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The Lucilius Parables, Volume I

A LUCILIUS PARABLE: BIRTH OF WAYS

May 1st, 2022

From a high perch of slate rock exposed, shaded by the tall trees of the shallow valley, motionless eyes watched from within the hollows of a painted skull. The bone mask was adorned with the teeth of the young and the cured, the antler ends fitted with young tusks jutting out from the hood of thick fur. The eyes did not watch the tribe, but instead focused on a group of boys down stream. 

 

Crusted red flaked high on the mask where there was carved the symbol of his being - a shape and an utterance in a form long before letters and words, before borders had been drawn with ideas and the mind could slide across forms without knowing their difference.

 

The boys by the stream kicked a younger one who kept trying to stand back up in the shallows of the stream, each time knocked back down.

 

From the bone hollows, the eyes had watched over the tribe for hundreds of moons, keeping the sinews of their entangled ways braided neatly with the world they always felt and could sometimes see. He was their conduit to subtler ways, and though all feared him, even the strongest of their warriors, they could not fathom his absence. 

 

Small beady eyes shivered forward as a tiny snout tasted the air, but a hand painted of mud smoothly reached from beneath the thick fur and plucked the animal from its spot and vanished with it back within the thick fold of skin. And then the mask and its shaded eyes were gone, soundlessly from the perch high above the valley world of these people.

 

The tallest of the young boys snickered, feeling the power bestowed upon him by the union of other boys around him. He spat on the smallest, the little one bracing himself with hands dug into the mud of the stream.

 

Several more kicks landed into his young ribs, the runt whose father never returned from a cursed hunt they were shunned from pursuing. They had not heeded the meaning spelled by the seer in the hollows. And now their orphan was taunted. 

 

The little one waited for the next kick, but the older boys suddenly grew quiet. He dared to look, and their faces where motionless and wide, trained as though in a trance of fear by a vision across the water. The little one looked and on the far bank there rose as if a piece of the land turned to animal. The stitched hides spiraled up to a hooded black void where floated the bone mask - it’s antlered tusks snaking out into the air like cracks in their vision.

 

The specter moved across the water, as though hovering, the stream unperturbed, and it advanced until it stood with the cowering boy between. The older ones did not even breath, their eyes burning with the vision of the unseen one. And then with a speed none of them knew the animal apparition split in two, a small piece screamed through the air to latch to the face of the eldest as the others ran.

 

The little one looked at the oldest who had kicked him, who now laid motionless where he fell, and beyond, the forest swallowed again its piece of frightened animal, the screams of the others fading in the distance.

 

A painted hand emerged from beneath the floating bone skull and grasped the unconscious boy, dragged him up the bank, and there it knelt and painted forms on the eldest boy’s face and chest as he lay fainted. And all the while the littlest gazed.

 

The little one stood and when the specter was finished invoking its message to the tribe, it turned to the little one, and the painted hand stretched out from the animal form.

 

Unafraid, the little one reached out and took the hard and sinewed hand, and the specter lead the little one away, to a place in the forest where the tribe never dared to go, where stood mammoth ribs bowed up from their staked hold in the ground, bound round with skins, and filled with the ways of the first shaman, who now needed to pass on his task to a little one who would give birth to more ways for the people to follow.


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Podcast Ep. 1228: A Lucilius Parable: Birth of Ways

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Tinkered Thinking


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BETTER TOGETHER

April 26th, 2022

A good negotiation results in a positive sum result. Most negotiation is thought of as compromise, where both parties give up something in order to reach an agreement. The only thing worse than a negotiation that results in dual compromise is a negotiation that doesn’t result in a deal. Then again, no deal might actually be better than a compromise. Regardless, both are a failure of communication and negotiation. Partnerships and collaboration occur because we as humans, when grouped together in a team become capable of far more than the sum of our people. Compromise goes against the norm of what collaboration generally achieves.

 

I recently found myself in a group of people who were all tasked with a lot of searching and sifting of information that we all needed to be proficient with. As fate would have it, I wasn’t particularly thrilled about this inefficient task, so I hatched a plan. I proposed to the group a roundtable session to drill down on the needed information. Everyone being of like mind and feeling a little out of their element jumped at the opportunity. The hypothesis was that everyone would have bits of knowledge and if we simply had a session or two to share and experiment with the communal knowledge, then perhaps things would be more efficient. Indeed, they were. And the funny thing is, I did almost no preparation - I just scheduled the meet ups, and people thanked me for it. Yet that’s all I contributed. And in return, by hosting a couple sessions with different cross sections of available people from the whole group, I quickly gained a high level of proficiency.

 

This structure is exactly how businesses function. A business owners with a good idea ideally gets to the point where they can’t do everything themselves, so they hire labor. A person who is grateful for employment does the work the business owner no longer has time for (or simply doesn’t want to do). There’s an exchange where both parties get something out of the agreement. Now certainly this is an ideal, and real life is far more complex, and often there are enormous differences of benefit between employer and employed. But at its core, a business is just a group project, much like what I did with my group who all had to sift and search for knowledge we had to be capable with. 

 

 

Much is said about leadership these days, but it probably only boils down to this idea: that people around you become far more powerful if woven together in a team. The leader is just a person who recognizes that and schedules it to happen. It’s the simple difference between: I need to figure this out and Let’s figure this out together.

 


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Podcast Ep. 1227: Better Together

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A LUCILIUS PARABLE: LIVING WATER

April 24th, 2022

He had been careless, and now he was fighting for his life. The heavy trap dimmed in the distance as it fell ever downwards into the depths, dragging Lucilius by the tangle of rope bound round his ankle as his hands struggled frantically at the mess. All around him the water darkened and even his hands and the rope grew dim.

