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SYMBIOSIS OF CURIOSITY

August 1st, 2020

 

 

There are a tremendous number of people with fantastic imaginations that don’t do much with that imagination.  There are likewise incredibly determined people who don’t have much of an imagination.  It doesn’t even warrant asking which of these two groups is generally more “successful” because the answer is so obvious.

 

Success is, of course, a sticky subjective topic.  Many of those ‘determined’ people don’t seem to be living lives that are fulfilling, let alone happy.  In that regard, it seems as though it might be a coin toss between the determined and the imaginative groups who is ‘happier’.  It’s anyone’s guess, and at that point it really comes down to the individual person.

 

Certainly there must exist people in each category who are quite content: very determined people with little imaginative capability who are quite pleased with their moment to moment existence, and other people who are lost in their own delightful dreams, but going nowhere.  There does exist an important subsection, where the Venn diagram of these two groups overlap and a powerful symbiosis occurs: where an individual is highly imaginative and very determined.

 

These people are the curious ones.  We don’t necessarily equate curiosity with determination, but juxtapose for a moment a curious individual with someone who is simply imaginative.  Surely there is a lot of overlap here, but curiosity as a word and a concept has a far greater degree of motion and momentum than the idea of being just merely imaginative.  

 

The gift of curiosity is one where imagination and determination are no longer separate qualities.  They work in lock step, one never advancing without pulling the other along in the path toward what might be discovered in the unknown.

 

In the realm of concepts that we tinker with in relation to our identity and behaviour, curiosity represents a particularly useful bull’s eye that incorporates and subsumes many qualities that we normally focus on with unproductive frustration.  Consider for a moment questions that move many people to seek out self-help books:

 

How do I become motivated?

 

How do I become happier?

 

How do I come up with interesting ideas?

 

Why am I depressed?

 

 

These questions are all quite normal and pervasive.  And they all exist on this conceptual dart board with curiosity at the center.  Each of these questions, and many like them are fairly difficult to answer in isolation, which is what allows the self-help section of the bookstore to bloat and metastasize as though it were like a cancer choking off other sections, shrinking them, like organs shutting down.  But progress can be achieved on all of these questions simultaneously, quite quickly and effectively by asking one simpler question.  One that has many answers and no correct answer, one that opens the door to a new chapter of life.  We need only explore:

 

What are you curious about?

 

 


Check out the Tinkered Thinking   Reading List

or
Dive in to the Archives

Podcast Ep. 839: Symbiosis of Curiosity

from
Tinkered Thinking


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SYMBOLS OF BELIEF

July 31st, 2020

 

People wear sports jerseys for the same reason Christians wear a cross as a necklace pendant.  This might come across irreverent, but ask: is it necessary to wear such religious iconography?  Does it decrease one’s faith to go without it?  It’s not required by tradition.  We can ask the exact same questions of the sports fan and the answers are identical.  Why do sports fans wear such paraphernalia?  Is it necessary?  Does it decrease one’s ability to be a ‘fan’ to go without it?  It’s certainly not required by the sports team to wear such gaudy crap in order to be a fan and ‘support’ the team…

 

The focus here might seem harmless, but would such symbols still exist in a world without vision?  They seem quite pointless if not seen, so the concentration bends towards the issue of: what’s the purpose of other people seeing such symbols?  

 

Are these symbols for other people who see them?

 

Are these symbols for the people who wear them?

 

The answer is presumably: both

 

 

If you see a snide looking fellow walking around with a smirk and sporting a t-shirt that says C.E.O, how might you interpret the choice to wear such an ill-stained rag?  Clearly someone is concerned with convincing other people something.  And what does such an externally vectored attempt tell us about what’s going on inside the mind of the person who makes such decisions about their appearance.

 

It’s easy to ask:  who are you trying to convince?  Us? Or yourself?

 

There is the delightful tenant floating around modern culture that you have to fake it till you make it.  And who is such faking for?  Do we achieve our aspirations if everyone else around us believes us to be the thing we yearn to be?  Or do we fake it in order to fool ourselves into a new belief about who we think we are?  Is it perhaps both?  Whether we like to admit it or not, the opinions of others are tantamount to our success and sense of self worth.  We are nothing without the web of humanity in which we exist.  There is of course that confused advice to not care what anyone else thinks.  This is half-baked advice.  The key isn’t to brush away everyone’s opinion, but to curate the slice of people whose opinions you do care about and should care about because the perspectives of these people are valuable and incisive in ways that you find admirable. 

