Posted in Artish, Guest Thoughts, The Now

John B Poem

The very last bit of S-Town, an unflinching, brutally straightforward, deeply empathetic and yeah, pretty sad podcast about the enigmatic and beautiful genius John B McLemore, is a chunk of McLemore’s writings delivered by the interviewer and host Brian Reed.

If you make it to the end of this series without shedding a tear, then maybe you’re made of clockwork. When Reed read this sort of epilogue, sort of self-eulogy-ish bit of John B’s writing, I stopped what I was doing, choked up, listened to it over and over, marveled at it, then transcribed it as best I could. It sent me down a lot of Wikipedia pages looking for the references and spellings. Forgive the errors and please offer corrections. With deep respect and admiration:

 

I have coaxed many infirm clocks back to mellifluous life

Studied Projective geometry and built astrolabes, sundials

Taught myself nineteenth century electroplating, bronzing, patination, micro-machining, horology, learned piano

Read Poe, De Muapassant, Picaccio [?], O’Connor, Witte, Hugo, Balzac, Kafka, Bataille, Gibran

As well as modern works by Mortimer, Hawking, Kunstler, Klein, Jacoby, Heinberg, Hedges, Hitchens and Rhodes

But the best times of my life I realize were the times I spent in the forest and field

I’ve walked in solitude beside my own babbling creek and wondered at the undulations, meanderings and tiny atolls that were occasionally swept into its midst

I’ve spent time in idle palaver with Violets, Lyreleaf Sage, Heliopsis and Monkshood and marveled at the mystery of Monotropa uniflora

I have audited the discourse of the Hickories Oaks and Pines even when no wind was present

I have peregrinated the woods in winter under the watchful guard of vigilant dogs and spent hours entranced by the exquisiteness and delicacy of tiny mosses and molds – entire forests within a few square inches

I’ve also run thrashing and flailing from Yellow Jackets

Before I could commence this discourse I spent a few hours out under the night sky reacquainting myself with the constellations, like old friends

Sometimes I just spend hours playing my records

Sometimes I took my record players and CD players apart just to peek inside and admire the engineering of their incongruous entrails

Sometimes I watch Laverne & Shirley or old movies or Star Trek

Sometimes I sat in the dark and listened to the creaking of the old house

I have lived on this blue orb now for about 17,600 days and when I look around me and see the leaden dispiritedness that envelops so many persons both young and old, I know that if I die tonight, my life has been inestimably better than that of most of my compatriots

Additionally, my absence makes room and leaves resources for others who deserve no less than I have enjoyed

I would hope that all persons reading this can enjoy some of the aspects of life that I have enjoyed as well as those aspects that I never will and will take cognizance of the number of waking days he has remaining and use the prudently

To all that have given so much, much love and respect

  • John B McLemore

s-town_social

Posted in Guest Thoughts, The Now

No Because Yes If

This post-it was stuck to a pile of stuff my wife brought home from a process improvement workshop she did for her job. I stole it and stuck it on the monitor of the computer where I work at home.

Every morning I get up at 5:00AM so I can have an hour and a half to work on projects. It’s the most productive time of the day for me, and this routine sets aside at least 10 hours each week for pursuits like the children’s book I’m writing and illustrating, this blog, taking tutorials on new software I want to learn, and reading stuff on the inter webs.

I only listed those activities, but I’ve started and abandoned dozens of others.

Lists. I make lots of paper lists and cram them in my pockets. When I get home I throw them on my computer desk, and once a week or so I combine them into a new master list. They might have names of movies, bands or songs, websites, names of software programs or artists or blogs, interesting words. ideas, concepts…

The lists migrate to new pieces of paper from week to week. If something stays on the list too long without being explored or done, I cross it off. If it was something I was truly supposed to do / see / learn / read, it will come back.

You can’t do everything you want to do. Spreading yourself out across lots of projects means you’re giving only a small percentage of yourself to any one of them, and that means you’re never going to finish any of them. So you have to choose. No because Yes if.

No, I can’t do this, because Yes, if I focus, I can do this. But it also indicates contingencies: No, not yet, but Yes, if you get this other thing done first. Incentives. Priorities.

Obviously it’s meant to be something managers say to their employees in order to foster a positive relationship. The concept of “No Because VERSUS Yes If” is a way to communicate with people that changes the dynamic of leadership from negative to positive. I get that. But I also like my version of it. 

Every morning when my head is full of another 1,000 new ideas and all the roads look shiny and inviting, this is the first thing I see. And I sit down, open Photoshop, and work for another 1.5 hours on a page of the children’s book. Or write a blog post. And after a while, there are rewards to this sort of focus.

More on this from James Altucher here, who has recently been really hitting it with his posts.

Sometimes I feel this pressure, “If I don’t do something then people will forget about me”. It’s anxiety. I hate it.

But that’s OK with me. I can do nothing forever, and if I decide to do something, I’ll try to make it have enough value that it will have impact.

Plant seeds. It takes a long time to grow.