 

He had been baiting traps and tossing them with the boat on autopilot. A steady steam to the east, but he hadn’t taken the time to organize his lines properly, tired and run down as he was, figuring all would be fine.

 

The trap far below found the bottom and suspended now in the darkness, Lucilius stricken with panic flailed at the looser bits of rope, succeeding only in tightening the mess around the bulky boot of his wadders.

 

The bloat of his lungs turned to a burn, as if they were somehow shrinking on to a molten core of their own. The blood in his veins began to run hot with the burn as his mind raged.

 

And then, while doubled over, straining, a searing shock exploded on the side of his head. The pain was so intense that Lucilius let go of the rope, grasping at his neck where he’d felt the sting. And as he straightened, he saw it.

 

A jellyfish floated, serene before him. A stray tentacle had grazed Lucilius’ neck and stung him. And there for a brief moment, Lucilius no longer felt the burn of his lungs, the hot lead of his blood. He only gazed at the faint image of the jellyfish before him.

 

It pulsated, gently climbing, slowly and calm. Entranced, Lucilius felt the screaming of his body, and with the feeling of death so near, his mind breathed in the calmness.

 

He gazed downwards, seeing the whole situation and did not bend back down to struggle with the ropes. Instead, he unbuckled the shoulder straps of his wadders, and with his free foot anchored on the mess of rope, he gently pushed until he felt his foot slip through the squeeze, freeing itself of the boot bound beyond the tangle. Lucilius shimmied out of the wadders, pulling them down and kicking his legs until he was free and he began to swim up towards the glimmer of light.


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Podcast Ep. 1226: A Lucilius Parable: Living Water

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Tinkered Thinking


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THE IDEAL CIRCUMSTANCE

April 23rd, 2022

As a concept, the ideal circumstance is usually a fairly static dream in a person’s head. The right living situation, relationships, income and toys. It’s a hazy set of goals that we carry around with us, regardless of making progress toward them or not. While these “dream life” goals can be very motivating they can miss an important point. And it’s best encapsulated by the rich person who finally gets to the point where they can spend all their time on the beach, and while sitting on that beach for the third week, there’s an unsettling sense of: now what?

 

A better strategy is to shorten the time horizon and imagine a cascade of possible ideal circumstances. Given the goals for the next six months, what would be the ideal circumstance for them?

 

This sort of thinking isn’t generally available to people because of the rigid nature of keeping a job. For the most part a person’s time is almost completely spoken for. The freedom to wonder about life in 3 and 6 month stretches doesn’t usually come until retirement. Obligations stitch a person to their income pretty tightly, and it’s usually the un-obligated who can be so whimsical with their time, and flexible with how they achieve their goals.

 

A growing number of people, however, are trading in the old fashioned 9-5 for a more flexible, often remote situation. Living and working on that beach can be far cheaper than expected, and part time work paired with cheap living can afford a lot more time - that crucial ingredient which a 9-5 obliterates - to consider more flexible ways toward long term goals.

 

Most importantly, such flexibility can turn the ideal circumstance into an evolving equation, a process which has many incarnations. What could be better when compared to the traditional image of decades of toil capped by a vague sense of freedom in the later part of life?

 

Strangely, an idea of the ideal circumstance can get in the way of seeing an excellent circumstance right before us. Being so focused on some distant and unavailable circumstance can obscure the present - even if the present has evolved into a previously imagined ideal circumstance! Embarrassingly, I speak from very recent experience. . .


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Podcast Ep. 1225: The Ideal Circumstance

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NOW WHAT?

April 22nd, 2022

 

Achievement is underwhelming. The success and euphoria that comes with a big goal finally materializing is fleeting at best. It can be enhanced, a bit, and we try all the time to pump up the celebration. Usually with alcohol, and food and friends. (But sleep deprivation of several days also adds - though it’s highly discouraged that you do this - sometimes it just happens when there’s a big crunch) But no matter how glorious that peak of feeling is, it remains just a peak, and it passes as quickly as anything else in life.

 

There’s two important things to realize about this all-too-human phenomenon. One is that it’s not a great idea to celebrate every win. This is an aspect of how the dopamine system works. To keep it healthy and revved up for solid motivation, it’s best to keep the dopamine system a little confused, and this means being a little erratic with when the “treat” actually arrives. Because celebration depletes our dopamine system by overtaxing it. And then, much like the actual hangover that often accompanies such celebration, there’s second hangover where dopamine his slowly returning to it’s normal operating levels. But celebrating for only some instances of success helps keep this system well oiled and tuned.

 

The second thing to realize about this momentary window of glorious achievement is that it’s the wrong thing to seek satisfaction from. Because the arrival of the end result is so fleeting, it doesn’t make up much of our experience. It’s just a thin slice of time. But the process required to get to that moment - that’s nearly the entire time we spend, and if that’s not a source of satisfaction, then it’s likely time for a hard and brutal examination of one’s own life.

 

What happens when work is satisfying but difficult is that our days become peppered with these tiny moments of achievement. Especially if the work requires figuring something out - something new - something that requires learning, confusion and moments when we are stricken without an idea of where to go next. See the reason why we go see adventure movies and dramas is for the same reason that we should embrace difficult work - it’s simply more interesting, and that feeling of paralysis when you don’t know what to do next only makes victory more sweet when you figure out a way forward.

 


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Podcast Ep. 1224: Now What?

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