The Beckoning Bell: Resilience and hope in video games and life

After I walk across the stone bridge, there’s a small cobblestoned plaza that forks into winding streets. I turn left, walking in the cramped alleys between old buildings. There are stairs, and an archway, and beyond, the buildings open up to a cemetery. It’s the only way to the old church, where they say there’s a cure for my illness.

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How to lose a mountain: the peaks and pitfalls of exploration, near and far

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It was called the Plain of Six Glaciers, which sounded like something in a Tolkien novel, what with his Battle of the Five Armies, or the Cracks of Doom, or, like, the entire Silmarillion. I stared up into the mountains at the supposed location of the mythical plain. The distant plateau was hidden by peaks and the sunlight shone from behind them.

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Surrender: the upside-down beauty of the word “islam”

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I place my prayer rug on the floor in the direction of Mecca. It came from my grandparents, I think, from the old country. It has been a part of my life since I was a child, a fixture in our home, and now it is threadbare from wear. It’s limp like fresh chapati. The burgundy, velvet fibres fray on the parts of this rug that have cushioned our heels and knees for decades. I smooth out its wrinkles and bumps and imperfections with the brush of a flat, tender palm, like I’m tending a bed of soil in a garden. I sit beside it or on the edge of my bed for a minute or two. I breathe.

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Change is the only constant

Physicist Alan Lightman’s meditation on the flow of time. More after the link.

Last August my oldest daughter got married. The ceremony took place at a farm in the little town of Wells, Maine, against the backdrop of rolling green meadows, a white wooden barn, and the sounds of a classical guitar. Each member of the wedding party stepped down a sloping hill toward the chuppah, while the guests sat in simple white chairs bordered by rows of sunflowers. The air was redolent with the smells of maples and grasses and other growing things. It was a marriage we had all hoped for. The two families had known each other with affection for years. Radiant in her white dress, a white dahlia in her hair, my daughter asked to hold my hand as we walked down the aisle.

It was a perfect picture of utter joy, and utter tragedy. Because I wanted my daughter back as she was at age 10, or 20. As we moved together toward that lovely arch that would swallow us all, other scenes flashed through my mind: my daughter in first grade holding a starfish as big as herself, her smile missing a tooth; my daughter on the back of my bicycle as we rode to a river to drop stones in the water; my daughter telling me that she’d started her first period. Now, she was 30. I could see lines in her face.

I don’t know why we long so for permanence, why the fleeting nature of things so disturbs. With futility, we cling to the old wallet long after it has fallen apart. We visit and revisit the old neighborhood where we grew up, searching for the remembered grove of trees and the little fence. We clutch our old photographs. In our churches and synagogues and mosques, we pray to the everlasting and eternal. Yet, in every nook and cranny, nature screams at the top of her lungs that nothing lasts, that it is all passing away. All that we see around us, including our own bodies, is shifting and evaporating and one day will be gone. Where are the one billion people who lived and breathed in the year 1800, only two short centuries ago?

The Chairs Are Where The People Go

A couple of intriguing thoughts from Toronto artist/teacher Misha Glouberman in his book The Chairs Are Where The People Go:

Art is communication made in the hope that interesting miscommunications will arise.

You can’t make art by working on it only when you feel like it.

There’s this terrible idea that the things you do are like this manifesto against everything else.

If you’re worried about failure, then it’s very hard to let yourself be surprised. If you’re thinking you shouldn’t fail, then probably you imagine that there’s somewhere in particular you need to be. You’re probably intent on taking a particular path to get there. So if you find yourself somewhere surprising, you might find the need to go backwards, to get back on the right path. That means you’ll miss a lot of interesting and useful surprises. It’s good to learn to suspend the fear of failure. Game structures can be very useful for that, because failure is built into games. If you’re playing baseball and you swing at the ball and you don’t hit the ball, you understand that’s part of the game. It wouldn’t be a very good game if you always hit the ball. What happens mostly is you swing at the ball and you don’t hit. Does that mean that playing baseball is a miserable experience because you’re mostly failing? If you miss the ball playing baseball, it doesn’t mean you’re playing baseball wrong. It just means you’re playing baseball.

The Snarky Voice in Your Head Is Killing Your Productivity; Here’s How to Stop It

It’s easy it is to be snarky, sarcastic and just plain mean in our culture.

“There’s a jerk inside all of us: we roll our eyes when someone in line has a complicated order, curse at little old ladies who don’t drive fast enough, and sneer at people who are just too happy. Over time, that snark kills our productivity and poisons our relationships. Here’s how to keep your inner asshole in check.”

How Silence Works: Emailed Conversations With Four Trappist Monks

An email interview with four monks about the world of silence they live in:

A human being is a social creature, and we find that, while maintaining silence alone is natural and a blessing, cultivating silence in a group is hard and a discipline we have to commit to over and over again. I would not speak of the “sacrifice of words” except in relatively rare instances when a passion moves me to speak and I struggle to hold my tongue. The silence which is my natural habitat is not created by forcibly sacrificing anything. When a man and woman meet and fall in love they begin to talk. They talk and talk and talk all day long and can’t wait to meet again to talk some more. They talk for hours together, and never tire of talking and so talk late into the night, until they become intimate—and then they don’t talk anymore. Neither would describe intimacy as “the sacrifice of words” and a monk is not inclined to speak about his intimacy with God in this way. Is silence beneficial for all people? I would say the cultivation of silence is indispensable to being human. People sometimes talk as if they were “looking for silence,” as if silence had gone away or they had misplaced it somewhere. But it is hardly something they could have misplaced. Silence is the infinite horizon against which is set every word they have ever spoken, and they can’t find it? Not to worry—it will find them.

The hardest battle

To be nobody but yourself in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting.

E. E. Cummings

Bottomfeeder

I was never that fond of seafood to begin with, but after finish Taras Grescoe’s terrific book Bottomfeeder, I am even less into it. The reasons are multiple. Read more

On being critical

If our eyes are always looking for weakness, we begin to lose the intuition to notice beauty.

Jay O’Callahan, speaker/storyteller, quoted in Scott Belsky’s Making Ideas Happen