 

There are of course times when absolutely everyone, the fans included, think the intrepid explorer is out of their mind to jump off the edge of the world in search of an answer to a strange hypothesis.   As they say: moderation in everything… including moderation, which means sometimes, it’s necessary and worth while to lash lead to one’s ankles and dive into the deep end, just to find out how deep it really is.  In such cases the action is based solely in a belief, a hunch, an understanding, a possibility.  It’s not an ‘act’ that is performed for other people to admire or receive information from.  It’s a genuine attempt.

 

And here both extremes of the spectrum wrap around to meet.  We have the strange and disapproved ostentatious action that is undertaken not for publicity but genuinely due to an individual curiosity.  And then we have the fan and the devotee who ostentatiously displays symbols of their belief.  Visually, there is great similarity here, but one important difference: 

 

Who is more likely to be genuine in their actions?

 

Alas, now enters William James, who once wrote: 

 

“Our practice is the only sure evidence, even to ourselves, that we are genuine.”

 

In that light, what’s the point of wearing the jersey, or the C.E.O. t-shirt, or even the unrequited religious symbol?

 

We must always suspiciously wonder: who are we trying to fool?

 

Take note, as Richard Feynman once said:  you must not fool yourself, and You are the easiest person to fool.


Check out the Tinkered Thinking   Reading List

or
Dive in to the Archives

Podcast Ep. 838: Symbols of Belief

from
Tinkered Thinking


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If you appreciate the work of Tinkered Thinking, please consider lending support. This platform can only continue and flourish with the support of readers and listeners like you.

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Appreciation can be more than a feeling. Toss something in the jar if you find your thinking delightfully tinkered.




WRITING: THE CORE IDEA

July 30th, 2020

 

Often the question comes in: how do you write so much?  Tinkered Thinking has put out a podcast episode and the corresponding written transcript everyday for the last 837 days.  (And most that has been on time.). The word count is nearing 600,000.  That’s a fair number of words, certainly a few more than what the average person has written.  So where does it all come from?

 

Imagine you are taking a creative writing course and the assignment is to think of a title that you can imagine seeing on a bestseller list.  It’s pretty fun exercise.  If you look at a few best seller lists you can notice trends quite quickly, in tone, phrasing, the number of words used as relative to the subject, a whole bunch of things start seeming obvious.  Try it out.  Write down a few titles that you could imagine thinking: I’d read that book, or at the very least scoff at the fact that it’s on the best seller list.  Of course it’s a best seller with a name like that!  

 

Hearing about such an exercise as recounted by someone who took that creative writing course spurred the core idea of Tinkered Thinking.  A few titles came to mind, and one seemed particularly good in terms of how catchy it is, how flamboyant it is and how there exists a delightful turn of wit and logic beneath the bombasity of that title.  This came to mind before the story about the creative writing course was finished.

 

Apparently the assignment for the succeeding day in that creative writing course was: ok, pick the best title and now write that book.  Ballsy move on the part of a writing instructor, but exactly the sort of mentality and challenge that every aspiring writer should be faced with. 

 

Without going into too much of the backstory, this title became the core ponderance of Tinkered Thinking, but the strategy goes a little further than just trying to write a book.  Indeed the size of Tinkered Thinking would now fill a couple heavy books.  So how does it keep going?

