If we teach everybody, let’s say high school students, the habit of being skeptical, perhaps they will not restrict their skepticism to aspirin commercials and 35,000-year-old channelers (or channelees). Maybe they’ll start asking awkward questions about economic, or social, or political, or religious institutions. Then where will we be?
Skepticism is dangerous. That’s exactly its function, in my view. It is the business of skepticism to be dangerous. And that’s why there is a great reluctance to teach it in the schools. That’s why you don’t find a general fluency in skepticism in the media. On the other hand, how will we negotiate a very perilous future if we don’t have the elementary intellectual tools to ask searching questions of those nominally in charge, especially in a democracy?
On and on this pattern goes. A curve with a sweet spot in the middle. The optimal amount of calories to consume in a day. The volume at which you will enjoy your music most. The right brightness of light to illuminate a room. The number of friends with whom you can have a meaningful relationship.
Great points in here about finding the right balance in many areas of your life. I particularly found the running curve apt.
Nothing is ever finally safe. Every important battle is fought and re-fought. We need to develop a resilient, indomitable morale that enables us to face those realities and still strive with every ounce of energy to prevail.
You may wonder if such a struggle -- endless and of uncertain outcome -- isn't more than humans can bear. But all of history suggests that the human spirit is well fitted to cope with just that kind of world.
It was very hard to pull a single quote out of this speech. If you’re struggling in life right now, reading this will help.
If you engage engineers, you don’t know what you are going to get. You may be unlucky and get nothing. Or their solution may be so outlandish that it is hard to compare with other competing solutions. On average, though, what you get will be more valuable than the gains produced by some tedious restructuring enshrined in a fat PowerPoint deck.
The end result will be a better, more resilient and richer world than ever. Yes, that will also eventually mean more money in your retirement account, but more importantly it means better and happier living conditions for every living thing on Earth.
I sure hope so.
Michael Schur, the creator of “The Good Place” and co-creator of “Parks and Recreation,” remembers the force of Weird Al’s 1992 parody of Nirvana.
“ ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ comes out, and it’s like the perfect voice for all the simmering anger of an entire generation of kids,” Schur said. “That song is vicious and angry and aggressive but also laconic and disaffected and scary. And it was immediately a gigantic thing in American culture. Then Weird Al does ‘Smells Like Nirvana’ and completely deflates it — the importance and seriousness and angst. That’s a service he has always provided: to remind people that rock is about grittiness and authenticity and finding your voice and relating to an audience, but it’s also fundamentally absurd. Being a rock star is stupid. We as a culture are genuflecting at the altar of these rock stars, and Weird Al comes out with this crazy curly hair and an accordion, and he just blows it all into smithereens by singing about Spam. It’s wonderful.”
Schur paused. He said there were heated debates, sometimes, in comedy writing rooms, about the merits of Weird Al’s work — some cynics argue that his jokes aren’t actually great, that people overrate them because they’re nostalgic for their childhoods. But Schur insisted that, regardless of what you think about this lyric or that lyric, Weird Al represented the deep egalitarian spirit of our culture.
“It’s a truly American thing, to be like: Get over yourself,” Schur said. “Everybody get over yourselves. Madonna, get over yourself. Kurt Cobain, get over yourself. Eminem, get over yourself. No one gets to be that important in America.”
This whole piece is a must-read, especially if, like me, you grew up listening to (and subsequently memorizing) Weird Al's entire discography.
If we are conscious of the danger of going to seed, we can resort to countervailing measures. At almost any age. You don’t need to run down like an unwound clock. And if your clock is unwound, you can wind it up again. You can stay alive in every sense of the word until you fail physically. I know some pretty successful people who feel that that just isn’t possible for them, that life has trapped them. But they don’t really know that. Life takes unexpected turns.
Stewart Butterfield expanded on this idea when he discussed what he called the “Three Levels of Wealth.” My colleague, Ben Carlson, beautifully summarized the three levels of wealth as:
- Level 1. I’m not stressed out about debt: People who no longer have to worry about their credit card debt or student loans.
- Level 2. I don’t care what stuff costs in restaurants: How much you spend on a particular meal isn’t impacted by your finances.
- Level 3. I don’t care what a vacation costs: People who don’t care how expensive the hotel is or which flight they go on.
I heard Stewart Butterfield describe this idea on a podcast and was fascinated by it. Nick Maggiulli took it a step further in this article, complete with a Jay-Z reference.
I found this site on a Reddit post about websites that few people know about but should. You can download tons of old computer games from the 80s, 90s, and early 2000s.
They even have Chex Quest!
Of course most people are not car mechanics or airline pilots. Most people have jobs where being a "moral idiot," as Crocker puts it, won't kill anyone. Should we really demand that the guy who checks ticket stubs at the movie theater hones his craft?
Well, yes. No job is too low to not warrant care, because no job exists in isolation. Carelessness ripples. It adds friction to the working of the world. To phone it in or run out the clock, regardless of how alone and impotent you might feel in your work, is to commit an especially tragic -- for being so preventable -- brand of public sin.