sense of humor in Spain over the civic accommodation and elegance of Kyoto. Of course, it’s not really possible to cherry pick like thisÃ¢â‚¬â€mainly because a city’s qualities cannot thrive out of context. A place’s cuisine and architecture and language are all somehow interwoven. But one can dream.
>>> read the rest via DavidByrne.com
Author Michael Pollan says:
The tulip, by gratifying our desire for a certain kind of beauty, has gotten us to take it from its origins in Central Asia and disperse it around the world. Marijuana, by gratifying our desire to change consciousness, has gotten people to risk their lives, their freedom, in order to grow more of it and plant more of it. The potato, by gratifying our desire for control, control over nature so that we can feed ourselves has gotten itself out of South America and expanded its range far beyond where it was 500 years ago. And the apple, by gratifying our desire for sweetness begins in the forests of Kazakhstan and is now the universal fruit. These are great winners in the dance of domestication.
The five months of furious short-story writing in 1923-24 had left him with a stake of $7,000. In Great Neck, that would only cover two and a half months of expenses. How could he stretch the $7,000 to gain the time to finish Gatsby? Earlier, as he was struggling to save, a friend wrote from France to suggest that Fitzgerald join the many Americans living well in Europe on the strong American dollar. The friend wrote that it cost one-tenth as much to live in Europe: he had just finished “a meal fit for a king, washed down with champagne, for the absurd sum of sixty-one cents.” Fitzgerald thought, based on the friend’s recommendation, living expenses on the off-season Riviera would be low enough to let him finish Gatsby without any short-story interruptions.
Thanks to Jason Kottke for posting on such good stuff. Cheers.
I read this today in the Business Insider:
A new survey from UBS has shown that the French continue to work the least amount of hours per year in the world. Once again, the French have blown away the competition.
People work an average of 1,902 hours per year in the surveyed cities but they work much longer in Asian and Middle Eastern cities. People in Lyon and Paris, by contrast, spend the least amount of time at work according to the global comparison: 1,582 and 1,594 hours per year respectively.
Upon seeing this data, some might criticize the French for being lazy, but that misses the point completely. The real message here is that the French are likely some of the most productive people in the entire world.
Think about it. Nationmaster ranks France as #18 in terms of GDP per capita, at $36,500 per person, yet France works much less than most developed nations. They achieve their high standard of living while working 16% less hours than the average world citizen, and almost 25% than their Asian peers as per UBS. Plus, if you visit France you’ll also realize that their actual standard of living is probably much higher than GDP numbers would indicate.
Thus, if one were to divide France’s GDP per capita by actual hours worked, you’d probably find that the French are achieving some of the highest returns on work-hours invested. Labor Alpha, if you will.
We can actually calculate this Labor Alpha using statistics from Nation Master.
France has $36,500 GDP/Capita and works 1,453 hours per year. This equates to a GDP/Capita/Hour of $25.10. Americans, on the other hand, have $44,150 GDP/Capita but work 1,792 hours per year. Thus Americans only achieve $24.60 of GDP/Capita/Hour.
This puts the French Labor Alpha at about $0.50 GDP/Capita/Hour over the US. It may sound small at first, but add that up across millions of people, and a few decades. Now you’ve built a lesson for the rest of the world to learn.
Winning is not about working hard. It’s about working smart… and less. As the French know well.