 

Imagine that this core idea, this topic is at the centre of a circle.  Imagine this idea is like an object, say a sculpture of incredible beauty.  Now unlike a painting which you simply look at, what do we do when we see a beautiful sculpture in a gallery or a museum?  There’s a reason why they are usually situated in the middle of the room.  We walk around them.  If you think about it, a painting usually only has one intended perspective: looking at it straight on.  But a sculpture teases you to look at it from all sorts of angles.  Each time you move on the circle that surrounds a sculpture, you get a different shape, a nuance of the overall piece.  There are arguably infinite points on this circle that you can move to in order to get a slightly different perspective.  And then of course, you can move in closer and look at the sculpture in detail, or you can back away farther to take in the whole thing.  Then you could get a ladder and place it in any of the spots you’ve already stood and then look at the sculpture from a higher angle.  Indeed, there exists a sphere of infinite points from which you could take in the sculpture.  Now replace that sculpture with the original concept, the core idea.  Perhaps it becomes clear how so much could be written about one topic.  All you have to do is tweak your own perspective, and suddenly the same concept yields new fruit.  We zoom in, we zoom out, we look at it sideways, we take a step to the side.  Each time we see something new…

 

Each episode of Tinkered Thinking is like a point of a sphere that surrounds the core idea.  Each episode is an attempt to see that core idea from a new angle, in a new light, with a different resolution and zoom.

 

And to be clear, the core idea is not “Tinkered Thinking”.  It’s certainly related, but this attempts to strike a subtle balance between being a synonym and describing the process of how to address that core concept.

 

Naturally, the core idea, the title to that imaginary book - the kernel from which all of Tinkered Thinking has grown will have to remain a mystery.  Such a source of inspiration, like a prospector who has found a gold bedded river before a mountain, or a hunter who covets a particular ground, must be kept secret..


Check out the Tinkered Thinking   Reading List

or
Dive in to the Archives

Podcast Ep. 837: Writing: The Core Idea

from
Tinkered Thinking


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If you appreciate the work of Tinkered Thinking, please consider lending support. This platform can only continue and flourish with the support of readers and listeners like you.

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Appreciation can be more than a feeling. Toss something in the jar if you find your thinking delightfully tinkered.




ATTENTIONAL CONCESSION

July 29th, 2020

 

At what point in the pursuit of a solution do you give up?  This is a tricky question for many sticky reasons.  Exploring possible answers can easily lead you down a rabbit hole regarding IQ, genetics, group differences, and a lot of touchy science, the lot of which isn’t interpreted with a blanket of stellar wisdom.  The musings here seek to deal with none of these things, because they all disappear when we consider just a single individual.  The answer to that question: when do you give up? Requires a purely personal response from individual to individual no matter what ties of biology, culture and circumstance bind or separate us.

 

The question is specifically, when do YOU give up?  

 

Such a question boils down to an examination of individual attention:  how much attention are you willing to pour into the issue, in order to understand it, solve it, grow from it?

 

This could imaginably be classified with a number.  We can ask further:  How much time did you spend on the most difficult problem you’ve ever solved?  

 

This perhaps simplifies things too much.  There are things that we could solve given more time, indeed that’s the entire point we’re circling, but many things just don’t warrant the attention required for a solution.

 

 

Then of course there are other things that are in line with our desires, reflective of our wants, things that we are willing to go extra miles and marathons in order to make the issue concede to our effort, to bend reality in a particular way.  What determines the difference in our personal taste for problems to solve?

 

Unfortunately, there’s an issue of even greater pestilence:  the vast majority of people don’t have free rein on the time allotted to their attention.  Much of our lives, and therefore out attention is dedicated to the solution of uninteresting problems that we are under duress to solve due to a paycheque or a grade in school.  Far more influential is the fact that we often don’t have the opportunity to ply our attention to conundrums of real interest.

 

This is perhaps the primary problem that we should whet our attention against, but alas, obligations of family and work, and mortgages, and bills rope us into ways of being that confine our attention to a specific rhythm of tasks - boring problems that need to be solved for it’s placement in a larger organization.

 

This routine becomes so entrenched in people that when given a long reprieve, the attentional powers of the individual are warped to the needs of dictation, and the attention has lost its ability to dictate itself.  Just think: have you ever known a child, or can you even think of a child being at a total loss about how to play?  Of course not: when it comes to curiosity, children are masters of attention, pulled in every direction, restless for discovery and discontent only with standing still.

 

Then of course children enter the school system, designed after the industrial factory, especially in terms of attention.   Being on time is really a training of attention more than anything else, and being able to call out ‘present’ in response to your name at the beginning of class is mostly an act of fitting attention into a systematic set of boxes.