I hope you have an amazing day, say No to some things, and feel great about it. 

no because yes if

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Posted in Guest Thoughts

Red’s “Garden Metaphor”

This quote opened the final episode of the season for a TV show that has a lot of garden talk in it. I had to go find who wrote it, and found this:

via Read The Entirety of Red’s “Garden Metaphor” From This Season’s Orange Is The New Black – Garden Collage

“The garden is one of the two great metaphors for humanity.
The garden is about life and beauty and the impermanence of all living things.
The garden is about feeding your children, providing food for the tribe.
It’s part of an urgent territorial drive that we can probably trace back to animals storing food.
It’s a competitive display mechanism, like having a prize bull, this greed for the best tomatoes and English tea roses.
It’s about winning; about providing society with superior things; and about proving that you have taste, and good values, and you work hard.
And what a wonderful relief, every so often, to know who the enemy is.
Because in the garden, the enemy is everything: the aphids, the weather, time.
And so you pour yourself into it, care so much, and see up close so much birth, and growth, and beauty, and danger, and triumph.
And then everything dies anyway, right?
But you just keep doing it.”

It’s a quote from this book by author Anne Lamott.

You can read more here and here.

One more quote for the road:

Writing, she makes clear, is not for the fainthearted, the easily bored, the fame-seeking. It is not for individuals who cannot face up to their own madness. “Then your mental illnesses arrive at the desk like your sickest, most secretive relatives,” she writes. “And they pull up chairs in a semicircle around the computer, and they try to be quiet but you know they are there with their weird coppery breath, leering at you behind your back.”

Posted in Guest Thoughts

Gardening on Flipboard

The Gardening section of Flipboard is my friend. Just about every night I crank up the iPad, open it to the Flipboard App, click on the Lifestyle tile, and end up on their Gardening section.

I’m not exaggerating when I say that I learn something new and interesting about gardening nearly every single day I read this thing.  It doesn’t even matter if you’re a gardening nut or not – the stories are just plain interesting to read.

If I were really good at blogging, I would hope it was as good as this. So, just go look. You’re welcome. Enjoy.

Screen Shot 2016-06-22 at 9.28.38 AM

Posted in Guest Thoughts

What the hell is water?

David Foster Wallace‘s 2005 Kenyon College commencement address… “This Is Water.”

 

There’s nothing for me to propose about this speech that hasn’t already been parsed, quoted, rehashed, argued, mused, you-tubed, or term-papered. I’m just pointing to it because it’s maybe the best speech about Everything that was ever written.

 

The best transcribed version I know of is here (aside from the later published book-version).  Wikipedia actually does an admirable job of summarizing the topics:

 

This essay covers subjects including “the difficulty of empathy,” “the importance of being well adjusted,” and “the essential lonesomeness of adult life.”[1] Additionally, Wallace’s speech suggests that the overall purpose of higher education is to be able to consciously choose how to perceive others, think about meaning, and act appropriately in everyday life. He argues that the true freedom acquired through education is the ability to be adjusted, conscious, and sympathetic.[2]

 

Anyway, go read it. Share it. I hope you love it as much as I do.

 

There are these two young fish swimming along, and they happen to meet an older fish swimming the other way, who nods at them and says, “Morning, boys, how’s the water?” And the two young fish swim on for a bit, and then eventually one of them looks over at the other and goes, “What the hell is water?”

 

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Posted in Guest Thoughts

James Altucher Sells You

I’ve been following James Altucher for years. Sometimes he makes me mad because he seems like kind of a tool or a poser. Sometimes he makes me think that I should restructure my entire life to be more like him. It still goes back and forth like that, sometimes shifting in the middle of reading one of his posts.

In the past year or so James Altucher decided to live as a Homeless Person in order to simplify his life, and his posts have sharpened. He still tries to sell you things – that’s what he does – but the sales pitches are encoded with hardcore philosophical ideas about thinking, writing, and living a decent life. The general thread is to follow your passion and the money will follow – a basic principle, but he expands on this in helpful ways.

Recently, this one called The Crappy Person Checklist and this one called What Is Your Philosophy Of Life? offered up some great stuff. You may feel a little dirty what with the sales pitches all popping up and through the more helpful and well-crafted writing, but it’s worth it and he’s completely transparent about his motives.

Ultimately, I think he’s a genius who found a way to marry life-affirming blogging with outright sales in a way that honors them both, in their own way. Decide for yourself. Lemme know what you find.

An example:

Why I Write

F) I Like to Think I Can Help.

I write about what happens to me. I write about my curiosity. But if one person follows an idea and it helps them, then I am happy.

G) Words Are Freedom

Because I write, I think of ideas. Ideas lead to things I can sell. Writing helps me sell these things.

Writing, at first, is the branch-covered pathway that leads you out of the forest. It’s the way from lost to found.

Building the skill of writing is the way to clear out those branches. Without writing I would have no career and no self-esteem and nothing.

People say, “You should visualize self-esteem and then you will have it.”

Maybe that works for them, but it doesn’t work for me.

H) Writing builds character.

I have a problem. In fact, every day I have a problem. I feel it in my body. I explore what the problem is by writing about it.

It’s surgery. I open my heart up. Poke around. Find a cancer. Scrape it out with words. What’s really there. What am I feeling?

You have to be honest with yourself. Cancer doesn’t pretend. It’s there. You can only dig illness out with authenticity

Don’t describe your feelings. Tell your story. This happened. This happened. This happened. Don’t even give me a description. No flowers or clouds. Just tell me BOOM BOOM BOOM.

altucher

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Posted in Guest Thoughts

7 Things I Learned in 7 Years of Reading, Writing, and Living – Brain Pickings

Maria Popova curates a deeply thought out, intricately notated, sincerely motivated blog called Brain Pickings.

via Happy Birthday, Brain Pickings: 7 Things I Learned in 7 Years of Reading, Writing, and Living – Brain Pickings

The best ideas come to us when we stop actively trying to coax the muse into manifesting and let the fragments of experience float around our unconscious mind in order to click into new combinations.