 

It begs to wonder: would people, children, teenagers be more apt to tackling interesting and meaningful problems if we weren’t rigorously training their attention with this systematic set of timed boxes, each equipped with a lacklustre subject that extends not just through school, but through most professions?  

 

What would your attention be like if it were freed from constraints?  Perhaps uncomfortable and destabilizing.  But what if you’d never had your attention crushed into the iterative confines of modern life?  What would have happened if you attention had enjoyed free rein uninterrupted from the beginning?

 

Would your ability to turn that attention upon a difficult problem be less, or would it be greater?

 


Check out the Tinkered Thinking   Reading List

or
Dive in to the Archives

Podcast Ep. 836: Attentional Concession

from
Tinkered Thinking


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If you appreciate the work of Tinkered Thinking, please consider lending support. This platform can only continue and flourish with the support of readers and listeners like you.

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Appreciation can be more than a feeling. Toss something in the jar if you find your thinking delightfully tinkered.




STUDYING THE MOMENT

July 28th, 2020

 

As you read or listen to this sentence, your attention is focused, ideally captured, and molded by the shape of meaning and cadence created by this string of words.  So much of your experience is pushed out of the way in order to do this.  When you stop reading or listening, your senses will open up and you’ll take in a much larger slice of what’s going on.  Perhaps someone will start blaring some music and interrupt this focus.  Our attention is grabbed, and so we try to refocus over and over.

 

If attention is the thing we are trying to guide to a specific end, then what exactly is paying attention to this process?

 

Does attention have the capacity to pay attention to itself?  It may take a bit of practice, often accomplished through meditation, but it does seem possible to consciously attempt this recursive look.  The results, of course, are left for the person attempting this high-wire trick to examine.  The fruits of this simple exercise seem to unlock unexpected avenues that lace across the way we experience time.

 

Might sound a bit froo-froo, a bit woo.  But wandering in this area, and investigating the moment in such a way begins yield possible solutions to a question like:

 

How do we ensure that life doesn’t pass us by while we’re busy doing other things?

 

This is, of course, a famous quote rearranged into a question of caution and preparation.  It can be shocking how quickly time passes by, even disturbing, and perhaps tragic.  And these possible reactions to the past are exactly the reason why it’s so important to investigate that intangible, finicky, slippery opportunity that always seems to arrive and leave at once - it’s the reason to study the moment.

 

 

 

 

Memory tries to capture it.  

 

Accomplishment attempts to demarcate it.  

 

Pleasure can seem to honor it and waste it at the same time.

 

We engage in all of these different practices and techniques and facets of human life in an attempt to somehow do something to the moment.  Often we are trying to transform the moment into a peak state, as when the bow is finally tied on the accomplishment or when the glass of wine is raised, or when we finally breath a sigh of relief before the view at the top of the mountain.  It’s as if the best moment is captured by the word ‘finally’.  But no sooner is it said than the moment that seems to express that feeling has fled and we are left with the beginning of a new chase.

 

Meditation, and the practice of investigating the nature of attention itself, is in some sense, an exercise done by putting all that chase and those peaks states, all that pleasure and strenuous endurance - putting all that aside for a bit of time in order to experience the moment as it is in as naked a form as possible.  

 

What one comes to realize after some time, is that the experience of this pared down moment begins -or can begin- to trickle into the rest of life.  The strenuous endurance seems less stressful, because the stress itself can be separated from the task at hand and be manipulated by a flexible and powerful attention.  When the alarms are all blaring in the cockpit of the mind, most of us are rightfully overwhelmed.  A well exercised attention gains the ability to silence the alarms and address the underlying causes with calmness and peace, almost as though the right decision becomes a passive reaction to the needs of the moment.

 

The true needs of the moment can often be counter-intuitive, especially if our intuition has been trained in a life that has lacked this mindful practice, and so grows the need to study the moment.


Check out the Tinkered Thinking   Reading List

or
Dive in to the Archives

Podcast Ep. 835: Studying the Moment

from
Tinkered Thinking


donating = loving

If you appreciate the work of Tinkered Thinking, please consider lending support. This platform can only continue and flourish with the support of readers and listeners like you.

MONTHLY DONATION
TIP JAR

Appreciation can be more than a feeling. Toss something in the jar if you find your thinking delightfully tinkered.